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Steve McQueen kicks off NYFF with the swoony Lovers Rock

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Every film festival has an identity, even if that identity is “We don’t have an identity!” The New York Film Festival, which runs for about three weeks every autumn—usually from late September to early October—prides itself on being curatorial. Though its lineup usually boasts a couple of exclusive, high-profile premieres (last year, they scored The Irishman; this year, it’s Sofia Coppola’s new movie, On The Rocks), most of its selections are culled from other festivals, including Cannes, Venice, and Telluride. The whole draw of New York is that it offers a carefully pruned program, privileging quality over quantity: You may not love every title that makes up the fest’s main slate, which usually hovers around a lean and manageable 25 films, but it almost always makes sense why something has been included. There is very little filler at this fest.

NYFF, which begins tonight, has followed the lead of just about every film festival in North America and gone primarily virtual for its 2020 edition. Not that the programmers had much of a choice: With theaters still closed in the Tri-State area, the only in-person screenings the festival is hosting this year are at drive-in venues. Otherwise, the public will be watching these movies the same way the press will: from the comfort of their homes, on laptop screens or the televisions connected to them. Yours truly will be doing plenty of that over the next three weeks, though the dispatches won’t be as regular as The A.V. Club’s still-in-progress Toronto coverage. Instead, I’ll be dropping in every few days with first impressions on the movies, hitting some but not all of the ones that make up this year’s typically promising main slate (excluding, of course, what we’ve already covered at TIFF and elsewhere, including Nomadland, City Hall, The Disciple, MLK/FBI, Time, and The Truffle Hunters).

On principle, I don’t normally make time for television at a film festival, no matter how enticing the series in question might be. Binge culture aside, most TV shows are not designed to be watched in one long sitting—and that’s assuming you’re even getting the whole season and not just a handful of episodes, plucked from the beginning or, God forbid, the middle of the running order. (I didn’t even catch the first two installments of Twin Peaks season three—which is, yes, a TV show, nerds—when they premiered at Cannes a few years back.) But I’m going to make an exception to my no-TV policy at this year’s New York Film Festival, whose programmers have acknowledged the increasingly blurred lines between the two mediums by screening three episodes of Steve McQueen’s forthcoming BBC anthology series Small Axe. To be fair, each episode is feature length and self-contained, which makes it possible to approach them as, well, movies.

Lovers Rock

Lovers Rock
Photo: Amazon Studios

McQueen has called the series, which follows different characters living in the West Indian community of South London, an attempt to fill in the missing picture of Black British stories from the 20th century. Those stories may be of grand historical significance, or they might be more intimate snapshots of a time and place, which is what McQueen offers in Lovers Rock (Grade: B+), the second episode of the series and the opening night selection of NYFF. This swoony, slender, 68-minute slice of life unfolds over a single Saturday night at a house party in the 1980s, where Black Londoners come to drink, hook up, and dance to a primo selection of soul and reggae. (The title is a reference to a particularly romantic subgenre of the latter.) Entering this cramped but festive space is Martha (Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, in her screen debut), who comes with a friend but ends up hitting it off with a suave stranger (Micheal Ward).

McQueen, director of Shame, 12 Years A Slave, and Widows, has never made a film this loose and joyful. Lovers Rock is almost a hangout movie, trading the muscular, sometimes ostentatious camera moves of his earlier work for a more sensual, roving approach. (The cinematography is by Skate Kitchen D.P. Shabier Kirchner, filling in for the director’s regular man behind the lens, Sean Bobbit). Floating around the party, pausing on various unnamed characters in the orbit of his central lovers-to-maybe-be, McQueen grooves to a mood of escape: Without articulating the idea in words (not that many are spoken in the film), he celebrates this residential nightlife destination as a kind of sanctuary for Black twentysomethings—a space by them, for them, and insulated from the bullshit they encounter outside. Not that McQueen totally drowns the film in utopian vibes. Hostile white faces leer from the street, reminding us and them of that aforementioned bullshit. And the party itself is not without its dangers, from a predatory wannabe playboy to a hotheaded someone from Martha’s past who belligerently barrels in, threatening to throw a wrench into the carefree revelry. (Thrashing around the other guests, he becomes That Guy—the one dude at the party everyone can tell is just looking for trouble.)

Mostly, though, Lovers Rock is a dream, sweet and fleeting. The romance unfolds casually and organically, less through talk than body language. And the film comes to full, ecstatic life on the dance floor. Its centerpiece sequence is a complete airing of Janet Kay’s “Silly Games,” which gradually morphs into a singalong with the euphoric quality of a hymn. (Think the heavenly B-side to Climax’s dance party from hell.) McQueen has zoomed in on a very specific milieu, but he’s also tapped into the universal and suddenly inaccessible joy of an endless night of music and dance, a house party for the ages. You don’t have to know your reggae or have been born 40 years ago to long for the ache of communal fun on which Lovers Rock waxes nostalgic.

