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Posts Tagged ‘steve buscemi’

The Blind Side: The Oscars sometimes reward actors for not screwing things up. This year the Academy honoured Sandra Bullock for not making John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side any more loathsome that it could have been. That she isn’t a gifted actress is a worthless secret; I mean, it’s not like she makes people want to slit their wrists, like Catherine Zeta Jones or Morgan Freeman sometimes do, but it is common knowledge that the woman can’t act for bollocks. Having said that, I am at peace with her Oscar victory; at least she isn’t one of those actresses who delude themselves about how good they are. Some might think they just honoured her to save us the embarrassment of having enjoyed Speed, but I can think of a better reason. Since its inception the Academy has been about everything else but actual cinema, I don’t see any problem in them handing out statuettes for sheer perseverance. Sort of like when Sydney Poitier got the Lifetime Achievement award. This woman knows a thing or two about perseverance. One of her films was actually alternatively titled The Internet and had a tagline that said, “Her bank account. Her identity. All deleted”.

As for The Blind Side, it is a based-on-a-true-story sports film with a big, booming heart, oozing feel-good arguments about social and economic disparities and its posterior crapping out pathos about paternal instincts. If you thought Million Dollar Baby could have won the Oscar if Maggie Fitzgerald got a surprise spinal fluid transport during the climax and won some championship to send you home, feeling like this world isn’t all that bad after all, you might enjoy Hancock’s feel-good sentiments. For those of us who wanted Steve Seagal to make a surprise appearance and judo chop Maggie’s respiratory tubes, turn a blind eye to this film. Check out Hancock’s A Perfect World. A place where kindred spirits won’t give you indigestion.

Delirious: Tom DiCillo’s Delirious could have been slightly better if it weren’t so desperate to be offbeat. Michael Pitt is cast as a street urchin stuck between a pop idol he loves (Alison Lohman) and a paparazzi photographer he owes (Steve Buscemi). It is a modern fairytale with all the interesting possibilities edited out. Everything, from the saccharine storyline to the overambitious acting and the sappy climax, reeked of desperation, giving rise to a tense notion that everyone involved in the film, for some reason, assumed it would have turned out immensely better than it actually did. Steve Buscemi is the biggest culprit here, with his dramatic portrayal of a paparazzi member, which comes across as being indulgent and tacky, considering Delirious is centered on the sticky moral quagmires he finds himself. The others fare none the better as they bring nothing remarkable to stop the film from boring the paint of our walls. Even the Elvis Costello cameo felt uninspired. Thank heavens director DiCillo had the forethought to give the underrated Kevin Corrigan enough screen time to make Delirious mildly watchable.

Reno 911 Miami: If you’re not into screwball comedies, move along, there is nothing for you to see here. Robert Ben Garant’s whacky film is based on Comedy Central’s improvisational mockumentary series and is dam proud of it. It pokes fun at a lot of things – Fox’s infamously wanton TV show – Cops, redneck machismo, bi-polar disorders and civic disorder, and takes nothing seriously. Thomas Lennon, who plays the gayer-than-thou metrosexualized chief of police and Kerri Kenney-Silver, “the hypochondriac with multiple psychological disorders, occasional night terrors, suicidal ideations and some symptoms of autism” are the most hilarious of the lot; even their grotesquely uncomfortable sex scene is funny enough to rise above, let’s say, Rob Schneider’s standards. To be fair it is infinitely better than stuff that passes off as slapstick humour in Hollywood. Edgier, more bizzare, and simply more convincing. Plus, the cameos are infinitely more hip. Rob Schneider gets Adam Sandler to act like a moron in his films for five minutes. Ben Garant has Patton Oswalt bringing the funnies for over an hour. Pshhh…no contest.

