Audio Review: Hidden Figures & Fences

January 23, 2017

I am currently involved with two podcasting projects, both pop culture related. In the one titled Popcorn and Pop Culture, I review the films Hidden Figures and Fences separately. Instead of writing my review of both films, check them out here:

Hidden Figures Review

Fences Review

Popcorn and Pop Culture site


2017 Oscar Nomination Predictions

January 22, 2017

It’s time! The Oscar nominations will be announced this Tuesday, January 24 so it’s time to make some predictions. Here we go!

Best Picture

Since we don’t know how many films will be nominated (5 to 10), I’m just going to rank the films that I feel have the best chance and see how accurate my guesses are.

  1. La La Land
  2. Moonlight
  3. Manchester by the Sea
  4. Fences
  5. Arrival
  6. Lion
  7. Hacksaw Ridge
  8. Hidden Figures
  9. Hell or High Water
  10. Silence

Best Director

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Martin Scorsese (Silence)

Best Actor

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Andrew Garfield (Silence)

Best Actress

Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (Fences)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Golden Globes 2017 – Predictions

January 8, 2017


The Golden Globes kick off the Oscar races and that is why I mainly watch this awards show. Sure, it’s fun to see all of the year’s most famous celebrities get together in one room, and occasionally get drunk and make a fool out of themselves. But for me, the Emmy’s are the true awards for television and the Oscars are the true awards for movies. With the Oscars nominations just around the corner (Jan. 24), the Golden Globes actually do matter a lot more than they used to.

So what is at stake? We all know that La La Land is the clear front-runner going into the awards season. There is nothing that the Golden Globes can take away from La La Land, because it’s expected to win most of its 7 nominations (the most of the night). Even if they don’t win certain categories like Best Score or Best Screenplay, that won’t hurt it at all until the guilds start announcing their winners.

The two films that do have a lot riding on the Golden Globes are Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. These two films are fighting against the La La Land giant at the moment and can sure use the momentum by winning big at the Golden Globes to possibly upset the feel-good musical come February 26. Therefore, the two major categories to look out for during the Globes will be Best Drama Film and Best Director. If either Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea takes both of these awards, it will give it a nice boost going into the Oscar nominations. I have a feeling that Moonlight will be the film to receive this boost, but these two awards can easily be split by both films.

Here are all of my predictions for the Golden Globes…


Best Film – Drama:

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water


Manchester by the Sea


Prediction: Moonlight. I feel like the HFPA will go for the more daring and talked about film between critic circles, but it’s practically a toss-up between this and Manchester by the Sea.


Best Film – Musical or Comedy:

20th Century Women


Florence Foster Jenkins

La La Land

Sing Street

Prediction: This one is La La Land, end of story.


Best Performance in a Film – Drama


Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler

Joel Edgerton – Loving as Richard Loving

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash

Denzel Washington – Fences as Troy Maxson

Prediction: I’ll go with Casey Affleck mainly because Manchester by the Sea is a real threat for Best Picture early on in the Oscar race. Denzel Washington was incredible in Fences, so if there is an upset it should be him.



Amy Adams – Arrival as Dr. Louise Banks

Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane as Elizabeth Sloane

Isabelle Huppert – Elle as Michèle Leblanc

Ruth Negga – Loving as Mildred Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie as Jackie Kennedy

Prediction: I haven’t seen Jackie, but it’s hard not to expect Natalie Portman to win for that role. I’ll be rooting for Amy Adams here because her performance and the movie she starred in, Arrival, are going unnoticed.


Best Performance in a Film – Musical or Comedy


Colin Farrell – The Lobster as David

Ryan Gosling – La La Land as Sebastian Wilder

Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins as St. Clair Bayfield

Jonah Hill – War Dogs as Efraim Diveroli

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool as Wade Wilson/Deadpool

Prediction: Ryan Gosling because La La Land is on another level compared to any other film in the Musical/Comedy category this year. Gosling wasn’t as good as his co-star Emma Stone, but who else can the HFPA give this award to? Ryan Reynolds? Don’t make me laugh.



Annette Bening – 20th Century Women as Dorothea Fields

Lily Collins – Rules Don’t Apply as Marla Mabrey

Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen as Nadine Franklin

Emma Stone – La La Land as Mia Dolan

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins

Prediction: Emma Stone truly sparkled in her role in La La Land. She should win and well deserves it. But I have a soft spot for Hailee Steinfeld for her great performance in The Edge of Seventeen.


Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight as Juan

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water as Marcus Hamilton

Simon Helberg – Florence Foster Jenkins as Cosmé McMoon

Dev Patel – Lion as Saroo Brierley

Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals as Ray Marcus

Prediction: Mahershala Ali. If Moonlight is truly as big of a player in this Oscar race like people have been suggesting, he will walk away with this award.


Best Supporting Actress:

Viola Davis – Fences as Rose Maxson

Naomie Harris – Moonlight as Paula

Nicole Kidman – Lion as Sue Brierley

Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures as Dorothy Vaughan

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea as Randi

Prediction: Viola Davis was a powerhouse alongside Denzel Washington. She pulled enough of her weight around the screen that she could’ve and maybe should’ve been considered for a leading actress role. But in this category, she should be a clear winner.


Best Director:

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Prediction: My favorite award of the Golden Globes because it’s the award that can truly match up the best films in both drama and comedy/musical categories. But to be fair, the director who has won the Best Director award at the Golden Globes, his movie has only won Best Picture at the Oscars once in the last seven years (Argo – Ben Affleck). So in hindsight, maybe you don’t want to win? Anyway, I’m predicting Barry Jenkins to win this award, just so La La Land doesn’t seem like such a clear runaway winner so early on in the Oscar race.


Best Screenplay:

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

Prediction: Manchester by the Sea probably has the best plot and story-line of any film nominated here. That’s why I’m going with Kenneth Lonergan.


Best Original Score:

Nicholas Britell – Moonlight

Justin Hurwitz – La La Land

Jóhann Jóhannsson – Arrival

Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka – Lion

Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams & Benjamin Wallfisch – Hidden Figures

Prediction: Doesn’t La La Land HAVE to win here? The score for the film was simply lovely.


Best Original Song:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (Max Martin, Shellback & Justin Timberlake) – Trolls

“City of Stars” (Justin Hurwitz, Pasek & Paul) – La La Land

“Faith” (Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder & Francis Farewell Starlite) – Sing

“Gold” (Stephen Gaghan, Danger Mouse, Daniel Pemberton & Iggy Pop) – Gold

“How Far I’ll Go” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) – Moana

Prediction: Again, doesn’t La La Land have to win here? But to be fair, I still have “Can’t Stop the Feeling” stuck in my head from the first time I heard it. Then again, Lin-Manuel Miranda is having quite the year… could Moana upset?


Best Animated Feature:

Kubo and the Two Strings


My Life as a Zucchini



Prediction: Zootopia.


Best Foreign Language Film:

Divines (France)

Elle (France)

Neruda (Chile)

The Salesman (Iran/France)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Prediction: Elle



Best TV Drama:

The Crown

Game of Thrones

Stranger Things

This Is Us


Prediction: This is an awesome group of new shows, which makes this category extremely exciting. It’s hard not to pick Game of Thrones here as it’s arguably the most popular show on television, but it is surrounded by a bunch of new-comers that everyone has been talking about. Stranger Things is surely a popular pick and Westworld was the talk around every office week-after-week. But I’m going with The Crown. GoT has never won Best Drama at the Globes and likely won’t until its final season. Therefore, The Crown seems like the most appealing choice to the diverse HFPA.


Best TV Comedy:



Mozart in the Jungle



Prediction: Veep is an Emmy darling, but for the Globes, they love rewarding new and refreshing shows. This year should go to Atlanta, Donald Glover’s comedy on FX.


Best Actor – Drama

Rami Malek – Mr. Robot as Elliot Alderson

Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul as James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill

Matthew Rhys – The Americans as Philip Jennings

Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan as Raymond “Ray” Donovan

Billy Bob Thornton – Goliath as Billy McBride

Prediction: I would love to see Matthew Rhys win here, but if I was betting on this category my money would go to Rami Malek.


Best Actress – Drama

Caitriona Balfe – Outlander as Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser

Claire Foy – The Crown as Queen Elizabeth II

Keri Russell – The Americans as Elizabeth Jennings

Winona Ryder – Stranger Things as Joyce Byers

Evan Rachel Wood – Westworld as Dolores Abernathy

Prediction: Claire Foy. Done and done.


Best Actor – Comedy

Anthony Anderson – Black-ish as Andre “Dre” Johnson Sr.

