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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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