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Blog: Woody Allen Is Back in the Game

February 7, 2006

AP writers are covering the scene as Hollywood gets ready for its big night on March 5. They’ll be filing periodic reports on the goings-on as the perfect outfits are selected, the red carpet is readied and the gold statuettes are polished for the annual awards show.


To paraphrase one of the grand Gershwin tunes he used in ``Manhattan,″ it’s very clear, Woody Allen is here to stay.

Allen already was the record-holder in the writing categories when he snagged his 14th nomination, this time for ``Match Point.″

And this after we’d counted Woody among the should-have-retired-at-65-and-gone-off-to-toot-his-clarinet-full-time crowd. The string of lackluster comedies that preceded ``Match Point,″ among them ``Hollywood Ending,″ ``Anything Else″ and ``The Curse of the Jade Scorpion,″ had Allen looking has-been-ish.

But he’s back on his game with ``Match Point.″ Not that I’m a huge fan of the film; it felt too much like a retread of the justice-is-blind themes of Allen’s ``Crimes and Misdemeanors,″ albeit retooled for a young, pretty cast whose appeal has given the filmmaker his biggest mini-hit in many years.

Yet the dialogue in ``Match Point″ was buzz-saw sharp, a portent of more good things to come from Allen, who turned 70 last fall. It raises the question _ like Clint Eastwood reclaiming the Oscar crown last year at age 74 _ how long can Allen keep it up?

Genetically, a good long while. His dad lived to be 100, his mom made it to her mid-90s, and Allen’s famous quip about longevity is that he hopes to achieve immortality by not dying.

So we could be seeing Allen at the Oscars (or more precisely, not at the Oscars, since he doesn’t like coming) until well after global warming has forced him either to move out of watery Manhattan or buy a rowboat.

Allen’s got writing and directing Oscars for ``Annie Hall″ and another screenplay trophy for ``Hannah and Her Sisters.″ I doubt he’ll win this time against an original-screenplay lineup that includes ``Crash,″ ``Good Night, and Good Luck″ and ``Syriana.″

But the guy remains a little Tasmanian devil of verbiage. Good words just keep pouring out.

In time, the Spielbergs may crumble, the Clooneys may tumble, but our Woody is here to stay.

-- AP Movie Writer David Germain



The latest from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: You are cordially invited to a meet and greet with the Oscars. The actual, gold-plated, inanimate Oscars.

In its perpetual solicitations for any publicity imaginable that might help the show’s TV ratings, the academy yesterday announced the safe arrival of this year’s batch of awards in Hollywood, where they now will be made a public spectacle of at an exhibit called ``Meet the Oscars: The 50 Golden Statuettes.″

This essentially is the same thing as coming out to stare at a bunch of bowling trophies.

They don’t sing and dance. They don’t tell bad jokes. They don’t thank their agents or toss the losing nominees a bone by claiming what an honor it was just to be in their company. And thank whatever smithy forged them, they don’t squeal, a la Sally Field, ``You like me! You really like me!″

They just stand there, mute and anatomically incorrect.

Visitors will be allowed to hold one of the 8 1/2-pound statuettes made by R.S. Owens and Co. of Chicago out of something called britannium (no wonder Brits win so many acting Oscars).

And there will be photos of past Oscar winners on display. Those with heart conditions be warned; this sounds like exciting stuff.

Then two days before the ceremony, according to an academy press release, ``the Oscars, under heavy security, will march down the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard to the Kodak Theatre, where they will be handed out during the awards presentation.″

The pageantry of it all gives me goosebumps _ especially the part about these little metal men marching along the carpet. It sounds like the lost dance sequence to ``The Nutcracker.″

In keeping with the bowling reference above, I think the academy could get real publicity mileage by closing off Hollywood Boulevard for celebrity bowling matchups, using Oscar statuettes as pins, the makers of the stop-motion animated nominees as pin-setters, and maybe the heads of last year’s losers as balls.

Wouldn’t you love to see Judi Dench, wearing a lavender bowling blouse with ``Dame Judi″ stitched over the breast, in a three-frame, sudden-death showdown against Ang Lee, decked out in a pastel-green polyester shirt whose back is emblazoned with the ``Brokeback Mountain″ team sponsor’s name _ the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation?