Beginning

Beginning
Photo: New York Film Festival

Because of its commitment to culling the best of the best, New York is not, generally speaking, the festival you should attend if looking to discover all the newest voices on the vanguard. But some debuts do sometimes get the main-slate invite. This year, that honor was bestowed upon Beginning (Grade: B-), the methodically grim first feature by Georgian writer-director Dea Kulumbegashvili. (Those looking for a chaser after the good vibrations of Lovers Rock will have to wait a couple weeks to down this icy vibe-killer.) Kulumbegashvili’s discipline is clear from the extended opening shot, which depicts from a dispassionate remove a small church hall slowly filled by the congregation and the beginning of a sermon on Abraham—an image that holds for so long that anyone versed in this brand of international art-house severity will begin to feel pinpricks of instinctual unease, right until the moment that, sure enough, someone tosses a couple Molotov cocktails into the doorway.

No one dies, but the church burns down. We learn it’s the worship space of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on mission in a rural corner of Georgia that’s heavily orthodox in its Christianity. Yet the film isn’t overly interested in a clash of denominational values. The attack is a catalyst for the crisis of identity experienced by the minister’s wife, Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili), whose restlessness expands and mutates when her husband (Rati Oneli) leaves her alone with their child to consult with the elders. I’ve already heard Beginning described as “Dielmanesque,” in reference to Chantal Akerman’s 1975 classic of monotonous domestic routine. But though it shares some thematic fixation with that film, the style of ominously clinical detachment more closely recalls Michael Haneke or one of his disciples of provocation. Gradually, a familiar art-house strategy materializes, as long stretches of placid inactivity are abruptly punctuated by cruel shocks—it’s the opening sequence played out over the whole running time. A subplot involving a decidedly unsympathetic cop leads to an act of violence captured through one of those dispassionate long takes that successfully excise any potential for titillation while also suggesting the coldly unblinking witness of an indifferent Almighty.

This is hardly the first film to match the stifling qualities of holy life with a rigorously controlled aesthetic, heavy on static long takes and passages of almost monasterial quiet. One might grant that discontent is a difficult emotion to dramatize. “I look in the mirror and a stranger looks back,” Yana confesses, her words falling on the deaf ears of her emotionally unavailable spouse. By holding us at a distance from her, emotionally but often spatially too, is Kulumbegashvili replicating Yana’s own sense of dislocation, from herself and her hostile new community and her life of obligation? Beginning is alienating by design, but that doesn’t make it easier to engage with as more than an exercise in meticulously composed despair. Still, those compositions! Kulumbegashvili has a good enough eye to make her coronation at New York, Toronto, and the aborted Cannes seem sensible—and keep this critic interested in how she might apply her prodigiously exacting technique next.

Entertainment

What Makes a Good Online Casino?

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A quick search for an online casino will reveal hundreds of results. However, these casinos are not created equally. Some are better than others in many ways. That’s why you cannot settle for the first option that catches your eye. You need to do thorough research to ensure you settle for a casino that will give you a better experience – and some good money in the process.

So, what makes a good online casino?

The truth is that there are many reputable casinos online – and new ones keep popping up with each passing day. But the few bad ones spoil the name for the others. These casinos scam people. They are eager to make deposits but not keen to give players their money back, pay their affiliates, or even stick to their terms and conditions. These casinos – scam or rogue casinos – are exactly the types you want to avoid.

Unfortunately, most of these rogue casinos disguise as good ones. You might have a hard time telling them apart, especially if you are just getting started. To help you make an informed decision, here are some qualities that make a good online casino.

It does not feature in the blacklist

One of the easiest ways to tell a good casino from the bad ones is by looking at different online casino blacklists. Different reputable platforms always release yearly blacklists to protect casino players from gambling scams online. They put bad casinos on a list for everyone to see and ensure no one signs up to any of those casinos in the future. Since these sites differ, chances are you won’t find the same casinos on every blacklist. But the fact that a casino makes the list means they have one or more of these problems:

  • Change terms
  • Predatory terms
  • Slow pay
  • Unfair games
  • Nonpayment
  • Marketing spam
  • Licensing and regulation

Choice of games

As a player, you’ll appreciate the choice of picking whichever game pleases you. That’s why you need a casino that offers more games. Browse around to find the casino games that the provider offers to see if it’s a good fit.

It’s fair, secure, and serious

As you may have noticed from above, many casinos end up on the blacklist for many reasons, including unfairness and security issues. Good online casinos use random number generator that determines the chances of winning. On top of that, they work with third parties to check the fairness of games. What’s more, these casinos display various certificates on their platforms, giving you further assurance that things are conducted fairly.

Has good customer service

You can tell a good casino by how their customer support team treats you when you send a request or inquire about something. They will be willing and happy to serve you. they will also have adequate knowledge to address your concerns and be available 24/7.

