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Tribeca 2011: “L.A. Noire” Makes a Strong Debut for Video Games

Tribeca 2011: “L.A. Noire” Makes a Strong Debut for Video Games (photo)

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Last night saw a bit of history made as Tribeca Film Festival showcased Rockstar Games’ “L.A. Noire” in a special event, marking the first time a video game’s ever gotten the spotlight at the storied cinema celebration.

At the opening of the Tribeca Talks session, the festival’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Gilmore admitted that he’s not a gamer but saw Rockstar’s games as a part of a tradition picking up where indie films left off. Gilmore didn’t expound on that, but it seems that he saw the same kind of creative agency and freedom in games. In the heyday of indie films, they seemd to spring full-blown out of nowhere, full of fresh reconfigurative energy, and it must be that for someone in Gilmore’s position, games looks like they happen in the same way. He made a point to differentiate Rockstar’s oeuvre as ‘narrative games,’ too. While that does imply an unfortunate compartmentalization with what games currently are-most games try for some sort of narrative, or create it emergently-that distinction does apply to Rockstar’s heavily authored brand of game-making.

Speaking of narrative, reps from the “GTA” company unveiled a case from the virtual LAPD’s homicide desk called the Red Lipstick Murder. You actually get to see the murder in question as the level opens but the screen’s all silhouettes and camera cutaways so as not give away the culprit. Nevertheless, you can tell that the beating that takes away a woman’s life is brutal. Some scenes in the precinct briefing room showed off the game’s approach to period aesthetic and dramatis personae. The dialogue rattled out characters with flourish and the ambiance of late 1940s Los Angeles came alive in the chatter, set design and wardrobe of the gameworld. Fresh to the murder beat, lead character Cole Phelps–brought to life by Aaron Staton of “Mad Men”–gets assigned with the murder case with new partner Galloway.

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It was the first time that live gameplay’s been shown to such a large audience and the session let viewers in on just how the mechanics of “L.A. Noire” will work. Once players steer Phelps to a crime scene, they can scour the environment for clues. You’ll be able to run plate numbers to get addresses, too. A lipstick container, items in a purse and a purloined bar lighter all create new avenues to investigate, leading players to persons of interest. One such person was the owner of a bar where victim Selene Henry hung out. Questioning him ruled him out as a suspect but did reveal an affair with Selene before she got married. Heading to the apartment of the victim’s estranged husband, the man claimed innocence. Grilling each of these characters, you need to read their faces and decide from Trust, Doubt or Lie options. These sequences are where the game’s revolutionary MotionScan comes into play. Actors’ performances get captured and presented with amazing fidelity, so a grieving husband’s shifty eyes and hesitant delivery may put the lie to whatever his mouth is saying. As the game goes on, you can expect to encounter better liars whose falsehoods are harder to spot. If you get suckered by a character’s lies, you can go astray during your legwork and chase after red herrings. And as you poke into the dark corners of people’s lives, all sorts of intriguing details come up, like that fact that Selene Henry was a pilot or the fact that a male suspect in the case may have a taste for wearing womens’ shoes.

Watching the case play out highlighted how “L.A. Noire” will differ from other Rockstar games. Phelps feels more introspective, talking to himself as he looks through clues and the proceedings overall come across as slower, quieter and less chaotic than the cacophony of a “GTA” title.

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Yet, as innovative as “L.A. Noire” already looks to be, people still want more. One fan asked just how competent Phelps will be as a detective, wanting to know if, “You can play through the game and just be a screw-up the whole time?” He was essentially asking about how emergent the game would be, if infinite possibiities laid within its branching structure. Rockstar’s people replied that somebody would need to write all of that. As good as the experiences delivered by “Grand Theft Auto” games and Red Dead Redemption have been, a lot of folks yearn for complete unpredictability. “L.A. Noire” won’t deliver that but will likely hold some surprises up its sleeves, as it channels the murky noir energy of “Chinatown,” “The Third Man” and “Double Indemnity” into playable form.

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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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.