Now that’s publicity, and that’s entertainment.

-- AP Movie Writer David Germain


MONDAY, Feb. 6

Snubbed by the Oscars? Don’t worry, they’ll catch you next year.

Paul Giamatti was glaringly overlooked in the best-actor lineup up a year ago, when his ``Sideways″ co-stars Virginia Madsen and Thomas Haden Church scored supporting nominations.

Giamatti himself _ the guy who embodied the luckless loser at love with a sad-sack desperation not seen since Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for ``Marty″ _ wound up abandoned at the altar.

I recall on nominations morning talking with Church, who basically said Giamatti got screwed (Church used more diplomatic phrasing, though). But Church noted way back then that he was hearing great things about Giamatti’s performance in this boxing flick called ``Cinderella Man,″ so maybe, just maybe, the academy would make amends by nominating him for that.

Sure enough, there was Giamatti on nominations day last week, the proud owner of a supporting-actor nomination as the manager of Depression-era bruiser Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) in ``Cinderella Man.″

Not to knock Giamatti’s performance in ``Cinderella Man,″ but I found it pretty ordinary next to his wonderfully, painfully authentic mix of pathos, anger, disconsolateness and wretched resignation in ``Sideways.″

Had Jamie Foxx never been born, opening the door for one of the Wayans brothers to be cast as Ray Charles in ``Ray,″ I would have bet all 12 shiny new pennies in my life savings that Giamatti would win best actor.

So the question now is, was Giamatti nominated this time around for ``Cinderella Man″ or as a consolation prize for getting shafted on ``Sideways″?

With about 1,500 performers making up the academy branch that chooses acting nominees, there certainly isn’t any star-chamber collusion going on. (``OK, gang, we left one of our own behind last time, so let’s toss him a bone this year.″)

But basic human psychology is a factor when people cast ballots, so feeling sorry that Giamatti missed out a year ago could subtly, somehow, earn him some sympathy votes. Just ask co-star Crowe if he thinks he really won best actor for ``Gladiator″ or for his far superior performance a year earlier in ``The Insider.″ Be sure to duck after asking; Crowe knew how to throw a punch long before training for ``Cinderella Man.″

The lesson is, the academy eventually will make up for past sins of omission.

By that theory, Oscar voters owe Jim Carrey some back-taxes, with interest.

-- AP Movie Writer David Germain


FRIDAY, Feb. 3

I don’t care how many pixels you’re packing. Real animators play with toys.

As in the playthings brought to life in ``Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit″ and ``Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,″ two of the three nominees for best animated feature at the Oscars.

Both flicks were created through that lowest-of-tech methods, stop-motion animation, in which you craft puppets of clay or rubber or other inert substances, move their little arms and legs and facial features infinitesimally, then shoot the changes frame by painstaking frame, so when the film is run at normal speed, your creatures zip about as though the poltergeist of Walt Disney were shoving them along.

So much for the dominance of computer-generated imagery in the Oscars’ animated race. None of the eligible CGI cartoons, which included ``Madagascar,″ ``Robots″ and ``Chicken Little,″ made the cut, the first time since the animated category was added in 2001 that no digitally created movies were nominated.

This year’s third nominee is ``Howl’s Moving Castle,″ a pen-and-ink entry from Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, whose ``Spirited Away″ won the 2002 Oscar.

I declare the backlash against computer animation officially open for business. From here on, digital is dead, and it’s back to lush, pure analog animation, the kind you have to put on paper or craft out of inanimate objects the way my college-aged sister perversely used to do when I was a kid and she would borrow my GI Joes and my other sister’s Barbie dolls and force them to waltz together late at night, alone in her room (oh, the contorted little figures that would greet us next morning when we would retrieve our toys from where they lay under her bed, spent and twisted from an evening of mad hot ballroom).

As computer animation goes the way of the 8-track, I also think semaphore’s going to make a huge comeback, supplanting e-mail as the impersonal communication of choice. I’m dumping all my tech stocks and buying into flag companies.

