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50s WATCHING THREAD


jaedmc
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Holy crap the more I watch the harder ranking them gets. Watched All About Eve last night. George Sanders had become one of our(me and my wife) favorite dudes so we were excited to see his Oscar performance. At first we were like "Looks like he just got an Oscar for being George Sanders." Then there's his big scene near the end where he just lays waste and it's absolutely brilliant. This film has some of the wittiest dialogue you'll hear. It's almost like a screwball comedy in that respect but more cynical, methodical and acidic. I might be biased since I work in theatre so I identified with so much with what was going on, but I think this is a GREAT film everyone should watch, with several great performances and a fantastic script.

Oh and Marilyn Monroe shows up.

What have you guys been watching?

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All About Eve is definitely near the top of my list currently.  The most recent movie I watched was JULIUS CAESAR.  Marlon Brando was great with the "friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" speech.  That scene makes the movie.

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Oh dude, as soon as I finished writing my little All About Eve spiel, I realized I hadn't mentioned THELMA MOTHER F'N RITTER. Her performance in Pickup on South St. is King Kong sized and everyone should see that. That move is aces, by the way. Richard Widmark also has the best two bit hustler that thinks he's better than he is characters. For another example check him out in Night and the City where he plays Harry K. Fabian(great name) a two bit loser who's trying to score bit promoting WRESTLG. I don't think I need to explain any more than that as to why people on this board should see that

 

My ballot is giving me nightmares. I want to squeeze about 40 movies into my Top 10.

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I watched

 

Creature From the Black Lagoon which was all sorts of fun.  Great monster, neat setting, hot girl, what more could you ask for?!

 

Riding Shotgun which was okay.  Take the people from 'High Noon' and make them meaner and dumber and put them opposite Randolph Scott who STILL wants to help them.  It was good, not great.

 

Big Jim McLain which is more minor John Wayne, but still kinda fun.  The tone as odd as the first portion is very didactic in its stance on communism and patriotism, then morphs into a romantic comedy with Wayne wooing the foxy Nancy Olson, then becomes somewhat wacky with Wayne balancing investigations with his love affair, then banks a hard right into intense crime procedural with casalties and fights.

 

All three might find a home near the bottom of my list.

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Everybody needs to go out of their way to watch A Face in the Crowd. It's probably right at the top of my ballot so far and features one of the greatest film characters of all time, Andy Griffith's "Lonesome Rhodes". Griffith is a completely sinister charming monster and the movie is really dark, especially considering the time it was released. I have no clue where they discovered Griffith at this point as I don't think he had acted much if at all in TV/film, but I can't picture anybody doing a better job. 

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I watched A STAR IS BORN with Judy Garland and James Mason.  They were both very good.  It's about Mason's Norman Maine's fall in Hollywood intersecting with the rise of Garland's Vicki Lester.  That's a common theme in the movies about show business.

 

There were a couple of elements of the movie that stood out to me.  The first was that they panned in different directions on still photographs while dialogue was going on.  It reminded me of a Ken Burns documentary.  I thought that was unique.  The other thing that stood out was the way that Vicki Lester's first movie was shot.  It was very stylized.  It reminded me of MISHIMA.

 

I've only seen a couple of musicals from the 50s so far.  This and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.  The songs in the latter were better and more memorable, but I think this was a better movie overall.

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Watched Nights of Cabiria, which might actually be my favorite Fellini film now. It kind of reminded me of Pasloini's Mama Roma, but a little more fun. Giulietta Masina gives a really great performance and for that alone I highly recommend it. when she dances, it's filled with so much whimsy and fun that I can't take my eyes off her. So yeah check that one out.

 

Everybody needs to go out of their way to watch A Face in the Crowd.

I doubt I'll fit in 100 movies better than that movie, so it'll be on mine for sure. Didn't people actually watch that for the movie club? It'll probably get some support.

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Watched Nights of Cabiria, which might actually be my favorite Fellini film now. It kind of reminded me of Pasloini's Mama Roma, but a little more fun. Giulietta Masina gives a really great performance and for that alone I highly recommend it. when she dances, it's filled with so much whimsy and fun that I can't take my eyes off her. So yeah check that one out.

 

Everybody needs to go out of their way to watch A Face in the Crowd.

I doubt I'll fit in 100 movies better than that movie, so it'll be on mine for sure. Didn't people actually watch that for the movie club? It'll probably get some support.