Fanboys: You don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to enjoy Kyle Newman’s Fanboys – a film about guys ready to have kidney stones extraneously removed through their nostrils if it helped people understand just how awesome Hans Solo apparently is. Of course, some of the jokes may whiz past your head if you aren’t a self-fashioned sci-fi geek, but it won’t stop you from enjoying the inanity of it all. Fanboys has four friends taking a road trip across the country to sneak into Skywalker Ranch and steal a screening copy of his “new Star Wars film” – The Phantom Menace. So what’s funny about insanely obsessive Star Wars fans? I ask you, dear minions, what isn’t funny about straight-faced, strangely oxymoronic creatures intellectualizing real-life problems with Jar Jar Binks’ dialogues? Kyle Newman should be profusely thanking his casting directors – Anne McCarthy and Jay Scully – because if it weren’t for some good acting from the lead characters and the hilarious guest appearances, Fanboys might have just ended up looking idiotic. Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette and Jay Baruchel are convincing as clueless teenagers solving life’s most affordable mysteries. Dan Fogler, the fourth member of this motley-esque crew, is on fire, with his testosterone-fueled geekiness, making even shitty punchlines like “I only have one testicle” sound funny. Seth Rogen, as Admiral Seasholtz – the bucktoothed Star Trek fanboy, however gets in the best line. “Darth Vader has asthma, so name me one Star Trek character with a respiratory disease”.

The Crazies: Don’t you just hate it when hope floats and then crashes without a warning? I was giddy with excitement when I first heard Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell were cast as the lead couple in the remake of a George Romero cult classic. Olyphant and Radha are two of my current favourite on-screen performers and there isn’t a Romero film that I don’t love (yes, even Survival of the Dead), so if this one had sucked, my head would have spontaneously combusted. Thankfully it didn’t suck, but it did leave me thinking about how awesome it could have been if it were a bit more intense.  Maybe it’s just me; I could be too much of a “fan” to expect The Crazies to be anything less than spectacular. For what it’s worth, the acting was expectedly excellent. The foursome on the loose – Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker – aptly conveyed the terror unfolding before their eyes, paying attention to details,  delivering dialogues and posturing themselves without any unnecessary movement. Simply put, they acted like small-towners would in an apocalyptic situation and it made for an interesting character study. Too bad everything else about The Crazies falls woefully short. The unsatisfying end just adds my confusion. Seriously, how can the coming together of terrific actors, a legendary director and zombies not lend itself to unbridled awesomeness? The gods of cinema must be crazy.

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I am a petty petty man whenever I write about films. Even though I have zero credibility, I still sit on a pedestal, put my grubby fingers on the keyboard and pass judgment as though mere admiration for cinema immediately brings with it a superior understanding of the same. Matter of fact, I’ll bring in an IMDB quote to clear things up.

anton egoIn many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new”

As much passion as a critic/writer feels during the course of defending the refreshingly unproven, I think he feels just as much while berating the unfortunately unexpected. In lieu of such delightful ironies, here’s a review (questionable usage) of some of the most overrated films I have seen…

No-Country-For-Old-ManNo Country For Old Men: The first time I watched this film I thought it was really really good. A couple of viewings later, I turned turtle on it. While Intolerable Cruelty remains the only truly horrendous mistake committed by either of the Coen brothers, I think No Country For Old Men is one of their most overrated moments. Now look, I think its fantastic that sometimes intelligent directors get awarded these nice trophies. As much disrespect as I have for such industry-standard recognitions, I cannot help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside when directors like Chris Nolan, Sam Raimi and the Coens win those golden statuettes. In that sense I was sort of glad when No Country took the best film award. However when compared to the most of their other films this one pales like the offspring of Mr snowman and Mrs albino monk(ess).