-- AP Movie Writer David Germain



Maybe you noticed, there are only three best-song nominees for the Oscars, instead of the usual interminable five. And maybe, like me, you were thinking it was a decision by popular demand, so we all have 40 percent fewer crappy songs to listen to during the show.

Granted, there have been some great Oscar-winning tunes (Bob Dylan’s ``Things Have Changed″ is one of the most butt-kicking singles he’s ever done). But I’m still suffering post-traumatic stress symptoms from watching Celine Dion screech ``My Heart Will Go On″ back on the big night for ``Titanic″ (``Can’t somebody just drop an iceberg on her?″ I remember screaming from near the ceiling, where I had climbed in a vain effort to escape the horrible sound from the TV).

The actual reason there are fewer nominees is some Oscar rule change where songs have to get a minimum scoring average. The three that made the cut should make for an interesting musical night of introspection, inspiration and bleeped out references to women of a particular profession.

First, from best-picture nominee ``Crash,″ we have Kathleen ``Bird″ York and Michael Becker’s ``In the Deep,″ a quiet, lost-soul ditty about life spinning you in circles ``till you shed your pride and you climb to heaven.″

Then, there’s Dolly Parton’s ``Travelin’ Thru,″ from the road-trip tale ``Transamerica″ that earned Felicity Huffman a best-actress nomination as a man undergoing a sex change, the tune referencing sweet Jesus more than once and declaring hopefully, ``when I’m born again, you’re gonna see a change in me.″

Finally, we have an ode by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard _ better known as the Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia _ to the joys of street life, ``It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.″ It’s performed with gusto by best-actor nominee Terrence Howard in ``Hustle & Flow.″

With an F-bomb or two, some N-words, free use of a synonym for feces and a sprinkle of unflattering epithets for womankind, the song’s going to make it hard out there for a singer come Oscar night.

Sure beats Celine.

AP Movie Writer David Germain



I’m wrong already. Wrong is a state of being for me, though, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve muffed a key Oscar category more than a month before the awards.

I said earlier that ``Star Wars: Episode III _ Revenge of the Sith″ probably would be a sentimental favorite to win the visual-effects prize, given it’s the last we’ll be seeing of the Skywalker boys on the big screen.

And now those rebel scum on the academy’s visual-effects nominating committee have left George Lucas’ farewell to Obi-Wan off the list. The three nominees yesterday were ``The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,″ ``King Kong″ and ``War of the Worlds.″

Three impressive light shows up on the screen, to be sure, but I’d like to ask this of the nominating committee: Did you guys watch ``Revenge of the Sith″?

The movie was one long visual effect, with Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and a few other odd humans tossed in now and then to avoid getting classified as an animated film.

OK, so some of Lucas’ creatures look cartoonish. But as visual spectacles go, it was the supreme achievement of a sci-fi franchise that pretty much sired the modern special-effects business.

As for the three nominees, two of which include effects by Lucas’ homegrown outfit Industrial Light & Magic, I got mighty sick of all the talking animals by the end of ``Narnia,″ which also had some cheesy fake panoramas, ``King Kong″ had a few moments of utterly phony-looking action and ``War of the Worlds″ looked like it just wasn’t all quite there.

Of course, the nominating committee bases its picks on 15-minute clip reels from each contender, so the parts that sucked weren’t included in the process.

So now, this primate will go out on a limb again and declare ``King Kong″ the Oscar winner, which would be another slap at ILM, since ``Kong″ is the one nominee Lucas’ company didn’t work on (and have I mentioned that I’ve been wrong before?).

Ah, well. Lucas and ``Star Wars″ already had their revenge. ``Episode III″ beat the visual-effects nominees by a light-year or two at the box office.

AP Movie Writer David Germain


TUESDAY, Jan. 31

Oscar nominations day always sends me right back to high school and the fear that I’m about to take an exam I haven’t studied for well enough.

I always go in fully versed on the potential nominees, and almost nothing ever surprises me with the nominations (though I was pleasantly jolted a bit today to see William Hurt sneak into the supporting-actor category for what, maybe 12 seconds of scene-stealing screen time?).