 

The problem is getting people who participate in the movie club to actually participate in a ballot

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Holy crap the more I watch the harder ranking them gets. Watched All About Eve last night. George Sanders had become one of our(me and my wife) favorite dudes so we were excited to see his Oscar performance. At first we were like "Looks like he just got an Oscar for being George Sanders." Then there's his big scene near the end where he just lays waste and it's absolutely brilliant. This film has some of the wittiest dialogue you'll hear. It's almost like a screwball comedy in that respect but more cynical, methodical and acidic. I might be biased since I work in theatre so I identified with so much with what was going on, but I think this is a GREAT film everyone should watch, with several great performances and a fantastic script.Oh and Marilyn Monroe shows up.What have you guys been watching?

 

 

ALL ABOUT EVE is my constant and unshakable #1 movie of all time.

 

Everybody has a heart.  Except some people.
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So we had to watch Born Yesterday because Judy Holliday beat out some CRAZY competition for Best Actress. She beat both lead females in All About Eve AND Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. If you haven't seen Born Yesterday queue that shit up pronto. Absolutely great character, incredibly funny, and it even has something to say about capitalist dick bags buying the national legislature. Oh how far we've come. Also you get William Mother F'n Holden, who can drop a passionately delivered, inspiration monologue like nobody's business. WATCH IT.

 

Man, 1950 is a pretty stout year. 

 

I also fit in Max Ophuls' Lola Montes which is a really beautifully shot movie with a really wild story. I love the circus reenactments and the colors are truly gorgeous throughout. So check that out if you get a shot.

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All right, back into the fray...

 

NO WAY OUT (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) -- one of the first films to deal with racial discrimination directly. Comes on strong with its message, but doesn't pull any punches when it comes to bigotry or violence. Notable for giving Sidney Poitier his first starring role. I thought Richard Widmark misfired a bit in his role as the bigot, but I've seen his performance praised elsewhere. Will caution that it's not really the noir it's made to be despite some swank photography. More of a social message, 50s melodrama. Probably more interesting as a pioneering film than a timeless classic.

 

THE HARDER THEY FALL (Mark Robson) -- Bogie's last film before he died and not a bad one to go out on. Boxing melodramas suit the film noir style to a tee and this one uses the Primo Camera scandal to expose the sordid underbelly of prizefighting. Bogie plays an out of work sportswriter hired by a bent promoter, Rod Steiger, to put over an Argentinian lump whose fights Steiger is fixing to create a draw card. Wrestling fans ought to identify with that immediately and Camera himself went into wrestling as I'm sure a few of you are aware. The contrast between Bogie and Steiger's acting styles is intensely fascinating whenever they're on screen together.

 

ATTACK (Robert Aldrich) -- I can't remember if I wrote about this on the old board, but a Robert Aldrich war film with Lee Marvin and Jack Palace? Totally B grade and doesn't really click, but fuck it if Palace doesn't have some cheesy monologues and he takes on a tank all by himself. Check out the trailer:

 

 

MURDER BY CONTRACT (Irving Lerner) -- existential hitman noir that's like French New Wave before the French New Wave. This was really fucking cool. Awesome soundtrack, awesome low budget, quirky noir. You must check this out.

 

 

MISTER ROBERTS (John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy) -- this is kind of disappointing given the cast of Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon, but once you get over that it's a decent enough story of life on a US Navy cargo ship during the waning days of the war. As a comedy-drama it didn't really hit all the buttons for me and how much you enjoy it depends on how much you like a really Henry Fonda, Henry Fonda performance, but It was pretty harmless and the ending was effective if not completely Hollywood-ish.

 

DEVDAS (Bimal Roy) -- continuing my journey through classic Bollywood. This was long. It took me a couple of weeks to finish it, to be honest, as I watched it in chunks. Probably the most interesting thing about 50s Bollywood is how unimportant the songs are compared to what Bollywood would become. This was more like classic Hollywood drama with a real focus on literary adaptions. The story here didn't really move me much, but the photography was gorgeous. 

 

ASHES AND DIAMONDS (Andrzej Wajda) -- I watched this a long time ago when I was first introduced to foreign films through Bergman and Kurosawa and so on. Decided it needed a rewatch since I was wondering if it was top 10. I was kind of torn on this. It's interesting and exquisitely shot given the space it uses to tell its story, but without really understanding how the Polish people felt at the end of the war a lot of the prevailing sentiments were lost on me and the main relationship was Hiroshima Mon Amour in its distance and aloofness from the audience. But I still really liked it. That's a good thing, I guess. 

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I watched A STAR IS BORN with Judy Garland and James Mason.  They were both very good.  It's about Mason's Norman Maine's fall in Hollywood intersecting with the rise of Garland's Vicki Lester.  That's a common theme in the movies about show business.

