It was the happiest day of Phillip Cho's life. Shortly after New Year's Day in 2005, he learned that he had acquired a fortune of $600 million — a windfall from his brother, who had won a settlement in a corporate espionage lawsuit, and who planned to give Cho access...
Just as organizations such as A/V Geeks and the Prelinger Archives have been busy digitizing Super-8 and 16mm home movies, instructional films, and other forms of celluloid ephemera, Everything Is Terrible (EIT) is dedicated to finding the most god-awful casualties of VHS and virtually every kind of media thereafter. Everything Is Festival is a series of public screenings showcasing some of the most mind-glowingly bad shit out there. This year's fun, five-day film fest, Everything Is Festival: The 5th Dimension, kicks off with EIT's very own Memory Hole, a visual assemblage of rejects from America's Funniest Home Videos, which offers a window into America during the last quarter-century. Ticketed presentations include the 1991 amusing atrocity Samurai Cop (with star Matt Hannon in person!) and the sophomore edition of The Most Outrageous Video Games. Other highlights: Barry Hansen aka Dr. Demento's favorite finds, as well as the Found Footage Battle Royale, a community invitational for anyone hankering to share their own funny and/or disturbing under-recognized gems. Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District; Thu., Aug. 28 to Mon., Sept. 1 (various showtimes); opening night free. All other screenings $12/$15, members free. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org.More
With more than 60 performances on offer in hip-hop, ballet, tap, modern, tribal, contemporary, jazz, belly and pole dancing, the Mix Match Dance Festival returns with its annual terpsichorean tasting menu of local dance troupes. Billed as L.A.'s largest dance festival, the Hart Pulse Dance Company–hosted event has some repetition in groups and dancers over its four days, but each of the four shows has a distinctive and different lineup. Friday's groups include Ashley L. Jones, Lexi Stillanos, Hazel Clarke, Kelela Batinga, Diane McNeal Hunt's Elevate, Merge Dance Theatre, Amaterasu Dance Company, Gabriela Hernandez Cardenas, J.J. Dance, Brooklyn Hughes Melton, Julianna LaRosa, Sara Kempa-Leon, OdDancity, Rosie Trump (With or Without Dance), Reach Dance Academy Burbank and the host company. Now in its eighth year, Mix Match Dance Festival is a weekend of shows offering an unmatched chance to measure the temperature of current SoCal dance. For the full lineup and tickets, go to hartpulsedance.com. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Thu.-Sat., Aug. 28-30, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 31, 2 p.m.; $17. (661) 755-2182, brownpapertickets.com/event/239532.More
Game lovers will be gathering at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport over Labor Day weekend for Gateway 2014. Part of the Strategicon family of holiday weekend gaming events, this four-day convention features tournaments, demos and more, for board game lovers and card sharks alike. A full roster of events is planned every day right up until Monday afternoon, so check out strategicon.net for the schedule. For those who want to simply play with friends, head to the library. It's stocked with old favorites and more recent titles. Whether you're looking for something with zombies, Cthulhu or Dungeons & Dragons, there is something here you can take on loan for a few hours. Hilton Los Angeles Airport, 5711 W. Century Blvd., Westchester; Fri., Aug. 29-Mon., Sept. 1; $60 weekend pass ($50 in advance), day pass $30 (Sat.-Sun.)/$15 (Fri., Mon.)., $5 kids under 12 with adult admission. strategicon.net.More
The Los Angeles Times kicks off its annual food festival, the Taste, on Labor Day weekend. The folks from that paper's Food section join local chefs for a weekend of discussions, cooking and cocktail demos, wine seminars — and actual food and drink. Among the many activities: cooking demos by Nancy Silverton, Jimmy Shaw, John Sedlar, Karen Hatfield and Casey Lane, among many others; a butchery demo by Amelia Posada; Russ Parsons chats with Thomas Keller; Jonathan Gold and Betty Hallock host a mixology demo; and a farmers market cooking panel with Roxana Jullapat, Jessica Koslow and Josiah Citrin. A weekend pass goes for $299; tickets for individual events run from $175 down to a kids' brunch for $5. Check out the website for details and to buy tickets. (LAT subscribers get a $25 discount.).More
fri 7/25 Dierks Bentley GREEK THEATRE For the better part of the past decade, Dierks Bentley has helped usher in a new era of country music. His catalog has spawned seven No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs charts and cemented his status as one of mainstream country's superstars...
Visual allure often isn't a virtue we value when chasing obscure flavors in L.A.'s international neighborhoods. In fact, adventurous diners tend to appreciate the opposite: The grungier the location, the more accomplished we feel for having sought it out. Looks be damned — let the fireworks happen on the flavor...