Yeah yeah Javier Bardem almost hit Michael Madsen’s level of coolness with his brooding presence and the storyline too was alright, I guess…a sly veer from cinematic norms. But I ask you, can any facet of No Country even dream about reaching the skull-crushing, bone marrow-sucking, badass awesomeness of films such as Miller’s Crossing, Big Lebowski (it’s not “just a slacker comedy”), Blood Simple or the grossly unappreciated Barton Fink? No friggin chance, if you ask me. In fact apart from the great Catherine Zeta Jones-inspired atrocity of 2001, I can’t think of one other Coen brothers’ film that has left me with such emptiness. Oh and I did not dig the ending at all. Too often directors have taken this route to escape giving closure for their characters. Apparently there is some sort of a pseudo-intellectual acumen attached to leaving films in limbo. Let the audience figure out the ending, it seems. I have at times wished that Ernest Hemmingway had never kickstarted this interactive connect with his readers through The Lady And The Tiger; perhaps then we wouldn’t have had to sit through these too-breezy-to-qualify-as-stylish climaxes. As if that weren’t lame enough, the brothers had the audacity to let Tommy Lee ‘I forgot how to act after Natural Born Killers’ Jones lead us through to the final scene. If I had to choose the actors who were supposed to do  that last scene in No Country For Old Men, my last three picks would be Dennis Quaid, Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford. Of course I’m spiteful. It’s true, folks…what you love the most can also hurt you the worst.

walk_the_lineI Walk The Line: Now now keep your knives back inside and play nice. I am not finding fault with the film or the performances in it. I do however question its decision to leave out few things that defined Johnny Cash and the way he lived his life. We see precious little from his childhood years and even less of his later years. I mean, Wikipedia could tell you that Johnny Cash had started writing songs way before he enlisted in the Air Force during the early Fifties. His mother and a certain childhood mate taught Johnny how to play the guitar; legend even has it that he wrote his own songs and sang on a local radio station at that time. In 1972 when he got to perform at the White House, he turned down President Nixon’s requests for a few dainty folk songs and instead performed some of his most politically charged ones. During the early Nineties, he rebelled against his label Columbia records and recorded an “intentionally awful” self-parody called Chicken in Black. As it turned out, the song had more commercial success than “any of his recent material”. In 1994, under the very questionable supervision of producer Rick Rubin, he released American Recordings – an intense collection of songs that he created in his living room, accompanied only by his faithful dreadnought guitar.

In the very same year, the crowd at the famed Glastonbury Festival gave him a rousing reception that had the Man In Black in tears. In 2002, at the age of 72, Johnny Cash covered a Nine Inch Nails’ song (Hurt) and turned it into one of the most harrowing folk ballads of all time. A year later, both him and his lovely wife were no more. So, when the Walk The Line was released, I was extremely friggin excited. I sat down in front of the TV and threw away the remote in cool disdain, even foolishly scoffing at the fact that remote controls would become extinct if more people made biopics about folk rock legends. And what did I get instead? The lady from Legally Blonde yodeling her precious little heart out and a silly notion that the song Walk the Line was written for June Carter. Hell no, Cash wrote that for his first wife – Vivian. I can understand the director’s intention to focus on the certain sections of his life but I think it’s hardly coincidental that the film contained the most inspirational, glossy and predictable moments. Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lewis on a rock and roll road trip? The final thanksgiving family showdown? The Folsom prison concert? Jeez man, they might as well have shown his stupid cameo appearances in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

reality_bites3Reality Bites: This is proof that good music and passable humour mean squat to a film when its storyline is uber lame. Add Ethan Hawke to the mix and you have a film that just cannot be saved unless Klaus Kinski gets to play a psychotic dramatist, Mr Reality ‘John’ Totality, who likes biting stupid slacker kids who misconstrue poetry as foreplay. That would so rule. As for Ben Stiller’s debut Reality Bites, it doesn’t just bite, it friggin sucks.

Forrest Gump: Take away the corny dialogues and the background score whenever something inspirational happens and you have a pretty decent movie. Now, replace Tom Hanks with Adam Sandler and Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) with Steve Buscemi, and you will have comedy gold.

A Beautiful Mind: John Forbes Nash Jr was a mathematician and economist extraordinaire. He was also promiscuous, paranoid, schizophrenic, racist and anti-Semitic. And who gets to direct the film? That freckled kid – Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard) – from Happy Days, of course. Excuse me while I go puke.

