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DID YOU READ

“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils

“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils (photo)

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12 year old Victor DeLeon III goes by an alias that strikes fear into the hearts of gamers everywhere. In the professional competitive gaming circuit, he goes by the name Lil Poison, and he’s been the youngest pro gamer in the world for the last half-decade. The peculiarity of a tweenager pwning players twice and thrice his age got the attention of the New York Times, ABC News and other major media outlets.

It’s also spawned a new documentary called, fittingly, “Lil Poison,” which just premiered at the New York International Latino Film Festival. Over the last three-and-a-half years, filmmaker Beth Earl followed Lil Poison and his father Victor DeLeon, Jr. — aka Papa Poison — to the Major League Gaming promotion’s tournaments, chronicling the pre-teen’s career. What emerged isn’t just a portrait of a kid’s improbable victories, though. The doc comes upon the DeLeons as the parents’ marriage crumbles and focuses on a tween who’s trying to fulfill his father’s vicarious dreams of fame and success.

That father, Victor DeLeon, Jr., works as a night manager when the film opens and his relationship with his son’s talent forms the crux of the movie’s arc. As he gleefully shuttles Lil Poison from competition to competition, he says, “Tournaments are where I feel respected.” But, of course, viewers will ruefully note that he’s not the one doing the winning. Papa Poison proves to be the worst kind of manager/coach, too, by using threats and guilt to attempt to motivate his son into exhausting practice sessions.

The child’s mother pipes in every so often to voice her displeasure at her son being treated like a cash cow, but the film places her on its fringes. You get to shuddering when she’s on screen because the pattern quickly emerges that what she’s saying won’t be heeded or that an ugly argument with her ex-husband is about to start. More warm scenes of her with Little Victor would’ve gone a long way to girding the film’s emotional structure.

Some of the device Earl uses are way too twee, as well. The grade-school notebook scribbles and earnest voiceover by Little Victor force the issue a bit too much. We know he’s a kid who just wants a normal life; it’s there in just about every scene he’s in. Another of the films flaw.s comes from its overlong gameplay sequences. It’s always been tough to convey the drama and tension of playing a video game on film and, despite some clever graphical tricks on Earl’s part, it remains quite boring to watch gamers chase each other around a Halo multiplayer map.

Even if “Lil Poison” lands on predictable territory sometimes, the raw material still tugs at your heart. The heartache of a boy whose sense of self-worth is tied up in making Dad feel good, the elder Victor’s deep insecurities and the wince-inducing confrontations between Mom and Dad will make you squirm.

Tears well up in both Poisons’ eyes as Little Victor loses a key match in an important tourney, and it’s almost too much to bear when Dad shoots Little Victor in a real-life birthday paintball match, sending him down to the ground writhing in pain. The pain from the somewhat accidental shooting passes quickly but the entire audience will be guaranteed to be thinking, “Haven’t you already done enough?!”

It’s almost enough to make you forget the talent driving all of this. It seems at times that Little Victor’s skills runs at odds to his personality. Here’s a kid who could live every grade-schooler’s dream and play violent video games that he’s not supposed to all the time. But he doesn’t want to. His hamster, Wii Sports sessions and classical music mean more to him.

That paradox puts the lie to the hysteria of video game addiction. Early on in the film, the camera holds tight on the super-intense look of laserlike concentration on Lil Poison’s face. Where the film winds up is in a place that lets you believe Victor DeLeon III’s singular talents may be being nurtured in a baggage-free environment.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.