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Malmkrog, The Calming, and Gunda



Of all the pleasures that go missing when a film festival goes virtual, true post-movie discussion might be the most, well, missed. Because even if one were to toggle from the end credits running in one tab to a Zoom call waiting in the next, it wouldn’t quite replicate the experience of stepping out of a dark auditorium and into the light of the lobby, ready to talk about what the hell we all just experienced. This critic, for example, has very fond memories of just one year ago, when an early morning screening at the start of the New York Film Festival bled straight into a café conversation with peers and colleagues about the towering, august-years opus that had just world-premiered across the street. (And that’s to say nothing of the moderated onstage dialogue between Martin Scorsese and his cast of venerated gangster alums, further greasing the wheels of debate on that magnificent movie.)

Perhaps the programmers at this year’s NYFF recognized how starved we’d all be for some good old-fashioned exchange of ideas. That could be one rationale behind making room in the lineup for Malmkrog (Grade: C+), the talkiest movie of this year or possibly any other. This characteristically demanding drama from Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu is almost nothing but gab: a three-and-a-half-hour block of philosophical discourse between wealthy intellectuals, restricted by nothing but their own patience, lung capacity, and tolerance for soapboxing. For a certain portion of the audience, this may impart a vicarious thrill: Who among us has had the recent opportunity to chew the fat at length with the like-minded over food and drink on a chilly evening? Others may find themselves cured of any nostalgia for rhetorical circle jerk.


Photo: Shellac

Set around the turn of the 20th century, within the parlor and dining hall of a vast Transylvanian manor, Malmkrog pulls up a chair to studiously listen in on a series of unbroken Christmas Eve debates between Eastern European aristocrats. The language is florid and eloquent, which doesn’t quite dispel the sense that those speaking are running through the syllabus of a philosophy 101 class; the topics include such well-trod territory as colonialism, the morality of war, and the existence of God and evil. No one makes their case quickly. The film, in turn, makes a very slow case that these ideas are not so productively explored by pointing a camera at actors reciting pages upon pages of raw musings, no matter how artfully that camera has been positioned.

Puiu adapted the film from a philosophy text by Russian writer and thinker Vladimir Solovyov, approaching the material like a creative challenge. Was it possible, he purportedly asked, to make something dramatically compelling out of a collection of dense, highbrow conversations? Malmkrog suggests the answer may be a resounding “Nyet.” Puiu does attempt to provide some distinctive characteristics for his tireless gasbags: The host (Frédéric Schulz-Richard) is an antagonistic blowhard, his most frequent sparring partner a naïve and devout Christian (Marina Palii), their most odious holiday guest a kind of proto-Ben Shapiro (Ugo Broussot) pitching his white supremacy as sensible straight talk. But the focus is on the words spilling constantly from their maws; a mouthpiece with a hint of personality is still a mouthpiece.

Around the edges of these protracted verbal showdowns, a more interesting movie occasionally threatens to emerge. Puiu, who effectively launched his own career and the Romanian New Wave into the international eye with the health-care odyssey The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu, keeps subtly tugging our attention (and sympathies) away from the chatterboxes at center, the eye drifting to the servants wandering the background of the frame and gently interrupting with a beverage or hors d’oeuvre. A revolution—a violent reckoning even—threatens to burst the bubble of privilege occupied by these cloistered nobles. Yet the director is perhaps too committed to the maddening challenge of his experiment to deviate far from it; surrealist flourishes and ominous hints of a coming comeuppance never prevent a reversion to stultifying blather. One is left to admire the literal and figurative wallpaper—to be blessedly distracted by the mise en scène and Puiu’s attempts to constantly vary how he’s filming a tedious tête-à-tête. He has a special gift for framing doors within doors, for instance. You may wish you could exit through one.

The Calming

The Calming
Photo: Huanxi Media

Puiu has orchestrated a marathon gabfest before. He’s also tested his audience’s tolerance in the opposite direction; his nearly-as-long Aurora kept dialogue to an extreme minimum. The same can mostly be said of The Calming (Grade: B-), the second feature by Chinese actor-turned-director Song Fang, which might serve as a chaser for the endless verbal diarrhea of Malmkrog—or maybe just leave a viewer longing for the happy medium. There aren’t too may exchanges in this meditative wisp of a movie, in which a young filmmaker (Qi Xi) floats from Japan to China to Hong Kong, traveling with her latest project but also attempting, perhaps, to outrun her depression over the recent collapse of a romance. This international tour includes pit stops to her parents house, where her father grapples with an increasingly serious illness.

Song’s first film, Memories Look At Me, was explicitly autobiographical, and it’s tempting to suspect a personal dimension to the sightseeing sort-of narrative she unfolds here, as her potential surrogate experiences a fugue state of unarticulated heartache. Operating in the general orbit of Ozu, Song luxuriates in melancholy dislocation—this is a film that understands, if nothing else, how a breakup can leave you both more attuned to the beauty of the world you’re gusting through and rather unmoored from it. (It’s a state of mind conducive to creative observation but not necessarily to creation itself, the film implies.) This viewer found it easy to get onto the movie’s gentle wavelength, tougher to commit its sparse incident to memory. Which it to say, The Calming ultimately might have benefitted from an animating tension—from something beyond its sustained mood of lovely but unvaried serenity. If this a breakup movie, it’s the kind that leaves you in the position of a concerned friend, ready to see the dumped pull themselves out of their existential funk, even just for a self-destructive rebound. The title is accurate to a fault.


Photo: Neon

There’s no dialogue at all in Gunda (Grade: B+), and no human beings in sight either. Yet Victor Kossakovsky’s portrait of a farm in Norway, and the new family of pigs living there, is much more urgent—and, in its own nonfiction and chiefly observational way, much more dramatic—than anything in Malmkrog or The Calming. Decades of anthropomorphizing nature documentaries have conditioned viewers to look for “characters” and “narratives” in the life patterns of fauna. And one might think they’ve identified a plucky underdog hero early into this film, when the birth of a litter of hungry piglets leaves behind one runt, dug out of the hay it was buried beneath while its fellow newborn siblings swarmed to the teat. But any Pavlovian awws dry up quick once the sow crushes her smallest offspring under a carelessly dropped hoof, prompting squealing from baby and audience alike.

Gunda does not fuck around. As adorable and brutal as a farm, it suggests Babe by way of the Sensory Ethnography Lab. Kossakovsky, who shoots in a crisp and immersive black-and-white, thrusts us into the chaotic scuffle of this corner of the animal kingdom; he doesn’t humanize the critters—including chickens that move and loom almost prehistorically, and cows that stare into the camera like the stars of a stark, poetic music video—but he does find a kind of personality in their primal behavior. For a time, the film seems to offer only a close look at the bottom rung of the food chain, and that’s plenty gripping enough. But a kind of related narrative arc does gradually take shape from Kossakovsky’s remarkable footage, and it’s the harsh truth that there’s nothing actually natural about the lives of farm animals. No words or ventriloquized human voices are necessary to feel the gut punch of Gunda’s final shot.


The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses




When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Blackjack




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.

Click here to check the best tips on blackjack tournament strategies:

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.


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




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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