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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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
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Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
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Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
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Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
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Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
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Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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