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Let’s Talk About the Antebellum Twist

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This movie cares little for its characters, who are brutalized in the filmmakers’ pursuit of one thing: tricking the audience.
Photo: Matt Kennedy

I remember the feeling of my 9-year-old brain imploding when M. Night Shyamalan reveals the extent of Bruce Willis’s mortality in The Sixth Sense. Or when I clutched my proverbial pearls upon discovering the Armitages’ nefarious plot in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. I love a horror film with a good twist, especially when the revelation propels my understanding of the characters and the worlds they’ve been inhabiting. But that’s the inherent difficulty in manufacturing a shocking narrative pivot: Bad reveals feel like a gotcha gimmick, more intent on tricking the audience than saying anything insightful about the story. Directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s horror debut, Antebellum, falls into this exact trap. While initial trailers for the film inspired comparisons to Octavia Butler’s eerie 1979 novel Kindred — in which an African American woman experiences the suffering of her ancestors by mysteriously time-traveling to a Maryland plantation — the infuriating premise for Antebellum decides to take a left turn.

Janelle Monáe plays Eden, a Black woman who, at the beginning of a film I can categorize only as a slave thriller, finds herself on a brutal, pre–Civil War southern plantation. Restricted by Confederate soldiers from speaking, she and her fellow slaves endure beatings, rapes, and brandings. In the first act alone, we watch a fleeing Black woman get lassoed, dragged to the ground, and unflinchingly executed with a bullet to the head by a captain (Jack Huston) riding horseback. Eden herself is harshly whipped with a belt and later branded, by a general known only as Him (Eric Lange), because of her refusal to speak her slave name aloud. But subtle anachronisms are afoot, foreshadowing Bush and Renz’s eventual plot twist. For instance, some of the indentured possess opulent gold chains or septum piercings, both of which seem notably contemporary. However, we unfortunately learn nothing more about these characters or their surroundings before the filmmakers make clear what those anachronisms are hinting at: Eden is really Veronica, a 21st-century best-selling author and successful public speaker who has been kidnapped by rich, racist white folks and forced to work on their modern-day plantation.

How are the rich, racist white folks pulling this off, you may ask? The prime rule at this amusement park masquerading as a plantation demands that participants not carry their cell phones while in costume, lest a slave get hold of one. Of course, one of the Confederate cosplayers violates that rule. In a bird’s-eye-view shot before the audience understands the parameters of this nightmare, we see a traumatized Veronica recovering from one of the general’s latest sexual assaults. But rather than exploring the physical, emotional, or psychological damage that has just been inflicted upon her, the filmmakers use rape as a kitschy doorway to a reveal: the sound of a nearby vibrating cell phone, one that her rapist seems to have neglected to leave behind. With that, the film shifts and Eden, now named Veronica, wakes up in a beautiful present-day apartment she shares with a husband and daughter. Was all that antebellum horror a dream? “My nana used to say our ancestors haunt our dreams to see themselves forward,” Veronica tells a friend later. Alas, no. After a lot of fruitless exposition on Veronica’s professional and personal life (she’s an equestrian, she practices yoga; these are small details that will play into the movie’s conclusion but little else), the audience is thrown back onto the plantation. It turns out a group of wealthy white people have actually been kidnapping successful Black people and imprisoning them in a nightmarish playground for racists that has gone unnoticed by the outside world. Why? Well, we get about as much characterization of the white villains as we do of the people they’ve enslaved. Their motives remain unremarkable. Perhaps that’s the point the filmmakers fail to effectively make.

One character in particular suffers greatly from the directors’ inability to provide a backstory or interiority: the pregnant Julia (Kiersey Clemons), who demands that Veronica lead a full-on rebellion or escape. Unbeknownst to Julia, Veronica has already been testing the creaks in her cabin’s floorboards. She has been planning to rob the general of his phone and use the flexibility she gained as a yoga enthusiast to run away silently. But Veronica neglects to tell Julia of her scheme. Instead, the latter endures a savage beating by a young soldier, which results in a miscarriage. Still, Veronica tells her nothing. Not until after Julia hangs herself does Veronica decide to enact her plot. And why? Because Veronica isn’t protecting her own secret; she’s protecting Bush and Renz’s twist. Julia is a martyr for their suspense.

When viewers discover Bruce Willis has been dead all along in The Sixth Sense, the surprise speaks volumes about his character’s unwillingness, even beyond the grave, to relinquish his career, a vocation that cost him his marriage. When Chris learns of the Armitages’ plan to colonize his body for their immortality in Get Out, their strategy underscores just how much value white folks place on Black bodies rather than souls. These filmmakers withhold the surprises in their narratives not to trick the audience but to allow us time to build empathy for the antagonists and to explore the universes they master. But in Antebellum, we’re not granted a glimpse into the characters or the worlds they inhabit. The only other slave we encounter on the plantation is a man so lightly sketched his name doesn’t extend past his profession — the Professor (Tongayi Chirisa). The others are nameless, faceless men and women silently resigned to their fate, which suggests a startling reality that only Kanye West would agree with: They’re slaves because they allow themselves to be. As Julia intimates, they need the rich, talented Veronica to lead them to freedom. The film’s eventual conclusion serves only to reinforce such classist notions. Veronica succeeds in stealing the phone, contacting her husband, and riding off on a horse to freedom through a field of battle reenactors just as police arrive on the scene.

It’s fair to ask if Antebellum’s twist even qualifies as such. When we learn Veronica’s true identity, the information doesn’t alter the trajectory of the story: Black bodies remain under threat from white folks either way. By rendering the historical pain of slavery in such an apathetic fashion, the filmmakers wield Black trauma with the thoughtfulness of a kid playing with a Super Soaker. By repositioning that historical pain in the contemporary United States, they’re saying these times are bad and not so far removed from antebellum America as we like to think, but they fail to reflect upon how the savagery of Confederate sympathizers has inevitably evolved over the years. And by omitting the fantastical aspects of a story like Kindred’s, they underestimate the genre and the way myths can communicate ungraspable concepts when realism fails. The twist in Antebellum is barely a twist because it says nothing remotely introspective about our country. Rather, the reveal says everything about Hollywood and the kind of political content it’s willing to produce.

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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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