What always throws me is this atavistic anxiety (atavism: ``recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, or approach″) that strikes when I walk into the theater where nominations are announced.

The red, velvety Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences feels like a grand place when you’re there for an evening movie premiere, with beautifully dressed and coiffed celebs all around.

But before dawn on nominations day, the joint takes me back to finals. If I had time to look about, I would expect to be surrounded by scruffy, T-shirted teen classmates I haven’t seen in decades, all with No. 2 pencils in hand, ready to begin.

The set-up is strangely like those exams in the high-school auditorium. The rows of seats reserved for reporters have been fitted with long desk surfaces that remind me of those little mini-desks that fold up from under the auditorium seats.

A few minutes before nominations are announced, the academy’s ever-ebullient spokeswoman Leslie Unger (and how she remains so bubbly at 5 a.m. year after year is beyond me) sets envelopes in front of reporters with the list of nominees.

We’re under strict orders not to peek until Leslie says go _ just like the school moderators who tell you when you’re free to turn the paper over and begin the test.

And when we’re finally allowed to get going, there’s the same frantic rustle of paper you hear when a biology class starts tearing through its multiple-choice exam.

The main difference: We’re clumped right next to one another at the Oscar nominations, while we were told sit at least one seat and one row apart on exam day so no one could copy answers.

Which gives me an idea for making my Oscar nominations morning a little easier next year...

_AP Movie Writer David Germain


MONDAY, Jan. 30

Charlize Theron dodged the Razzies bullet that nailed fellow Academy Award winner Halle Berry last year.

The Razzies, or Golden Raspberries, are annual film ``dis-honors″ mocking the worst hairballs Hollywood coughed up the year before. Last year, Halle Berry showed what a good sport she was, turning up at the Razzies ceremony the night before the Oscars with her best-actress trophy for ``Monster’s Ball″ in one hand, the other hand free to accept her Razzie as worst-actress for the action bomb ``Catwoman.″

I had Theron, a best-actress winner for ``Monster,″ pegged for a weird and mildly embarrassing confluence where she would receive a worst-actress nomination from the Razzies today for last year’s action dud ``Aeon Flux″ and another best-actress Oscar nomination tomorrow for the working-class drama ``North Country.″

Theron’s still a likely Oscar nominee, but Razzies voters spared her the shame of dumping her among the worst-actress field, which included such thespian under-achievers as Jennifer Lopez in ``Monster-in-Law″ (are you sensing a monster theme to this item?), Jessica Alba in ``Fantastic Four″ and ``Into the Blue″ and Hilary Duff in ``Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ and ``The Perfect Man.″

In fact, Razzie voters, who love nothing more than picking at the fetid carcasses of Hollywood’s real turkeys, left ``Aeon Flux″ alone, the sci-fi stinker receiving not a single nomination.

Razzies founder John Wilson told me he thinks his voters still have a lot of goodwill toward Theron.

Likewise, those Razzie pranksters have to adore Berry for stopping by last year and telling the crowd that her mother had taught her if you can’t be a good loser, you can’t be a good winner, either.

The only other actor ever to show up to claim Razzie awards was Tom Green for ``Freddy Got Fingered.″ I’m laying trillion-to-one odds Green won’t ever win an Oscar.

If I’m wrong, an $8 bet will pay off the national debt. Good luck collecting, though.

_AP Movie Writer David Germain


FRIDAY, Jan. 27

For Simon and Garfunkel, it was Wednesday morning, 3 a.m. For me, once a year, it’s Tuesday morning, 5:30 a.m.

Here’s why I love, or at least tolerate, getting up before the roosters crow, if Los Angeles had roosters, to traipse out to the Academy Awards nominations every year.

The streets are so quiet, comparatively, at 4 a.m.-ish, heading to Oscar Central, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where Moses comes down from the mountain at 5:30 with the names of nominees inscribed on stone tablets.

As I pull out of the driveway, there’s usually somebody picking through the neighborhood garbage cans for bottles and cans, or maybe one of the Oscar statuettes that got stolen and left in a Dumpster a few years back (there are still two Oscars missing, if anyone’s up for some trash-picking).