Gael García Bernal – Mozart in the Jungle as Rodrigo De Souza

Donald Glover – Atlanta as Earnest “Earn” Marks

Nick Nolte – Graves as Richard Graves

Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent as Maura Pfefferman

Prediction: Donald Glover.


Best Actress – Comedy

Rachel Bloom – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as Rebecca Nora Bunch

Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep as Selina Meyer

Sarah Jessica Parker – Divorce as Frances Dufresne

Issa Rae – Insecure as Issa Dee

Gina Rodriguez – Jane the Virgin as Jane Gloriana Villanueva

Tracee Ellis Ross – Black-ish as Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson

Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the safe pick here so I’ll go with her, but from Rachel Bloom to Gina Rodriguez, and Issa Rae from Insecure, this could be anyone’s to win.


Best Mini-series or TV Film:

American Crime

The Dresser

The Night Manager

The Night Of

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Prediction: The People vs. O.J. Simpson will win here. No questions asked.


Best Actor – Miniseries

Riz Ahmed – The Night Of as Nasir “Naz” Khan

Bryan Cranston – All the Way as President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tom Hiddleston – The Night Manager as Jonathan Pine

John Turturro – The Night Of as John Stone

Courtney B. Vance – The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story as Johnnie Cochran

Prediction: Courtney B. Vance. Let’s get all these O.J. awards handed out early, okay?


Best Actress – Miniseries

Felicity Huffman – American Crime as Leslie Graham

Riley Keough – The Girlfriend Experience as Christine Reade/”Chelsea Rayne”/”Amanda Hayes”

Sarah Paulson – The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story as Marcia Clark

Charlotte Rampling – London Spy as Frances Turner

Kerry Washington – Confirmation as Anita Hill

Prediction: Sarah Paulson.


Best TV Supporting Actor:

Sterling K. Brown – The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story as Christopher Darden

Hugh Laurie – The Night Manager as Richard Onslow Roper

John Lithgow – The Crown as Winston Churchill

Christian Slater – Mr. Robot as Mr. Robot / Edward Alderson

John Travolta – The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story as Robert Shapiro

Prediction: John Lithgow.


Best TV Supporting Actress:

Olivia Colman – The Night Manager as Angela Burr

Lena Headey – Game of Thrones as Cersei Lannister

Chrissy Metz – This Is Us as Kate Pearson

Mandy Moore – This Is Us as Rebecca Pearson

Thandie Newton – Westworld as Maeve Millay

Prediction: Chrissy Metz.



Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

December 4, 2016

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
137 minutes
Rated – R
Starring: Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan


Grade: A

When given the attention and depth necessary, the location of a film could be as important as any character. In Manchester by the Sea, the large city of Manchester, New Hampshire is a well-developed and integral part to the plot with its brutal winters, its steady sea, and the close-knit community that can either pick you up or kick you further when you’re down.

We meet our anti-hero from the beginning. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is caring and responsible, as shown through flashbacks of spending time with his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and Lee’s nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). We also see the dark side of Lee when he angrily responds to a rude woman while fixing a leak as an apartment-complex janitor, or when he gets into a fist-fight with two men at a bar. There is damage behind those weary eyes of Lee, but we don’t find out the reason until about halfway through the movie.

What we are thrown into from the get-go is the death of his brother, Joe, who was a strong and compassionate older brother to Lee throughout his life. While Joe’s death wasn’t entirely surprising to Lee and the rest of the family, what takes Lee by surprise is what is written in Joe’s will, that Lee will be the primary guardian of Patrick. In a very revealing scene as Lee is given this news, we discover the tragedy that plagues Lee’s past and his memory of Manchester.

Watching Lee and Patrick deal with the loss of their loved one differently is meaningful to both of their characters. Patrick, a high-schooler with a kind heart but also an edge that resembles both his father and uncle, provides us with a mixed reaction to his father’s death. He’s capable of hiding his sadness with his friends, girlfriends, hockey team, and rock band, but when he’s told his father would be in a freezer for months until the ground at the cemetery is soft enough, he’s unable to accept it. But seeing how Patrick handles this situation is like how a teenager would do so, with distractions and the inability to express his feelings openly. This is also the result of being raised by his father and uncle as his alcoholic mom went in and out of psych wards.