 

There were a couple of elements of the movie that stood out to me.  The first was that they panned in different directions on still photographs while dialogue was going on.  It reminded me of a Ken Burns documentary.  I thought that was unique.  

 

 

I'm watching this at the moment and the still photographs weren't part of the original film. Warner Brothers execs made over 40 minutes of cuts to the original version because they were afraid the running time would limit the number of daily showings. In 1983 the film was "reconstructed" with surviving audio and the still photos. It's kind of annoying but there's some obvious plot holes in the Warner edit. Some of the audio must have been missing as well as you never see her screen test. She's on her way to the test and the next thing you know she's signed a contract. 

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I watched The Bamboo Prison because I recorded it, mistakenly thinking it was a Sam Fuller film, it wasn't.  It's kind of a weird one about life in a North Korean POW camp.  It's funny because the two leads (Robert Francis and Brian Keith) are so wooden and then Earl Hyman (AKA Bill Cosby's dad on The Cosby Show) comes along in a minor supporting role and hits everything he does out of the park (a speech culminating in the line "I'd rather be black then red!") that you wish the entire movie was about him.  Anyways, it's story of a guy (Keith) who gets taken to a POW camp where Francis is a "progressive", that is an American who has turned his back on his country and believes in Communism.  Of course, he's actually a spy for the US, working to take down the communists from within, where he falls in love with the Russian wife of one of the high-ranking officers.  Where you expect this movie to go (Guy pretending to be traitor takes down actual traitor but prisoners don't realize it and he gets overtaken by them, and they learn of his actual service after his death) isn't actually where it goes, instead it just kind of quickly peters out.  Also, the tone of the prisoners was way off, as it seemed to want to present them as fun-loving guys who make the best of their situation, but instances of them joking around seem really inappropriate, especially after they witnessed one of their own getting gunned down.  Not really worth a watch, unless you just watch Hyman's monologue.

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The Day The Earth Stood Still is soooo much fun. First it helps that Patricia Neal is in it. She's one of my favorite actresses. I also love how despite the global impact of the event, most of it feels like a run of the mill city drama, with Klaatu just checking out DC and meeting up with people. It's also very sad, as we as a people have gotten even worse in regards to war and violence. Maybe it doesn't have crazy 3D graphics and awesome action sequences, but I'll take something like this, a story with a brain, than just about anything Hollywood produces today. 

 

Diary of A Country Priest feels like a precursor to Haneke's White Ribbon. It's not high on my list, but it's still an engaging film that feels more like literature. Worth checking out for sure.

 

Rusty Knife isn't one of the best of Nikkatsu Noirs, but it's a solid, if predictable entry. It's got a brief Jo Shishido appearance and another good performance from Yujiro Ishihara, who I really liked in I Am Waiting, a film I highly recommend noir fans watching.

 

The Furies WATCH THIS. Really great western drama about a head headed daughter(Barbara Stanwyck!) of a hard headed rancher T. C. Jeffries(Walter Mother F'N Houston!!!). Some great scenes(there's one with a pair of scissors that made my jaw drop) and some really good cinematography.  You also get a story about a woman trying to do what was perceived as "a man's job" AND the injustice of taking land from indigenous people.  Morals AND a great story!

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Man, The Wild One is a weird one.  Marlon Brandon's accent vacillates between Southern, Italian, New Yahk and somewhere else and changes repeatedly, sometimes within a sentence.  The movie starts out as an indictment against vicious motorcycle gangs (Though this has to be the most lackluster 'vicious' gang ever, as all they do is drink, dance, hit on women, cause minor vehicular damage, and fight each other) but halfway through it's more like an indictment of smalltown mob mentality with Marlon Brando as the tragic antihero.  Anyways, it's mostly silly (Why does Lee Marvin's rival gang wear silly hats (One guy has ribbons on his hat!)?), over-the-top and nothing special.  Also, Marlon Brando is not very convincing as a biker, Lee Marvin comes along and out-menaces him in a very minor role.

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I WANT TO LIVE! (Robert Wise) -- setting aside the fact that as a factual true story it's all bullshit, this is a quality bit of noir with a commanding performance from Susan Hayward and some solid directing from one of Hollywood's most reliable hands in the 1950s. I actually thought it would be a bit campier, but nope.

 

A STAR IS BORN (George Cukor) -- personally I found the use of stills and outtakes a bit jarring even if they were necessary to piece back together the plot, and some of that stuff should have been cut in the scripting not on the editing floor. Still, what's left is a tour de force from Garland. The film seems to epitomise her. You've got the drugs, the weight issues, the illnesses real and imagined, all the warts there on the screen to go with the immense talent and idiosyncratic singing style. It was quite mesmerising at times. Mason plays second banana, but he's not a bad second banana. I usually hate Cukor films, but this time I didn't really notice I was watching one. This will be a contender for my ballot because of Garland.