You give the bottle forager a little wave, and he always waves back, because people on the graveyard shift have to stick together.

There’s still traffic; after all, this is Los Angeles. But it’s a light dusting of cars, and you can actually drive like a real human being at that hour, not like merely another link in a bumper-to-bumper centipede.

You arrive at the Academy, and you can actually find a place to park. And it’s early, so you don’t have to plug the meters to fend off the omnipresent parking Nazis ready to pounce and leave a $38 ticket under your wiper blade the instant your time expires.

As quality of life in Los Angeles goes, this is practically paradise.

Next Tuesday morning, 4 a.m.-ish, I’ll be Oscar-bound and feelin’ groovy, NoDoz permitting.

_AP Movie Writer David Germain



I have a solution to a vexing problem. My idea is fully trademarked and copyrighted in a very real and legally binding sense, in case Hollywood wants to cut me a mid-seven-figure deal so I can, as postman Cliff Clavin once said, make some real money and get out of this dead-end job.

In 2005, key Oscar contenders once again were bunched up at the end of the year. ``Brokeback Mountain,″ ``Capote,″ ``Transamerica,″ ``Walk the Line,″ ``Mrs. Henderson Presents,″ ``Memoirs of a Geisha,″ ``Syriana″ _ they all debuted in the closing months _ in some cases, the closing days _ of 2005.

There’s a weird psychology in Hollywood that Academy voters will forget you made a decent movie if you release it early in the year, even though such Oscar champs as ``The Silence of the Lambs″ and ``Gladiator″ came out in winter or spring.

So we’re treated to _ or stricken by _ prestige season, the mad rush of quality films at year’s end, an onslaught so furious it overwhelms awards voters and general audiences, leaving some damn fine films orphaned and neglected.

You have to provide incentives for studios to spread the wealth, so I say the Academy should break its awards season into quarters, with one nominee in all the key categories coming from each three-month slice of the year.

Voters would choose the best picture, actor, actress, director and such from January-March, April-June and so on, with one wild-card chosen from any quarter to fill out the lineup of five nominees.

This would make moviegoing more interesting by offering broader choices year-round. It would allow studios to milk the Oscar honors a long while, so worthy films might not vanish after opening weekend.

It would let the media turn the awards into a sort of March Madness tournament frenzy (``Well, Howard, Tom Hanks, winner of Hollywood’s winter-season best-actor nomination, has been waiting three months to find out who his first opponent will be. And here’s the announcement: It’s Ben Affleck in `Gigli II’! A major upset win for Affleck!″)

Is the idea any more harebrained than dumping dozens of good movies on people in a few short weeks?

The only drawback I see is that entertainment reporters would be stuck covering a yearlong awards season.

But if I get my mid-seven-figure deal, what do I care?

_AP Movie Writer David Germain



The Oscars are the Super Bowl of show business. And now they have the pre-game show to prove it.

Oscar organizers just announced they are expanding the official pre-show for the telecast from half an hour to an hour. Granted, that’s still just a few ticks of the clock compared to the eternity of the Super Bowl pre-game show, which actually begins just shy of a calendar year before kickoff.

But does anyone really need a full 60 minutes of interminable red-carpet palaver preceding the interminable I’d-like-to-thank-my-agent-for-sending-me-the-script speeches that we’ll be hearing all night?

The Academy says it’s all for the fans, that the longer pre-show _ and the new earlier show time, 8 p.m. EST instead of 8:30 _ will allow viewers to park their butts in the recliner for a celebrity fix that now will be guaranteed to end before midnight on the East Coast.

Really, it’s all for the Nielsens, and the advertising bucks they bring. An earlier finish means a lower narcolepsy quotient as more people stay awake and tuned in to the bitter, boring end. And the longer pre-show means double the commercial fun for all involved.

Perhaps now is a good time to share my concept of the perfect Oscar pre-show: All the nominees are rolled up inside the red carpet, which last year’s winners _ all wearing sequined dungarees _ begin to push into the Kodak Theatre. As the carpet unrolls and gains momentum, the nominees start flying out and do graceful gymnastic flips until they reach their seats.