Meanwhile, what is going on in Lee’s mind and heart is much more complex. Having to deal with his brother’s death is tough enough, but coming back to the one city he never wanted to come back to was just one grain of salt in the wound. There is plenty of salt though, like hearing that his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) is pregnant and struggling to keep up with the demands of his teenage nephew. But Lee tries his best to be there for Patrick, and he tries his best to make a life for himself in Manchester to keep things as normal as possible. But there are just some things that are too difficult to forget.

Some of my favorite moments throughout the film were the interactions between Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges, who shared great chemistry as their characters dealt with a mutual sadness but a similar personality. What Kenneth Lonergan is so great at doing during this film is displaying pure honestly within all of the characters. From Lee, who is thoroughly developed, to supporting characters like Patrick’s mom, everyone is full of incredible depth and their actions ring true to their maturation. Lonergan also tackles on themes of family and tragedy in a way that doesn’t hold back any punches, even though you might be begging for a break for the sake of our anti-hero. The strength inside of Lee may not overwhelmingly be explicit to everyone who holds a conversation with him, but the way he keeps pushing himself against all of his inner turmoil and does it without complaining shows incredible ruggedness.

This film will confront your own ideals and how you would handle what Lee is going through. We have all dealt with tragedies in our lives and the way we handle them builds us to the grownups we have to become. But in the same way we attribute certain feelings to a song, we can attribute feelings to a place and a location. Sometimes when you want to escape a situation, you walk away from it, but how is that possible when everything you see reminds you of the one thing you’re trying to forget? While they say when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, it is certain that there are situations when that is simply impossible.

Movie Review: The Edge of Seventeen

December 3, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
104 minutes
Rated – R
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Blake Jenner
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig


Grade: A-

I’m sure this isn’t the first time I’m writing about this, but I love a high school drama that is done well, and The Edge of Seventeen has officially cracked into my list of favorite high school movies of all time. High school is such a complex and confusing time for every teenager to go through. It is where you truly begin on the treacherous journey to find your identity, and through this process you engage in so many new experiences that your head spins out of control. In a nutshell, this is sort of the direction that The Edge of Seventeen goes.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) never had much luck in her life as she always lacked the confidence and the physical appearance that her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), had. But through her lonely childhood, she met a friend whom became her best (and only) friend, Krista. Aside from being socially awkward, Nadine’s family had a tragic turn of events when her father suddenly passes away, leaving the family without the glue that kept them all sane. Come present day, Nadine and Krista are juniors in high school and things seem to be the same. One opening scene has Nadine confessing to her favorite teacher (Woody Harrelson) that she’s going to kill herself, only to be mocked with sarcasm that he is also going to commit suicide because of her complaining. This is the type of relationship they have and it’s an important one for Nadine as the plot moves forward.

As if Nadine’s life wasn’t difficult enough, her life crumbles to a pile of rubble when it’s discovered that her best friend Krista and her brother hooked up and are dating. She is disgusted by her brother and feels betrayed by her only friend and sulks in her room, praying that things will turn around for her. As an adult, it’s easy to roll your eyes at how silly this might all sound, but if you have the ability to put yourself in her shoes it’s not that hard to understand how impactful this situation would be for Nadine. With the pressure of doing well in school, being in a relationship, finding your identity, being popular, and dealing with your parents/family, to put it bluntly life is freaking tough for a teenager. Nadine’s case is no different.

With all of my favorite high school films, this coming-of-age tale truly captures the feeling of high school from the awkward conversations to the sexual tension of newly discovered hormones. What I love about The Edge of Seventeen is how it is seen through the perspective of Nadine, and this makes a huge impact on the film. Hailee Steinfeld is remarkable as Nadine, showing off her true acting chops like she did in True Grit, but this time as a more relatable teenager. I applaud movies that take the risk of fleshing out a plot through the unstable eyes of a troubled protagonist, and Nadine sure is going through a lot to be qualified as troubled. And finally, The Edge of Seventeen is very strong with its tone throughout the entire running time. There is a very good blend of serious moments with comedy to take off the edge, and the right amount of feel-good with feel-bad scenes. Nothing is straight-forward when you’re in high school and The Edge of Seventeen makes sure to remind us all of that. Maybe it’s really not the end of the world if you get that pimple on picture day, or if you get dumped the day before the prom, but for a seventeen-year-old, it might as well be.