Accept your payment methods

A good casino accepts a wide range of payment options, ranging from online payment options to instant bank transfers and even credit card solutions. This allows you to use your preferred payment method and not feel locked out. Stay away from sites that provide limited payment options. Some of them fail to get approved by payment platforms, which by itself is a red flag.

Has a bonus offer

It’s easy to assume bonus offers and other incentives, especially if you are new to the game. However, you should work with a casino that provides a consistent bonus offer and not just a good welcome offer. You’ll need these bonuses even as an existing client. Moreover, the site should provide promotions without deposit, reload offers, and many free spins. Don’t feel limited. Many casino sites offer these bonuses, and if the one in question doesn’t, you might as well keep looking.

Free games and easy registration

As a newbie, the last thing you want is to sign up with a casino that doesn’t provide free games. You need to practice without having to deposit money or fear that you’ll lose money. Free games allow you to practice and be good before playing real money. Additionally, the casino should have a simple registration and easy account opening process. If it’s too complicated, then maybe it’s not the right casino for you.

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How Las Vegas became the world’s casino capital

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These days, it’s impossible to think of Las Vegas without the image of the lights on the strip and glamorous casinos coming to mind. But the Vegas we know of 2020 wasn’t always that way; and it took a long, long time to get its reputation for being the world’s casino capital. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and get to the root of how Las Vegas became the city that never sleeps.

A historical journey

It’s hard to believe these days, but the Las Vegas region was once an abundant marshland stock full of rich vegetation. That is, until the marsh receded, and the waters disappeared, transforming the landscape into a desert, with the trapped water underground sprouting life and forming an oasis.

It was during the 19th century that the explorer Antonio Armijo from Mexico foraged the way from New Mexico to California on the first commercial caravan. It was a member of the group, Rafael Rivera who rode west to find water and venture through the desert, setting his eyes upon Las Vegas Springs. Las Vegas was therefore named ‘the meadows’ after the grasses found growing there.

Years went on and both Mormon and Mexican settlers began to filter through. In 1890 it was decided by railroad developers that Las Vegas would serve as a spot along the San Pedro, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles railroad route as well as connecting to major cities along the Pacific Coast. From there on, Vegas boomed with stores, boarding houses and saloons popping up around the area. This was the beginning of the Las Vegas as we know it — with railroad workers and ranchers enjoying the gambling and drinking through illegal speakeasies and bootleg casinos operating despite the ban on gambling in Nevada in 1910.

In 1931 gambling once again became legal in the state, with new casinos and showgirl venues opening up along Fremont Street to entertain the thousands of workers who flocked the city during the construction of the Hoover Dam. The first hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened up in 1941 along Highway 91. Its success inspired others to open up their own hotels along the highway which would one day become the strip. Tourists began to flock to the city over the next few decades to enjoy the casino scene and see incredible artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra perform.

The birth of the mega resort

It was in 1966 the businessman Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn hotel; this was followed by over a dozen more hotel purchases, pushing out the mobster-owned hotels that had previously dominated Las Vegas. The concept of the mega hotel came about in 1989 when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage as the first hotel resort in the city. By 1994, Las Vegas was the home of more than 86,000 hotel and motel rooms with 13 of the 20 largest mega resort hotels in the world. It was during this era that the Strip became populated with more hotels and casinos, with developments inspired by the iconic cities and countries of the globe including Egypt, Paris, New York and Rome.

Las Vegas in the 21st century

The Las Vegas of today is well and truly established as a home for entertainment and casinos — which remain the biggest source of income for the city. However, there’s no doubt that Vegas faces more competition than ever before from the virtual world, with more people than ever before opting to play at an online casino, rather than play in the old fashioned way, but Vegas will always have the advantage. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime trip that an online casino can’t replicate, but do the online equivalents help to increase interest in Vegas?

The bright lights of Vegas is attracting billions of dollars in investment as many try and get a slice of the revenue that the sector has to offer. During 2019 over 42.52 million people came to visit Las Vegas from all around the world. Domestically, it was shown to be the second most popular destination for U.S. traveller’s dream spots after New York.

These days, Las Vegas continues to thrive and be a source of entertainment for millions of visitors from around the world looking to experience what the city has to offer. With new generations becoming interested in casino games — and some incredible musical residencies continuing to be announced — Las Vegas surely will continue to be one best places to go for a unforgettable dream destination for many.

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Land-Based Casinos

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What can people find at some of the biggest land-based casinos in Canada? From Niagara Falls to Toronto, there is something for everyone at casinos in Canada, including table games, slots, roulette, blackjack, and other games. There are also many poker and blackjack tournaments held throughout the year and it is easy to find jackpots or slots with free spins at the casinos. Many casinos also have hotels, bars, and numerous restaurants which are perfect for players seeking some comfort. A relaxing casino experience for all ages can be found in many different places in Canada. Choose one from below.