Then at the end of the show, all the winners are rolled back up inside the red carpet, which is strapped to the roof of a Hummer limo that drives them all home.

I know it’s a lot to ask of our Oscar heroes. But think of the ratings.

_AP Movie Writer David Germain


TUESDAY, Jan. 24

Imagine being Steven Spielberg if your remake of the mother-of-all-war-of-the-worlds epics fails to get an Oscar nomination for visual effects. Ditto for Peter Jackson if the giant monkey boy you and your pixel pixies birthed misses out on an effects nomination.

Or, gasp, think of George Lucas and the Skywalker clan sitting this one out on Oscar night.

There are only three slots to be had for the visual-effects category when nominations come out next Tuesday. My gut feeling is that Spielberg’s ``War of the Worlds,″ Jackson’s ``King Kong″ and Lucas’ ``Star Wars: Episode III _ Revenge of the Sith″ will end up the three finalists for Hollywood’s pyrotechnics beauty pageant.

But while 2005 stunk up the joint with its overall lineup of big studio flicks, the age of digital effects reached new heights. So the big three have serious competition in the visual-effects department from the other four eligible films.

``The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe″ and ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire″ could nudge out ``King Kong″ and ``War of the Worlds″ (I still say ``War of the Worlds″ looked like a rush job, and the effects suffered for it. I was waiting for the big money shot, a hellish panorama where puny Earthling helicopters get zapped out of the sky by an endless parade of alien tripods. Instead, we got a closeup of Tom Cruise’s fat head staring in horror at what was presumably a hellish panorama where puny Earthling helicopters, etc. etc. But we’ll never know, because Tom Cruise’s fat head was in the way).

Also in the running for visual effects are ``Batman Begins″ and ``Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,″ no slouches themselves when it comes to pretty pictures.

In the end, I figure the last of George’s ``Star Wars″ flicks will win the effects Oscar. The last two times, ``Episode I″ and ``Episode II″ lost out. This being the Skywalkers’ farewell tour, though, ``Episode III″ has to be the sentimental favorite.

But we’ve come far, far away from that era when a ``Star Wars″ film was the only visual-effects empire in town.

_AP Movie Writer David Germain


MONDAY, Jan. 23

Sure, I believed ``King Kong″ could be another ``Titanic″ this awards season. I felt ``Lost in Translation″ was a situation in search of a story. I was convinced ``The Aviator″ would throw ``Million Dollar Baby″ out with the bathwater. I thought ``Chicago″ was pleasant fluff that could never win best picture.

But as the ghost of Vivien Leigh is my witness, I’m not wrong about ``Brokeback Mountain″: It doesn’t deserve to win best picture.

It’s an admirable film with lovely performances (except for that shrill caricature of a stiff-haired ’60s and ’70s wifey Anne Hathaway copped).

The filmmakers yammer about the universality of the love story and how it supersedes the story’s homosexual overtones as two 1960s sheepherding dudes (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal), who could have been distant runners-up for the Marlboro Man casting call, cuddle up out on the range.

The universality of the romance eludes me, not because of the gay theme but for simple storytelling reasons: There’s no chemistry between Ledger and Gyllenhaal.

One minute they’re talking the manly talk, and the next, they’re sucking face and picking out china patterns. It was abrupt, out of the blue and seemed to happen not out of mutual attraction but only because a story about gay cowpokes just won’t work that well if you don’t have a couple of gay cowpokes.

I’d have found it just as believable if they’d started wooing the four-legged hotties among their flock of sheep with chocolates and pretty hair ribbons.

As love stories go this Oscar season, I’ll take Johnny and June’s long, hard-knocks courtship in ``Walk the Line,″ Truman Capote and Death Row inmate Perry Smith’s odd symbiotic-parasitic relationship in ``Capote,″ even Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello’s nasty staircase sex in ``A History of Violence″ over Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar and Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist.

But then, I’m still seething about the whole ``Shakespeare in Love″ over ``Saving Private Ryan″ thing. And don’t get me started about ``Ordinary People″ and ``Raging Bull″ ...

_AP Movie Writer David Germain

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