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An intimate film that could’ve been more intimate

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Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer in Netflix’s Boys In The Band

Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer in Netflix’s Boys In The Band
Photo: Scott Everett White/Netflix

Zachary Quinto still hasn’t seen the original Boys In The Band. “I hadn’t seen it when I got invited to do the play, so I didn’t think that was very good time to watch it,” Quinto said on Keep It this week of avoiding the 1970 film after being cast in the 2018 Broadway revival of the play on which it was based. “And then, shortly after the play, they talked about our movie… But now I’m safe to watch the original.”

Not wanting to be influenced by a previous iteration of a project is an easy call for an actor, but as a critic it’s a more complicated dilemma. How fair is it to compare two versions of the same story? In the case of Boys In The Band, it’s impossible to separate the art from its historical influence. Mart Crowley’s 1968 off-Broadway hit—and 1970 film—were groundbreaking moments for gay representation. For the first time, gay men were presented in a slice-of-life piece that treated them as fully formed individuals rather than tokens meant to represent an entire culture. Crowley’s script benefits from being written more than a decade before the HIV/AIDS pandemic would steal an entire generation of the community (including much of the original Boys cast) and color gay stories for 20 years. At the start of both versions of the film, a character explains that his psychiatrist had to cancel their appointment because of “a virus or something. He said he was just too sick.” Fifteen years later, that line would have foreshadowed the tragedy ahead for the doctor, but here it’s a throwaway line used to explain a party guest’s early arrival. That perhaps encapsulates the importance of Boys In The Band: It’s about gay men just being.

More specifically, Boys centers on Michael (Jim Parsons) and the gaggle of gays gathering at his New York City apartment on a Saturday evening to celebrate the birthday of their friend Harold (Quinto). The aforementioned early arriver is Donald (Matt Bomer), and most of the film’s opening act operates as a two-hander between Michael and Donald until the ensemble slowly grows to include shameless flirt Larry (Andrew Rannells) and his recently out boyfriend Hank (Tuc Watkins), unabashedly flamboyant Emory (Robin de Jesús), and bookish Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington). As in real life, the dynamic of the group changes with each new arrival—though never as much as when Michael’s college roommate, to whom he’s still closeted, shows up unexpectedly. The addition of Alan (Brian Hutchison) sets in motion a series of conversations and confrontations that lead to a traumatic “game” that has each member of the party revisiting the story of their first love.

As with the 1970 version of the film, the new movie’s cast is identical to that of its preceding stage production. The benefits of months of rehearsal and a Broadway run are evident in the easy and familial nature with which the men effortlessly transition from trading acerbic insults to warmly embracing time and time again. (Rannells and Watkins even developed into a real-life couple while working together, despite their characters’ tumultuous existence on-screen.) But where the original film traded out stage director Robert Moore for William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist), Tony-winner Joe Mantello remained at the helm as the Ryan Murphy production transitioned to the screen. Mantello is the first to tell people he hasn’t had a lot of experience directing movies (his last feature was the 1997 adaptation of his Broadway hit Love! Valour! Compassion!), yet his version of Boys fights its stage roots far more than Friedkin’s film.

Peter White, Laurence Luckinbill, Frederick Combs, Kenneth Nelson, Cliff Gorman, and Robert La Tourneaux in the original film.

Peter White, Laurence Luckinbill, Frederick Combs, Kenneth Nelson, Cliff Gorman, and Robert La Tourneaux in the original film.
Screenshot: The Boys In The Band (1970

There’s no denying the Boys film script—practically unchanged over 50 years, aside from one line aging up the characters by a decade to more accurately reflect the age of the cast—was originally envisioned for the theater; its frequent emotional monologues broken up by sections of rapid-fire banter, with up to nine characters chiming in on top of each other. Friedkin leaned into that stage origin by setting up dynamic wide shots that captured as much of the action in one frame as possible, only cutting to singles at particularly intimate moments. In contrast, the new Boys jumps from close-up to close-up, relying on quick cuts rather than allowing the cast to flow through dialogue they’d impressively volleyed at each other night after night at the Booth Theatre in 2018.