Choosing a casino depends on your tastes and location within Canada. Do you want to experience the grandeur and splendour of nature while placing a bet? Then head to Niagara Falls. Do you want to see a show? Choose a casino with a show that will be perfect for you. If you are looking for pure relaxation, then check out some of the casinos with spas and world-class dining. Entertainment is also a large part of the casino experience in Canada. Musicians, bands, comedians, and other types of entertainment continue to be found at all of the biggest casinos.

Some Big Casinos Near Nature

Casino Niagara is located in one of the most beautiful places in Canada and the world. People from all around the globe come to experience the best of both worlds at Casino Niagara. Players have access to beauty and scenery while spending time at one of the biggest casinos in Canada. The casino has two floors with over 1200 slot machines, poker, and other table games. There are also many different restaurants and even a comedy club. The sports bar and casino was refurbished back in 2017, meaning that it has not lost any of its charm and shine.

ST Eugene Golf Resort: Casino of the Rockies is a golf and nature lovers’ paradise. The location could not be any more splendid. People can find the casino between the Rockies and Purcell Mountains. Furthermore, the casino has an interesting history after it was converted from an Indian Residential School. It was then opened in the early 2000s. St Eugene has table games, electronic roulette, baccarat, and blackjack. There is also a golf course, restaurant, bar, spa, and hotel that is highly rated in Canada. Overall games are limited so most people come for golfing and betting fun.

Caesars Windsor is famously located on the riverbank in Windsor, Ontario. Visitors from both Canada and the States frequent the casino and hotel. Players can see the Detroit and Michigan skyline from the area. There are two floors of slots, table games, and plenty of poker tables. Blackjack, baccarat, and roulette are also available at the casino. It has beautiful restaurants, a gym, bars, slots, and live sports. Check out the Titan 360™, a 10-foot tall slot machine with 5800 pounds of wins at the click of a button. It’s the largest slot machine in the world and great fun.

  • Enjoy the size of Casino de Montreal and Hard Rock Casino
  • Enjoy the big and beautiful Casino Niagara or ST Eugene Golf Resort
  • Enjoy High Culture at Elements Casino Brantford

River Rock Casino Resort – In Transit

Are you passing through Vancouver Airport and have a long transit? Hire a cab and spend some time enjoying slot machines at River Rock Casino Resort. There are slots galore and the different themes make it an enjoyable visit for all. There is even a Dungeons and Dragons slot for gamers. A fourteen-table game room can be found at the casino and international poker tournaments are held regularly. Other features include a VIP area, spa, live music, 24-hour food and drink, as well as other entertainment. Richmond is also worth a quick visit, especially for some delicious seafood.

Casino de Montreal – The Big Gun

Casino de Montreal is 526,488 square feet of casino excitement. The casino has around 20 thousand visitors each day and is one of the biggest casinos on the globe. If you are still unconvinced about the size of the place, then imagine five floors of slots and table games. 3,000 machines and 111 table games make the casino seem even more mammoth. Casino de Montreal games can be played in a smoke-free environment and many players comment on the user-friendly games and helpful staff. Complimentary drinks and top-rated gourmet food is all part of the experience at Casino de Montreal.

Hard Rock Casino – Another Big One

Hard Rock Casino is another large casino located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The casino is over 80,000 square feet, making it a big one in Canada. Hard Rock has gaming tables, slots, baccarat and a poker room. The casino includes 70 casino tables and 1,000 slots. Private rooms and high roller areas are also available. However, the Hard Rock name is known for excellent food and this is what people love about this casino. Many players comment on the quality of the food here. It even has a 1,000 seat theatre, making it great for dining and a show.

Elements Casino Brantford – Enjoy High Culture

Elements Casino Brantford is a historical gem for culture in Ontario. It is a charity casino that was established last century. It includes the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, which is a high society entertainment venue in Ontario. The centre is well known to performing arts enthusiasts in Ontario and Canada. Players come to see a show, enjoy some gourmet food and a game. The casino also has plenty of slots, table games, blackjack, baccarat, sic bo, three card poker, roulette, and other games. There is also a 14-table Texas Hold ‘Em poker room. Enjoy all the excitement.

River Cree Resort and Casino – Sports Lovers

River Cree Resort and Casino is a sport and gaming venue located in Edmonton that should not be overlooked. It has 39 tables of various money limits and over 1,000 slots. There are also a few different places to dine while enjoying a bet and other things to experience. There is a fitness centre, spa and a 200 room resort. However, the most interesting feature of this casino is the two hockey rinks, which are often used by the Edmonton Oilers for practice. It is possible to watch the team practice and go for a meal and some gaming fun.

For the ones who fancy playing online we recomend visiting canadiancasino.org!

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