 

THE PROWLER (Joseph Losey) -- takes a while to get going, but when it does it's as compelling a noir as any other from the decade and a nice twist on Double Indemnity. A really decent attempt at fleshing out the psychology behind the crime too. I fucking love Van Heflin. 

 

DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Laslo Benedek) -- filmed stage play, bladdy blah blah... I kind of thought Fredric March's performance in this was a bit dated or maybe it was just the way Benedek handled the hallucinations/flashback scenes. The climax was good, especially the confrontation between father and son, but otherwise this was very stagey. 

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A Night To Remember - Based on one of the first comprehensive books about the sinking of the Titanic, this movie is pretty damn awesome. Where as James Cameron's version become a wham bang disaster of epic proportions, this film is more like a creeping death. Once the iceberg hits, people are still relatively cool. But slowly you can start seeing people realize death is really out there and that this is going to get really ugly. The methodical nature makes this so much more engaging, and, morbidly, puts you in a place where you're wondering what you'd do in such a disaster before maybe coming to peace with your inevitable demise. 

 

I'm endlessly fascinated by the Titanic, because it was one of the biggest symbols of achievement for the Industrial Age. Man conquering Nature with will and ingenuity. And of course Nature scoffs and wrecks shit like the scornful bitch she is. Great great movie, highly recommend it.

 

Also, it doesn't count because it's 31 minutes, but Night and Fog is a movie that will affect you deep in the pit of your stomach, and if you can get ahold if it, I highly suggest it. Just horrific, I still can't understand how human beings did this to other people.

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Watched While the City Sleeps over the weekend.  It's an interesting mish-mash of police procedural and newspaper politics.  A dying media baron creates hype around a woman's murder, declaring a serial killer on the loose.  As his son (Vincent MF'in Price!) takes over the family business, he basically pits his three top guys: the newspaper editor (Thomas Mitchell, AKA Uncle Billy of 'It's A Wonderful Life'), the head of the wire service (George Saunders), and the TV guy and tells them that whoever breaks the identity of the serial killer will be given control of his empire.  The newspaper guy immediately enlists the baron's favourite guy, a TV newsman (Dana Andrews) to break it open, and he does, of course, while trying to win over good girl Nancy Liggett.  Also, there's Ida Lupino is the femme fatale, playing all the horny men against each other and the increasingly cocky and manic killer (Drew Barrymore's dad John Drew).  There's office politics, drunken escapades, a leering murderer, infidelity and a big chase scene that kind of feels like it comes out of nowhere.  Price is awesome in a non-horror role, and Andrews is pretty likable, and Lupino is sexy, but it's not an essential watch or anything.  For a 100+ minute flick, it sure feels like they wrapped it up rather quickly with no essential characters ever really in any danger.

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Asphalt Jungle(Huston, 1950)

So much good stuff. First half is heist, second half is the inevitable fuck up that comes with being a noir. Sterling Hayden plays the heavy which is a cool switch from his role in Kubrick's The Killing(WATCH THAT TOO), and the rest of the cast is pretty rad, forming a really memorable collection of characters that run the gamut of noir cliches. This of course includes an early appearance by Marilyn Monroe, playing the rich guy's mistress. 

 

What's really brilliant about this movie is the collision between sentimentality and the inky black fatalism of film noir. So many characters have this nostalgia that lead them a stray. Great movie, go watch it.

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On Dangerous Ground I LOVE Nicholas Ray movies!  They're so dark and moody and melodramatic and awesome.  This one starts off really good but veers away from that to really over-the-top (even for Ray!) sentimentality.  The first third or so is Robert Ryan as an intense city cop who is becoming increasingly reckless and vicious with his criminals.  There's an amazing scene where he pledges to get a confession and he does this little speech about "Why do you do this?  You know I'm going to make you talk!" and it's so frikkin' intense and king-sized that you just want an entire movie of Robert Ryan bashing in bad guy's skulls and blaming them for it (I'm thinking something like 'Drive' with Robert Ryan!).  But, his methods are too much and he is sent away up North to solve a murder in a rural area where he meets the father of the deceased girl (Ward Bond!) who is determined to catch the crook before the cop does ("It was my kid, so it's going to be my gun that gets him!") and they both end up meeting a blind woman (Ida Lupino) who lives alone and just might know where the criminal is.  Of course Ryan falls for Lupino and, of course she helps him find his humanity.  But, I really just wanted him to go back to the city and bash heads.  So, while I can't BLAME a movie for not doing what I want, I can't overly laud it for that either! 