Movie Review: Arrival

December 2, 2016

Arrival (2016)
116 minutes
Rated – PG-13
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Directed by Denis Villeneuve


Grade: A

I never like to write any kind of review and say how I cannot completely discuss it because it would spoil the essence and the experience that the film offers, but this is true with Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi flick, Arrival. It starts out like many other alien invasion films. There is heightened panic and confusion when alien ships enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land all over the globe. As the audience, we share a unique perspective from other Hollywood films, which is being in the same shoes as the characters. They’re all scared and they know close to nothing about anything. Will humanity have to bond with one another to overcome the extraterrestrial? Will the foreigners invade and conquer the human race? Who will be the hero to save the day?

What is refreshing about this film is how serious it takes itself, but also remains complex enough to be truly science fiction. This isn’t your popcorn sci-fi film like Independence Day; this is more like Interstellar but with a much more satisfying conclusion. Our protagonist is Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a brilliant professor of linguistics that is contacted and brought in to help figure out why the aliens are here and what they want. She pairs up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and together they have the impossible task of deciphering the advanced alien language as time is ticking down to intergalactic warfare.

Arrival is a film that will force you to pay attention, because like those certain lessons in school that were critical tools you need for your future, Arrival throws a lot of information at you and expects you to understand. While a good majority of the film was predictable, it was still done with great precision and suspense from Villeneuve, one of the better directors of this generation. Every scene is full of excitement and mystery and even when nothing is happening, the details are worth talking about. Villeneuve always had this gift from past films like Prisoners and Sicario; he can extract the best from his actors, make a screenplay punch you in the face, and at the same time deliver an entire project that will leave you breathless at the end.

There are so many things that work well in Arrival that it’s a film I cannot wait to view for a second time. I fully expect a second and third viewing of this sci-fi gem to only enhance the experience. While Amy Adams did give a very strong performance, it was overshadowed by the intelligence of the overall movie and how realistic it all felt (a rare occasion with a sci-fi movie). And one thing that you can always anticipate from Villeneuve is that you won’t get an entirely “movie” ending with his films. For those who give Arrival a chance and accept its theories that drive the plot, it will instantly become a science fiction classic.


Movie Review: Tangerine

August 4, 2016

Tangerine (2015)
128 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor


Grade: B+

If this is the movie that people talk about because it was shot on iPhones, then that’s too bad because Tangerine is truly a one-of-a-kind film. But yes, let’s address the elephant in the studio because I’ll be completely honest, this was probably the main reason why I checked out this film on Netflix a year after its release. Filming this movie on iPhones isn’t really a gimmick, it’s merely a perfect match for the style and tone Tangerine demands. It’s also an independent film, but if you can make a film at a fraction of the cost without losing anything, then why not?

There are plenty of films that want to create that edgy and grainy feel to enhance its voice as an art-house production, but that’s not the purpose during Tangerine. Using iPhones truly captures the frantic feel as we zigzag through the characters on the streets of Los Angeles. Sean Baker forces us into this tumultuous world that our main characters live in.

It’s Christmas Eve and Sin-Dee just got out of a 28-day prison sentence. She’s talking with her best friend, Alexandra, at the Donut Time and the film takes off when Alexandra leaks some information that her pimp (and boyfriend) cheated on her while she was in jail. Sin-Dee makes it her mission to find this girl and to bring it up to her boyfriend, Chester. This involves visiting everyone she knows, harassing drug dealers and defying any logic until she’s able to track down this girl that all she knows is white and whose name starts with a “D.”

Did I mention that Sin-Dee and Alexandra are transgender women? It’s not necessary to point that out, but it’s quite obvious once the movie begins and plays a very important role as the plot progresses. The amateur actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, are a riot and a pleasure to watch on screen. They’re loud, profane, and full of energy while displaying incredible chemistry with one another. They carry the film with their unique and bad-ass attitudes, delivering every single line with passion as if they were speaking to a sold-out arena.

Tangerine is a sad film, but told within a plot with many funny moments and naturally hilarious characters. There is never a moment when I felt like the film was overplaying the transgender angle, or the prostitution angle, or even the low-budget/iPhone angle. With diversity being such an important issue in Hollywood, it’s a miracle that this film was made and viewed by anyone. The result was a very well-made film that made dozens of critics’ top ten lists from 2015. It most definitely deserves all of the accolades and I am more than glad to have been able to watch this gem. Tangerine might not be ground-breaking, but it supports everything that needs to be changed with filmmaking. It celebrates the potential that a powerful and entertaining story has without passing it onto celebrities and million of dollars.

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