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Jim JarmuschTo be honest, never once have I wondered how awesome it would be to stumble upon a Jim Jarmusch collection. You see, a blinding light shone through the weirdly well-lit corridors of Parsons Complex when my eyes caught sight of the Herzog collection. There were fairies and elves prancing everywhere, tossing chocolate-flavoured gummy bears and brightly coloured yo-yos around. In comparison, the Jim Jarmusch DVD was met with a less enthusiastic response. Not that it takes away anything from my regard for the man’s brilliance. Jarmusch certainly rivals Wes Anderson when it comes to infusing films with gloriously offbeat, warm ambience. It should also be said that both the casting and the music in his films are zimbly amazing (most of my friends are mals, it was bound to happen sometime). Hence it is with much delay and delirious coffee-stained nights that I give you the collected works of Jim Jarmusch.

Permanent Vacation: Shot on 16 MM film, Jarmusch’s debut is a weird little feature that follows the trail of Aloysius ‘Allie’ Parker as he walks around Manhattan to find something warm stumble upon anything vaguely comforting. We find out precious little about Allie and the city, which has decisively decided to alienate him. He’s free between the ears (not vacuous), reads French novels, smokes cigarettes, listens to jazz and drifts along without too much fuss. As for Manhattan, well, we discover that she’s into jazz but we already know that from those countless Woody Allen films, don’t we? We meet a few of Permanent Vacation’s characters, as well…gentle, sullen characters who’d sooner light up a cigarette than romance a moment. No surprise it is that nearly a quarter of a century later, he would write an entire film around Bill Murray.

stranger in paradiseStranger Than Paradise: With his 1984 sophomore film, Jarmusch had clearly started believing that musicians would make fine actors; a belief that would yield wonderful results a few years later. In Stranger Than Paradise, musicians John Lurie and Richard Edson are focal characters in all three parts of the film. Lurie, a jazz composer for Lounge Lizards, plays a nonchalant New York hipster (Willie) who is a paid a brief visit by his sixteen-year-old cousin (Eva) from Hungary. And there’s Edson, ex-drummer of alternative gurus Sonic Youth, who plays Willie’s sweet-natured friend (Eddie). Digressive fact: Edson also played Turturro’s brother in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. After a hilariously dramatic note of transition, the film takes us on Eddie and Willies’ journey to meet Eva in Cleveland and then on a heartbreaking road trip to Florida. I must say, the characters have been crafted with such fragility that the adventures they go through seem less tolerant towards them. If you’ve never watched a Jarmusch film, start with this.

down by lawDown By Law: Despite Bill Murray’s greatness that elevated Broken Flowers to level of cinema that would humble most people, Down By Law smugly remains as my favourite film of the collection thus far. In this charmingly twisted tale that takes place in New Orleans, three goofballs – Tom Waits (Zack), Roberto Benigni (Roberto), and John Lurie (Jack) – inadvertently start a prison break, flee into the nightmarish bayou and then wad through the damp Louisiana marshes to escape a lifetime of confinement. Mr Waits is seven shades of awesome as a local radio DJ whose love for booze lands him severe trouble. He looks like a crazed version of Lyle Lovett and talks with the same gnarly lisp that drove some of his finest music (Alice, Rain Dogs). Roberto Benigni is the Italian arty version of Jack Black. He does the one thing that he can do really well – act goofy and silly.

I wasn’t entirely convinced about Lurie’s character but there was too much love that got in the way of such cynicism. For instance, the cinematography and the music are some of the finest I have ever seen in an indie film. Haunting black-and-white shots of the swamp and New Orleans’ weeping nights set to the tunes of dirty jazz and gnarly, whiskey-soaked ballads? Why, thank you, kind sir.