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The World, The Flesh and the Devil: I came in a little late on this on, but caught most of the last 2/3s - 3/4s of it.  Harry Belafonte who believes he is the only survivor of a nuclear holocaust.  After a while, he meets Inger Stevens and the two become friends, though the prejudices of modern society occasionally shine through.  They then meet a third survivor (Mel Ferrer) who immediately has his eyes on Stevens.  Belafonte steps aside, at first, because, as a black man, he can't possibly have a relationship with a white woman, end of the world or not.  But gradually, he decides to not let her go.  A pretty damn groundbreaking film for its time, with its discussion of racial issues and portrayal by Belafonte.  Pretty good with some amazing imagery.

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The Bad Seed was pretty awesome even if the end is so Hollywood.  

Hollywood had an old rule that no one could be shown to profit from a crime, so the baddies always get their comeuppance.  From what I've heard/read, Rhoda lives in the play and book version, but the Hollywood version had to kill her off with a random lightning storm.  It would have been so much more awesome and evil if the wife thought she was out of the woods, only for Rhoda to show up in the doorway holding her killer shoes.

Patty McCormack plays the sickeningly sweet daughter Rhoda, who also just happens to be evil.  When a classmate of Rhoda dies under mysterious circumstances, her mother begins to suspect Rhoda might have had a hand in his death.  McCormack is AMAZING, flipping from false-sweetness to psychotic rage with a flip of the switch.  The mother's a little over-the-top, but this is totally worth it for McCormack.  I'm not even going to talk anymore about it

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BABY DOLL (Elia Kazan) -- not Tennessee Williams' best play and not Elia Kazan's best film. Eli Wallach steals the show with an almost Joe Pesci like performance as the Sicilian cotton farmer looking to get revenge on Karl Malden by seducing his teenage bride. Malden is pretty good as well, though after watching him play so many bit parts in the 50s it was kind of surreal to see him thrust into a lead role. It was literally like watching the saloon owner from a 50s western take centre stage all of a sudden.

 

LOLA MONTES (Max Ophuls) -- if we did stock picks on these sort of things, Ophuls stock would be going down for me. This was another case of style over substance and the funny thing is it didn't even look that good. I wasn't overly impressed by his use of colour and the set pieces in his earlier films were far better. Won't factor on my ballot.

 

EARLY SUMMER (Yasujiro Ozu) -- when I first watched this I thought it was one of Ozu's less interesting films having only just hit the high points of Late Spring and Tokyo Story, but this time it really hit home with me. I'm not sure I've ever liked Hara Setsuko more than I did here and he ending choked me up in the usual Ozu fashion. Wonderful film and surprising modern in terms of it's views on women and marriage. 

 

THE BROWNING VERSION (Anthony Asquith) -- brilliant film starring Michael Redgrave as a classics teacher at an English public school who comes to the slow realisation that he's failed as both a husband and teacher. Painfully emotional at times, the film also delivers a savage critique of the public school system and is deftly handled by Asquith who manages to transform it into more than just a filmed stage play. Redgrave is outstanding. The whole production is really. Exploring British film in the 50s would be a project unto itself, but there was a lot of high quality cinema being rolled out.

 

THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (Val Guest) -- really fun British sci-fi film that stands toe-to-toe with the best American stuff from the decade. The acting is crap, but the cinematography is beautiful. For comic book fans, it reminded me somewhat of Alan Moore's Miracleman without the dark 80s twists. A group of astronauts return from space with two dead and the other catatonic and a mystery unfolds over what was responsible. There's a great scene where they're looking at camera footage from the shuttle that's shot so beautifully. Great fun.

 

TIGER BAY (J. Lee Thompson) -- little Hayley Mills plays a tomboy who witnesses a murder then becomes friends with the killer in this interesting twist on the suspense thriller. Mills really was one of the best child actors of all-time and lights up the screen every time she has a big scene, and there's enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it interesting even though you know that the moral code of the 1950s will win out in the end, but the music... there's 50s films where the string sections swell with melodramatic fury and then there's this film. Boy do I never wanna hear strings again.

 

DEATH OF A CYCLIST (Juan Antonio Bardem) -- This is hailed as a social realist film, but it's surprising how much of it was like a cross between an Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery and a film noir romance. Really beautiful photography and some of the best jump cuts I can remember seeing, and Lucia Bose was drop dead gorgeous. The ending you could see a mile off, but there was plenty to see and do on the journey there. The only thing holding it back was that it wasn't particularly original even if the different threads were weaved together well. As a Franco critique, there's been plenty better, but I enjoyed this all the same.

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