It’s a disservice to the stellar ensemble that Netflix’s Boys insists on expanding the world beyond the pressure cooker of Michael’s one-bedroom apartment. As the story transitions from a dance-filled dinner party to drunken professions of love, the new film breaks the tension by cutting to flashes of the characters’ memories instead of letting the audience sit in the discomfort. It’s a reasonable assumption that the flashbacks were added in an attempt to update the feel of the piece, but their insertion interrupts beautiful work from Washington and Watkins (though de Jesús is thankfully allowed to stew in his most haunting moment). Similarly, the final minutes of the film follow the characters home from the party, taking us outside the apartment in a way that feels counter to the intimacy of the rest of the evening.

Zachary Quinto, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús in the new Boys In The Band

Zachary Quinto, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús in the new Boys In The Band
Photo: Everett White/Netflix

That’s not saying all the updates are unwelcome. The close-ups highlight knowing glances and other stolen moments between characters that would have been lost in other stagings, and lines like the one referencing the sick therapist are glossed over in a way that seems intentional—an acknowledgement of how audiences may interpret certain dialogue in the light of 2020. And the casting of de Jesús, who is Puerto Rican, as Emory allowed Mantello to explore race in a way that the original stage and film productions did not. Mantello smartly tethered the effeminate Emory to Bernard (previously the piece’s only character of color), completely altering the meaning of entire sections of dialogue that went unchanged on paper. The new movie also includes a moment from the stage production that was left out of the 1970 film—a final line for “Cowboy,” a sex worker presented as a gift from Emory to Harold (and played with charming dopishness by Charlie Carver)—that brings much-appreciated humanity to a character who otherwise serves as a punching bag for the older partygoers.

Mart Crowley famously got sober for six weeks to write the original Boys. The playwright didn’t see himself in the characters on stage, and he wanted to change that. It’s a testament to his specificity that the script plays as well today as it did in 1968. (He was on set during the filming of Netflix movie but died in March at the age of 84.) Boys doesn’t tell every queer man’s story, but—for better or worse—Crowley’s story encapsulates gay life most honestly when Michael and Harold part ways with a tense exchange (Quinto relishing in chewing up the scenery with every over-articulated insult). Out of context, Harold’s goodbye would be friendship-ending, as would the punches and tears exchanged between other characters earlier the evening. But we know that by tomorrow all will be forgiven—because these men aren’t just friends, they’re an unapologetically dysfunctional family. They need each other as the world around them stares, laughs, and oppresses them. We’ve made a lot of progress in the fight for LGBTQ rights, but many young queer people are still left with only their chosen family after coming out. Hopefully in another 50 years the story of Boys In The Band will seem woefully antiquated. For now, it’s a necessary reminder of how far yet how little we’ve actually come.

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3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Blackjack

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Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world. The card game, sometimes referred to as ‘21’, accounts for an average of 31 percent of all casino table traffic – this is consistent both online and in physical casinos. For reference, the second most popular is roulette (24%) followed by poker (21%).

It’s easy to understand blackjack’s popularity. It’s a simple game to grasp and offers players a mix of luck and skill: luck in the cards that are drawn, skill over how those cards are dealt and a player’s eventual hand. Compare that to roulette, which is based entirely on luck, and poker, which has a huge skill element to it.

However, while the beauty of blackjack is in its simplicity, there are also a number of complexities to the game, and as is the case with almost anything in life, you learn more from mistakes than successes.

With that in mind, here are three key mistakes to avoid when playing blackjack that can significantly increase your chances of winning, while limiting your losses.

Choosing the Wrong Table

Before a single card is drawn, being at the wrong table – whether live or online – is the first mistake to avoid.

First of all, each blackjack table will have different minimum bet requirements so avoid choosing one that is out of your budget. For instance, if you choose a table with a $100 minimum bet and your budget is $200, you might only play two hands.