Mystery Train: Jarmusch’s maiden tryst with colour is a typically wisecracking tale involving foreign tourists in the state Tennessee, looking for their very own Elvis Presley experience in some crappy hotel. The tourists – a teenaged couple from Japan, an Italian widow and a British criminal – all get more than they bargained for, but thanks to Jim Jarmusch’s daft strokes, we somehow feel that they were better off prior to spending the night in Memphis. Don’t ask me how; it’s just one of those things that you suspect the director of. Mystery Train marked the first time (a suspicion, once again) that the director riddled his films with stellar cameos performances to egg the story further into the fantasy territory. Funk and soul legend Rufus Thomas, the ungodly cool Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, vice chancellor of punk Joe Strummer, Steve friggin Buscemi make memorable appearances as Mystery Train’s most delightful characters.Night On Earth

Night On Earth: Like Wikipedia says, it “is a collection of five vignettes concerning the temporary bond formed between taxi driver and passenger in five different cities: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki.” The thing is I liked only one out of five vignettes. The mildly passable Winona Ryder and Cassavettes’ muse Gena Rowlands sink the LA episode into the sort of dozy conversational piece that I’d expect from some dude called Leyfu Pierre who thinks that a master’s degree in advanced cinema would immediately make his short film infinitely more intelligent than it actually is. The Roberto Benigniridden Rome episode sucks too; gone is the charm that briefly engulfed him in Down By Law. I think it’s high time that Benigni remade Adam Sandler’s Waterboy. The nocturnal anecdotes from New York and Paris hardly pass for a silver lining with its momentary glimpses of sadness and humour. Thank heavens for the Helsinki episode in which the greatness that is Matti Pellonpää (from the fantastic film Leningrad Cowboys Go America) elevates Night On Earth to what it was originally intended to be. Mildly discomforting and thoroughly enjoyable.

Dead Man: Already reviewed here.

Year Of The Horse: Listen, I love me some Neil Young and the Crazy Horse Band. I mean, Rust Never Sleeps is one of my all-time favourite live albums. I have high regards for Jarmsuch too; his only mistake till date (1997) was casting Winona Ryder in a short film. Having said all that, I must question the wisdom of men, mice, horses, musicians and one Jarmusch himself for having released this documentary about the band’s 1996 tour. The audio is really, really bad and the video quality – all 16 MM of it – is unsuitable for capturing the live ambience of explosive bands such as the Crazy Horse. Call me whatever, but I also expected the godfather of grunge to be more insightful.

Ghost Dog, The Way of the Samurai: Already reviewed here.

coffee and cigarettesCoffee And Cigarettes: I’ll admit that I bought this film (or whatever it is) a couple of years ago on the weight of all the talent (actors, comedians and musicians) featuring in it. Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Jack and Meg White, Bill Murray, RZA, GZA, Steve Buscemi, Steven Wright and a few magnificent others star in this series of black and white vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes as common themes. While some of the vignettes in Coffee And Cigarettes tread dangerously close to the arty farty territory, a majority of them have enough off-kilter, almost nonsensical humour in them to make this an engaging 90 minutes. The inane conversations between Benigni (I don’t know what to do with this bloke) and Stephen Wright, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, Bill Murray and Wu Tang Clan’s finest are perfect examples of Jarmusch’s brilliant pseudo-insider, deadpan comedy. Sort of like a Jerry Lewis film; with the physical humour being replaced by absurdist dialogues. I’m talking about a really, really good Jerry Lewis film.

Broken FlowersBroken Flowers: Oh crazy old Bill Murray, how I choose to admire the expressionless ennui with which you play all those wonderful characters that directors like Jarmusch and Wes Anderson craft for you. It’s no secret that Bill Murray is my favourite actor like ohmygod ever. In Broken Flowers, he plays Don Johnston, loner and self-loather extraordinaire. A spectacularly detached man who once made a busload of money through computers and then lived without ever owning one. As quaintly funny as that sounds, it’s not what the film is about. As fate would have it, Don gets a pink letter out of the blue that informs him about a son that he never knew he had. Don gives it a serious thought for a few fleeting seconds and then almost reconciles that it would take nothing less than being hit by a tsunami wave littered with ninja piranhas to disturb him from his disenchanted slumber (ok he doesn’t actually say that). Thanks to his hilariously intrusive neighbour Winston (a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Wright), an immigrant from Ethiopian who obsesses about detective stories, Don is forced to go on this road trip to discover his son and his elusive mother. I must reiterate that Jeffrey Wright kills it; in fact Ebert brilliantly describes the character as a “go-getter from Ethiopia who supports a wife and five kids with three jobs, and still has time to surf the net as an amateur detective.”

