Babycastles Takes Manhattan

Babycastles Takes Manhattan (photo)

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It’s been almost two months since the minds behind Babycastles inaugurated their residency just a few blocks from Grand Central Station. The space comes courtesy of Chashama, an organization that sets up artists in empty real-estate locations like retail storefronts or office spaces. Previously, Babycastles lived at the Silent Barn music venue in Rudgewood, Queens. You didn’t need a password but their space at Silent Barn felt like a video game speakeasy. Finding yourself at the nondescript metal door and going down to the basement illuminated by screenlight meant you now belonged to a secret society of people privy to a bubbling, fertile cultural movement.

11292010_Babycastles_Manhattan_3a.jpgStill, the bigger, splashier Midtown East locale required a change in approach, both in terms of what the show and how they show it. Syed Salahuddin, one of the founders of Babycastles, offered that “we could do whatever the f**k we wanted at Silent Barn. That crowd was more acclimated to trying out new things, even if they didn’t play video games.” He continued with the observation that “here [at Chashama, we need to have things that are more palatable. We want to be people’s introduction to indie games.”

The latest exhibition–curated by Independent Games Festival chairman Brandon Boyer–featured the biggest names yet, with indie success stories “Super Meat Boy,” “Continuity” and “Enviro-Bear 2000” playable in custom-made cabinets. Saturday night saw a closing party for the exhibition, with musical performances by chiptune artists Starscream, Neil Voss and Knife City. Salahuddin says that openings have been great, but ordinary weekdays have been a mixed bag: “Midtown is an alien world for us and it’s a little difficult to get people from Brooklyn to come out.”

However, they have managed to draw a curious cubicle-dweller crowd: “People wander in during their lunch breaks, because nothing cool or cultural happens in this part of the city. They’ve been super-appreciative.” So has Chashama, who have extended the Babycastles residency through to the end of January. The pace of exhibitions has doubled in the new space, up to two showcases a month. A January show will feature the work of Eddo Stern, who helped curate Fantastic Arcade at the 2010 Fantastic Fest and is also known for “Tekken Torture Tournament.”

Speaking of upcoming exhibitions, Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi have also created “Flatlands,” a new site-specific work for the space that Zimmerman described as a “conversational” game about aesthetic discourse. The pair plan to re-work the feel of the venue a little bit as Pozzi described the look of the non-digital game as more somber interspersed with bursts of color. Zimmerman didn’t get in specifics but said that playing “Flatlands” involves old-school board games from the 1980s and that which board you choose will in itself be a move.

11292010_Babycastles_Manhattan_6a.jpgAsked why Babycastles’ Manhattan space is important, Zimmerman answered by noting, “As digital games enter the cultural pantheon alongside literature, film and other media, it’s important to create context for their distribution and experience beyond a box on a shelf or a slot on a Xbox Live Arcade release schedule. There has to be a curated kind of space and Babycastles is both a symptom and a cause of the rise of indie games.”

Brandon Boyer agrees, adding hat Babycastles is part of a larger movement happening in many cities. “Toronto has its Torontron and Seattle, Austin are trying to set up similar things. Places like this take everything back to the 1980s, when there still were communal spaces for playing games together,” he says.

The IGF chairman chose these seven games because he knew they would show well “in a noisy space with drunk people.” “Super Meat Boy” and “Continuity” are already playable in the wild, but Boyer also included highly anticipated games that aren’t out yet like “Monaco” and “Tuning.”

Rumors of a New Year’s Eve party ran through the room on Saturday night and Salahuddin wouldn’t say if such a thing was in the works. I asked him if he and his partners would consider another run in Manhattan once this residency ended, but he answered that “After this, we go to sleep and die.”


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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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