Secondly, check the payout odds on the blackjack table. These are typically 6:5 and 3:2 and will affect how much gets paid out when you hit blackjack and land other bonus wins. Where possible, choose a 3:2 table as it pays out higher.

Thirdly, choose between a virtual and a live table. This is not so much a mistake to avoid but more comes down to personal preference. Virtual tables allow players to play against an automated computer, so you can play at your own pace, while live tables are usually quicker paced as human dealers are keen to move the game along.

When to Hit and Stand

As a general rule, most blackjack players know to hit when the hand is 12 and to stand when the hand equals 17. However, there are plenty of variables to consider that could influence when to hit and stand. Getting these right can really boost your chances of beating the house, while getting it wrong could prove costly.

One key move to implement is to always hit on a soft 17 – when the two cards are an ace and a six. This means that if you draw a 10 or picture card (jack, queen, king), then you convert your hand into a hard 17. It also gives greater flexibility if you draw a smaller value card as the ace can be used as a one.

While many players adopt a strict ‘never bust’ policy, meaning they always stand when their hand equals 12 or more, this can be ill-advised as it depends almost entirely on the dealer going bust.

Instead, analyze the value of your two cards compared to the dealer’s first card and weigh up the risk factor in drawing another card before the dealer draws their second. As a strict rule, if your first two cards equal 17 or more, then stand – anything else can be hit depending on the situation.

When to Split and Double

If you are playing in a blackjack tournament, either online or live, learning when to split and double can make all the difference to your chances of success. The same also applies to individual games of blackjack.

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Splitting is when you split two cards when dealt the same value cards, so a pair of eights for example. Doubling is when you are given the option to double your bet after being dealt your initial two cards.

While it can be tempting to split and double at every opportunity to increase your winning, doing at the right time is the key.

It is not recommended to split when:

  • You are dealt two picture cards or two 10s
  • You are dealt two 9s
  • You are dealt two 5s
  • The dealer holds a 10 or picture card

It is best to split when:

  • You are dealt two 8s
  • You are dealt two aces
  • The dealer holds a 5 or 6 (as this is the highest probability of a bust)

Similar to knowing when to hit and stand, take a brief moment to assess the dealer’s drawn card compared to your own two cards and determine whether the probabilities are in your favour.

Likewise, knowing when to double down – when not to double down – can change the complexities of your blackjack game. A simple rule to know when to double is if your two cards equal 10 and the dealer’s card is between 2-9. Additionally, if you hold an ace, you can consider a double as these have the flexibility of playing as 11 or 1. But if the dealer’s card is an ace, ignore the double.

Conclusion

Blackjack may be a simple game but there are some important strategies to keep in mind next time you head to the virtual or live table. The game itself is still rooted in luck so there are never any guarantees to long-term success. However, by keeping these three important rules in mind, you can at least avoid making avoidable mistakes.

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Top 5 Entertainment Activities for College Students

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The life of college students is sometimes too complicated. They have to face tons of homework assignments that steal their time. Many students get stressed because of continuous learning. They seem to forget how to relax. If you’re a busy student, you should remember that you’re still young and shouldn’t waste this precious life stage. You can undertake some entertainment activities sometimes. Take your friends and organize funny games to unwind and let off some pressure. We asked writing experts from a professional essay service Smart Writing Service to share their ideas and provide you with top-5 entertainment activities for college students you may like. 

Who Are You?

Students, especially freshmen, don’t know each other perfectly. They may be taken by surprise when some of them tell something quite unexpected about their hobbies, preferences, and so on. If you want to know other students better, suggest playing a game called “Who Are You”.