The Los Angeles art world has been saying a collective "hallelujah" since the arrival in January of Philippe Vergne as MOCA's new director. Although some East Coast commentators condemned the appointment — citing in particular a budget crisis scandal in which Vergne resorted to selling off a number of works...
If you know painter Joe Goode, who road-tripped to L.A. from Oklahoma in 1959 to make his go as an artist, you probably know his drawings of torn paper or paintings of blue skies. They're pretty nonchalant and usually modestly sized, so it's surprising to see how big and majestic the new paintings in his "Flat Screen Nature" show at Kohn Gallery are. They're two-tone expanses of color painted on sheets of fiberglass. Even though you could tumble right into those deep blues, Goode's still not taking himself too seriously. Every piece has weirdly ragged edges and the titles are jokes: Honk if You See Jesus for one with a ghostly shape near the bottom, or Coming Attraction for one that looks like a big-screen sunset. 1227 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd.; through Aug. 29. kohngallery.com.More
An enormous steel structure, like a giant birdcage by Escher, rises up from the grounds of Materials & Applications, an independent, progressive design studio off Silver Lake Boulevard. Architect Warren Techentin's installation, La Cage Aux Folles, presents nested helixes in a complex system of small lines and hyperbolic dimensional math, which occupies sculptural space and explores traditions of simple-shelter and decorative architecture — but it turns out it's also a stage. It opened in April with a series of performances that occupied and activated the space in ways linked to its name's semiotic origins: cage and folly, as in "inside and outside, captivity and protection, function and ornament, shape and line, stasis and dynamism." The installation remains open every day through Aug. 29, but this weekend, La Cage welcomes Matt Kivel to celebrate the release of his appropriately named and suitably experimental new album, Days of Being Wild. Known for his complex, subtly asymmetrical, lyrical style, Kivel's work rather echoes the spirit and form of the cage; his afternoon also features solo sets from Sophia Knapp and Kevin Morby (Woods, The Babies), plus beer by Craftsman Brewery. Materials & Applications, 1619 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; daily thru Aug. 29. (323) 739-4668, emanate.org.More
Weep at another whiff of an Elmore Leonard adaptation, one that nails down neither the peppery laughs nor the street-crime desperation that are key to the writer's work. Instead, the comedy is too broad to take the characters seriously, and the vibe is breezily aimless, a mistake in a story...
After The Princess Bride made Robin Wright a star, she shocked Hollywood by saying no. No to The Firm and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. No to Jurassic Park, Dirty Dancing, Born on the Fourth of July and Batman Forever. She even said no to the cover of Vanity Fair...
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Stephanie Beth is a high school teacher in Christchurch, New Zealand who focuses on media studies. She's also a documentary filmmaker who recently produced and directed Us and the Game Industry. The film, which chronicles the work of a handful of independent-minded video game developers, opens at Arena Cinema in Hollywood today for a weeklong run.
Beth doesn't play games, but her son does. That situation she says something is "not atypical to any parent." Through her son, the filmmaker noticed something that caught her attention. "I suddenly saw this astonishing energy of culture shifting away from one medium, or some mediums, to another," she says. With a keen interest in working on a project that incorporated "culture, science and art" and spare time, Beth went to work on the documentary. Filming took place between 2009 and 2012. Most of the participants are based in the United States, although a couple worked in Copenhagen, Denmark.
From first-person shooters played on living room consoles to mobile phone apps, video games have evolved into a massive industry that has a little something for everybody. They are no longer about kids and teens hanging around an arcade or even busting through Super Mario Bros. at a sleepover. There are games for children and adults. You can play by yourself or with strangers somewhere else in the world. Some are played to simply pass time while others are meant to test your physical endurance. You can play games for the action or the art or the narrative.
Beth got to witness part of this story. When she began research for the documentary, the game industry was stuck in a rut. "It wasn't growing," she says. "There were long established traditions, whether for role-playing or for first-person shooter." She learned, though, that there were people trying to break new ground in the medium. Ultimately, those were the people she followed.
Cosplayers pose for photos at Voltage's Anime Expo booth.
Tucked inside the exhibit hall at Anime Expo was a small, pink booth. Inside, there were two cosplayers standing under soft lighting as people queued up to take photos with them. The guy with the fox ears and long, blonde hair is supposed to be Miyabi, a lead character in the new romance app, Enchanted in the Moonlight.