There is about a million other things that I want to appreciate in this film (stunning Ethiopian jazz, daft one-liners, great performances by the actresses, a Tilda Swanton sighting, and so on), but I fear that I might not have the space to further elaborate on why Bill Murray is the man. In the final scene when the camera pans 360 degrees around Murray’s face, I realized that for the first time in the film, Don Johnston is going through a specific emotion; for those few seconds, I stared at his weary eyes only to realize something far more important. When life gives you lemonades, ask Billy Murray to make rum cocktails.

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The worst films I have seen from 1988-2009

juniormovie1Twins: This was my introduction to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Predator and Terminator II came into my life many years later. I remember clutching my mom’s hands and gaping in horror, as Arnold gave birth to a child in one of the film’s many unfunny, painful moments. I even gazed at my mom with a tormented expression carrying unspoken words that almost seemed to say, “Mommy, say it isn’t so”. Ok maybe it wasn’t that dramatic…but nevertheless, during an ill-advised drinking binge in Goa nearly eight years ago, I puked my lungs out after watching Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito attend Lamas classes. Now that’s a true story.

The Air I Breathe / Battlefield Earth: These films are so bad and their definition of entertainment so cheesy and campy that they doesn’t deserve anything more than a really bad haiku.

Movie really bad, very bad

Like kung fu without master

Like birthdays without dad

I want to die faster

christopher_lambert_mortal_Highlander II (The Quickening):I don’t think the world was sane enough to accommodate Christopher Lambert, Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris during the Eighties. Maybe that’s why it introduced AIDS into our society. However, Lundgren redeemed himself a bit with Masters Of The Universe and Chuck Norris is, of course, well on his way into a virtual demi-God. And what did Lambert do? Sucked the life out of an otherwise awesome Mortal Kombat film and starred in Highlander – a horrendous film about some Scottish warlord- futuristic ninja horseshit.

Armageddon: I’d rate this film as the most nauseating American film since Mac and Me and the worst disaster film since Godzilla XIV: This time it’s PersonooooOORRRrrrrrrl. On a side note…what messed-up concoction of prescription medicines and hallucinatory substances did it take to convince Steve Buscemi to act in this film? Having seen Con Air, I suspect that lighter fluid and ethyl spirit were also involved.

Batman and Robin / Catwoman: So bad that even people with no tastes in films whatsoever hated these two for all the right reasons. Those who thought Clooney and Chris O’Donnell “were like so funny” need professional help and about 450 Megawatts of electricity coursing through their brain.

718_gigli001Gigli: Now I am pretty sure that Matt Damon wrote the script for Goodwill Hunting and helped Kevin Smith with Dogma while Ben Affleck rewrote the lyrics for “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall”. This film is similar to one of those annoying friends who serve no purpose than to amuse us with their stupidity. Five minutes later, we feel like blowing their heads off (or our own) with a sawed-off shotgun.

21: Like I once said before…just like Ocean’s Eleven without Danny or the eleven others; also without Elliot Gould, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. No cameo appearances by Bruce Willis and Topher Grace either. You can also count out the relevant humour that made Ocean’s Eleven slightly entertaining, as well as the intelligent cut-shot direction of Soderbergh. And I’m pretty sure Kevin Spacey scores from the same dealer as Steve Buscemi. Worst friggin’ casino movie ever.

The Happening: Recent folklore has it that Al Gore has a wet dream whenever anyone recommends this film. Seriously, show me someone who likes this film and I’ll show you a three-headed baby that can whistle “Cats And The Cradle” through two of it’s nostrils.

t_5253Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: It wouldn’t have made the list if it weren’t an adaptation of a Seventies pulp noire novel written by one of the most underrated writers of all time – Tom Robbins. To further the mystery, Gus Vant Sant – one of the best Indie film directors ever – directed this atrocity. Something must have gone horribly wrong. I’d hate to suspect Buscemi again. I mean, he’s such a fantastic actor.

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