Form at least three teams. If there are many folks, you can form more teams. Choose a speaker of the game. It may be even one of your teachers or professors. All groups will be given topics to discuss. The speaker is supposed to announce a new topic every few minutes. You may discuss and answer the following topics:

  • What is the greatest challenge you are facing?
  • What do you like or hate most about yourself?
  • What is your greatest value in life?
  • What emotions do you express easily?
  • What is the most valuable thing in friendship?
  • Who you want to become in five years?
  • What is your major objective for next year?
  • Is there something you want to improve about yourself?
  • What motto do you try to live by?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • If you were to study abroad, what country would that be?

Students should write their answers on index cards. The speaker should gather the answers of every student and shuffle them. Afterward, he/she redistributes them randomly to students. Each person should guess whose card he/she is holding. Play this game after you spend some time together and already know at least something about one another.

Sentence Completion

Another fun activity is “Sentence Completion.” Most people like it because it’s commonly accompanied by laughter and good mood. It’s necessary to prepare a list of sentences. Those sentences should have a beginning, but with no end. Every student should finish the sentence he/she gets. Oftentimes, students give funny answers. At times, they are quite serious, and we can learn something important about other students. Here are several sentence beginnings you may choose:

  • Before I came to college, I was interested in…
  • When I was a child, I wanted to become…
  • The best moment I remember most about high school is…
  • My favorite pet is…
  • The things I value most are…
  • Five years from now I hope to be…
  • My greatest personality trait is…
  • My favorite subject at high school was…
  • If I could change one thing in the world, it would be…
  • My greatest fear is…
  • After I graduate from college, I…

The Reception Line

You may likewise try another entertaining activity for college students. It is called “The Reception Line.” Gather all the mates eager to participate. Divide yourselves into two groups. If you form more, it won’t fit the rules of the game. Each person talks to the person in front of him/her until he/she must move. The person at the end of one line goes to the end of the other line. This method makes it possible to meet new people. Thus, students will learn more about each other. You can make shifts every next topic or set a limit. For example, the pair should discuss 5 topics and afterward move to change partners. Here are some interesting topics to discuss:

  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What motto do you try to follow?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What music do you like?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • Why did you choose this college?
  • What do you like about college life the most?

Take Sides

You can likewise suggest a game, which offers only two options. It’s called “Take Sides.” Create a list of questions with two answers. Students should obligatorily choose one of them. Afterward, you may discuss the answers. Let everyone explain his/her choices. Thus, you’ll learn more about each other, and it will bring you closer. Here are several suggestions:

  • Watermelon or banana?
  • Sweat or bitter?
  • Short trips every weekend or a journey around the world for three months?
  • Partying or hiking?
  • Listen or speak?
  • Rock or pop?
  • Morning or night?
  • Superman or Batman?
  • Robocop or Terminator?
  • Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings?
  • Los Angeles or New York?
  • Liberal or conservative?
  • American football or ice hockey?

My Most Embarrassing Moment

You can likewise tell each other about the most embarrassing moments. It’s important to be honest and don’t imagine a story that never took place. All the participants should agree on this term. Commonly, it is a very entertaining activity. Students tell funny stories they’ve been through. It commonly makes them closer.

These activities for college students are very simple to follow. They are really entertaining. Mind that we have mentioned only 5 of them. However, you can try a hundred activities more. Use our examples to have fun and relax. They may inspire you and your friends to look for other entertaining activities.

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5 Of The Best Gambling Scenes Of All Time

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Gambling can be one of the most dramatic and engaging pastimes to play so it is no wonder then that it has been used as a device to build drama in films for decades. Some of the world’s best movie directors have incorporated American Blackjack, Texas Hold ‘Em Poker and European Roulette into their blockbusters to build tension and keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Here’s a list of the top 5 thrilling gambling scenes of all-time, the ones that got the blood pumping and went on to become iconic in their own right.

Casino Royale (2006)

Gambling has always been synonymous with James Bond from the early Ian Fleming books to the multi-million-dollar budget films that we enjoy today. Owing to its name alone Casino Royale was always going to feature some pretty exhilarating gambling scenes and it does not disappoint.