Games like this — more choose-your-own adventure story than conventional video game — have a history of popularity in Japan. Voltage, the company behind Enchanted in the Moonlight, has released 50 titles in Japanese and has 22 million users in its home country. The company hasn't been in the U.S. for very long — its San Francisco office opened in 2012 — but it's steadily increasing its presence here, and has 18 U.S. titles under its belt. This past weekend marked the company's first appearance at Anime Expo, a destination for all sorts of media emanating from Japan.
Inside the booth, a Voltage rep talks me through the demo for Enchanted in the Moonlight. We're using an iPad. Every tap on the screen moves the story forward. Dialogue pops up under scenes that are drawn in a way that resembles manga and anime. Every now and then, a multiple choice question appears. I have to select the protagonist's reaction.
When I start playing the app, the story is still in progress. I point to a sad looking man on the screen. "So, that's the nice guy who likes the girl, but she chose the jerk instead?" I ask the rep. He nods. The romantic lead, Miyabi, is a real piece of work. He's egotistical and possessive. I decide that I hate him and realize that I'm getting sucked into this world. I ask the rep if I can give this story a horrible ending. He says yes. I like this game even more. I start playing it on my iPhone when I get home from the convention that evening.
JJ Villard at work at Hollywood animation studio Titmouse
JJ Villard just lived through a stretch of weeks that felt like a single day. Near the end of production for his forthcoming cartoon series, King Star King, the budget grew tight. The five-person team that provided layouts was gone, although there was one more episode to go. Villard had to do the job himself. He worked from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, churning out one drawing after the next.
Now, in mid-April, Villard is sitting in his office at Hollywood animation studio Titmouse, going through the work that he somehow turned in on time. There's the eponymous King Star King with his chest exploding. Villard pulls up another drawing as he describes the scene: "He's drinking, smoking aliens and snorting worms and then - boom! - all the eyes come out of the clouds."
He proclaims, "The end animation looks beautiful!"
Jessica Chobot hosts Nerdist News and wrote the video game Daylight.
Belinda Van Sickle had been working in the video game industry for nine years when she headed up to San Francisco for the second Women in Games International conference back in 2006. She sat in a room with 100 people, most of whom were female, and realized that she didn't know anyone.
Van Sickle had spent years going to conferences, including large-scale ones like E3 in Los Angeles, and knew she would run into familiar faces. But after almost a decade in the industry, she didn't know many other women who worked in video games. "I realized that being a woman is an isolating thing in the game industry, especially on the developer side," she says. "Isolation is not a way to build a career."
Van Sickle, who began her career at Activision and had just started her own marketing company, GameDocs, began working with WIGI to build a community for women in the industry. She started out with a LinkedIn group, whose membership swelled in a matter of months. That led to successful mixers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Sydney. Soon, they were doing events at E3. By 2008, the group had incorporated. Today, Van Sickle is the President and CEO of WIGI, a group that helps advance the careers of women in the games industry.
Scott Stephan and Alexa Kim created Anamnesis for a graduate course at USC.
In Anamnesis, you are a FEMA agent in Los Angeles. The year is 2020 and a pandemic has swept the city, forcing survivors to move into quarantine zones. You are the person who helped them relocate. Now, you are searching one of these buildings to find out why two of these people have disappeared.
The game, which is part of IndieCade's exhibition at E3, utilizes the emerging gaming platform Oculus Rift. With the Rift, players can immerse themselves into the world, virtual reality style. In the case of Anamnesis, wearing the Rift headset will allow you to see the memories of the former inhabitants of the apartments you will explore. Without the Rift, you will look at the game strictly from the perspective of the FEMA agent. You'll need to explore the building from those different points of view in order to uncover, and maybe solve, a mystery.
Outside of EightyTwo, adjacent to Little Tokyo and in the heart of the Arts District.
Scott Davids and Noah Sutcliffe have been friends since they were in the first grade. When Sutcliffe's family moved from Pasadena to Washington, D.C. for a year, young Davids from Highland Park came out to visit with a briefcase of Nintendo video games. So, it didn't seem so far-fetched that now in their early 30s, they are opening a classic arcade games bar, EightyTwo, together in Downtown L.A.
Is your inner child jealous? Well, you should be.
Nestled in the the heart of the Arts District, around the corner from newer institutions like Wurstküche and The Pie Hole, is a spacious and empty one-story building with a concrete parking lot. The walls outside are adorned with vibrant graffiti art from local artists -- something that was already there before they bought the building. Although it's still a work in progress, Kevin Costner's words echo: "If you build it, they will come." The two are in the middle of renovating the space with Sci-Arc architect Darin Johnstone and plan on opening it in Jan. 2014.