The entire movie features a number of casino scenes, but the best comes when 007 faces off against arch-villain Le Chiffre at a high-stakes poker table. In the early exchange Bond loses out to his rival, failing to notice his bluffs.

These early losses are vital to Bond though as in the final hand, with $100 million at stake he calls Le Chiffre’s bluff and wins a dramatic, if not slightly improbable hand. Whilst the scene may have caused many poker enthusiasts to question its realism, it undoubtedly adds an exceptional amount of drama to the film making it iconic.

Never bet against James Bond

The Hangover (2009)

In the 1988 hit film Rain Man, Tom Cruise’s character harnesses his autistic brother’s mathematical prowess to beat the casino and win big on the blackjack table. 21 years later comedy classic The Hangover pays tribute to the iconic scene in hilarious fashion.

Alan, the quirky and somewhat odd brother of the groom dresses up and heads over to the blackjack table. As the cards are dealt a series of complicated equations appear on the screen as Alan appears deep in thought.

After watching the cards intently Alan starts to bet big and ends up winning! There isn’t much in the way of drama and tension in this scene as The Hangover is a comedy first and foremost, but it makes our list because of the way it throws back excellently to Rain Man.

Unfortunately for those playing online, you’ll be unable to recreate Alan’s heroics as trustworthy sites like 888 online casino have Random Number Generator’s in operation, this is a complex computer program that is responsible for generating numbers in a random manner, making it impossible to count cards, but you can still find plenty of the fun and drama when you login and play American Blackjack.

This hilarious scene pays homage to the classic Rain Man film in fun fashion

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Despite being released over 50 years ago this iconic film still has enough drama and action to captivate modern audiences. The movie’s main protagonist Luke Jackson – portrayed excellently by Paul Newman – is a decorated war veteran who is sentenced to two years in a chain gang prison camp for destroying parking meters after a night of heavy drinking.

Initially Luke struggles to find his place in the prison hierarchy but he does earn a modicum of respect from his fellow prisoners after not throwing in the towel during a brutal prison fight.

He does fully win the respect of the other inmates though after successively bluffing his way to the jackpot in an intense and dramatic game of poker. His final bluff leads one of his fellow players to utter the most iconic line from the move, “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.”

Paul Newman is exceptional in his portrayal of Luke Jackson in this classic film and plays it real cool in this iconic poker scene

Rounders (1998)

Throughout the years plenty of directors have tried and failed to produce a movie based solely on the premise of gambling. So many efforts have failed that many within the industry thought the 1998 film Rounders was doomed to failure.

The film followed Mike, a naïve student who gambled away his tuition money, his girlfriend, his law degree and almost his entire life. In a desperate move to repay his debts Mike ends up borrowing $10,000 from his old university professor to buy-in to an underground poker game.

Ultimately Mike pulls off an insane bluff to win the jackpot and get his life back on track, but to viewers his win never feels like a certain thing. The director and writers work together to build a scintillating scene full of subtle nuances and individual moments of drama that make this film and absolute must-watch.

Films about gambling usually fail to hit the mark with audiences but Rounders bucks that trend, particularly with this insanely dramatic poker scene

21 (2008)

Everyone loves a fantasy film but what truly captures the imagination of an audience is a film inspired by true events. Starring Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne and Jim Sturgess 21 is the story of the MIT team that used their mathematical skills to count cards in some of America’s biggest casinos.

Ben, the lead character puts together a team of mathematics majors that count cards at blackjack tables to earn huge amounts of money. The most iconic scene in the movie comes when the team puts on disguises to head back to Planet Hollywood, a casino they have already duped.

In the scene the team scam their way to $640,000 in winnings before being spotted by casino staff and making their great escape. In a final twist as Micky, one of the team members is making his escape in a limousine he releases his chips are fake and that he’s been set-up.

Without ruining the ending of the film, this realisation sets the film up for a pulsating finale that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.

21 is so captivating because it is based on the real-life antics of a MIT card counting team

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