In the realm of heroes and villains, there are few as famous as Batman and the Joker. For decades, the nemeses have been meeting up on comic book pages, on screens big and small, in live-action and animated form. A host of actors have stepped into their roles, each one bringing a new dimension to the characters.
Now it's time for Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker to have their shot. Smith voices Batman while Baker handles Joker in the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, set for release on October 25.
Smith and Baker are voice actors. Smith has lent his voice to major characters in multiple Assassin's Creed and Resident Evil games. Baker has voiced Snow Villiers, one of the playable characters in Final Fantasy XIII, amongst numerous other roles. They've done plenty of work in animation too, but it's in the gamer realm where they've made their marks.
Both actors note that acting for video games isn't all that different from working on cartoons. You work in a booth. You perform into microphones. Sometimes, there's a camera picking up facial expressions and mouth movements for the animation team's references. What's different is how the performances unfold. They're working on game levels, one by one. "We're not telling a story in an hour-and-a-half," says Baker. "We're telling it in ten to twelve hours that you are immersed in."
Were you the type of kid who raced home from school to catch DuckTales? Did you have the theme song memorized? Did you spend hours playing the video game? Then maybe you should head down to iam8bit's Echo Park headquarters and go for a swim through Scrooge McDuck's pool of money.
For "Entertainment System," the latest retro-gaming themed art show from iam8bit, the group created a real life representation of the vault where Uncle Scrooge would dive head first into a sea of coins. "We are huge fans of the DuckTales game," says Noah Lane, the senior project coordinator at iam8bit, referencing the 1989 adventure game based on the series. "We've been researching and working on it for months."
The Echo Park firm worked closely with Capcom to bring the vault to life. Capcom, the video game company responsible for a slew of hit games, was behind the original DuckTales video game and recently announced DuckTales: Remastered. The new version of the old game will be available for multiple systems later this summer.
This year's E3 was as big and bombastic as ever. A giant, 18-foot robot from EA's (Electronic Arts) upcoming Titanfall stands ominously in the lobby; Activision erected a semi-circle of giant, trailer-spewing screens around an open forum, welcoming the masses into its fold like the loving arms of St. Paul's Cathedral; Microsoft corralled actual zombies to moan and groan in a small corner dystopia to promote the undead slaughter-fest Dead Rising 3; and more media outlets than even last year broadcasted and podcasted live from the convention floor.
You can almost smell half a year's worth of marketing budgets in the air. But what really stands out this year is how high the walls are. The sides of booths at E3 have always crept skyward, but in years past, from an elevated vantage, you could at least gaze over the entire floor. Now, the steel-frames adorned with expansive sheets of plastic stretch nearly to the ceiling, blocking any trace of other exhibitors. They make it feel less like a gaming community (an illusion that my inner child should perhaps have released decades ago) and more like isolated pods of explosive glee.
Nevertheless, video game professionals -- and those who managed to finagle a badge out of a video game professional -- soak in all the bright lights, hyper-kinetic screens, booming tones, circus-like barkers, and busty seasonal models that characterize the annual event.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, the Granada Hills shopping center that is home to Family Fun Arcade was so full that guys in neon raincoats were directing traffic. But the crowd wasn't here for gaming action -- they were ready to attend church services. The arcade itself was closed, despite the fact that the Arcade Relief Stream-A-Thon, a video game marathon intended to raise money for FFA owner Ralph Sehnert's medical bills, was set to go on for another hour. Posted on the locked door were the arcade's regular hours and a recent L.A. Weekly article about the FFA's impending closure.
Two hours later, I returned, this time with an old friend. We were set on making one final, small offering of quarters to the arcade gods at the video game haven of our youth. Still, the venue was closed. A couple people were waiting outside as well. One guy tells us that the Stream-A-Thon was shut down sometime in the middle of the night. He was there, he said, and it was crowded.
He was never supposed to be the celebrity. Tom Smuts, a cycling enthusiast who pedals to work three days a week, was just the organizer. But after being nominated for his first Emmy this year, the Mad Men producer thought he might be able to use his connections to get...
It's 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and the sun has just risen over eastern Los Angeles. One by one, people ascend the stairs to Fritz Haeg's home, high in the hills of Glassell Park, overlooking the city. They are here for Haeg's latest project: the L.A. Seminary for Civic and...
This year at San Diego Comic-Con, I stayed with some friends who, by luck of the hotel lottery system, landed a room at a high-end establishment across the street from the convention center. It's the kind of place better known for hosting exclusive, red carpet parties than for housing the...