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Nick Valdez likes chick flicks, kid flicks, dick flicks, and skin flicks. Also musicals (Glee!). One time, he wrote a 15 page thesis on the training montage's effect on the hero's journey in Rocky. His favorite film is Zoolander or Machete. If he could mix the two and create Zoochete, he would in a heartbeat. One day he wishes to travel across the United States "David Banner" style while dragging around a player piano or that orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose.
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Since these are only assorted musings without enough meat (or clean up) to warrant a full feature, I'll put them in a nice little c-blog. I figure this would be a nice way to start a conversation for those who've seen it. I'll try to avoid direct spoilers (as to how things are shown), but I'm going to allude to them if I remember having an issue with it.

-The original novel is full of terrible folks who do terrible things for terrible reasons. While that sort of comes through in Luhrmann's adaptation (as the bloated nature of the party scenes exemplify the characters' singular worldview), with greater focus on Nick (who's mainly relegated to third person narrator in the text for a reason) and Gatsby's relationship, some of the darker aspects of the text don't make it.

For one, Daisy isn't a bad person. She's only sort of selfish and indecisive. From what I understood from the text, you're supposed to feel pity toward Gatsby (and thus his "Great" title makes sense as he's the only character who thinks about something other than himself, even if it's selfish in a roundabout way) since he's done so much for a hollow shell of a person. Daisy isn't given enough time in the film that doesn't involve her on a pedestal of some sort.



-Luhrmann's style worked for me because it seems that he's found a better way to control the pompous nature of his films. When it's necessary he blows things out of proportion (like the car chase or the fantastic marriage of style and substance with Gatsby's initial reveal), but it's the smaller intimate moments that showed the most promise. When there was no backing track, and only fans blew in the wind (But one stylistic choice pushes it into the stupidly melodramatic. I won't say which one here, but I will hit that it involves Jack White's "Love Is Blindness.")

-There are occasional lapses in pace, but they don't last long. In fact, they help to promote the stagnancy of character development. You should feel like things are moving along "ceaselessly."

-Nick and Jordan's romance wasn't explored. While this isn't necessarily terrible as the film gets a pleasant homoerotic tinge, it relegates Jordan to the sidelines as much as it does Daisy. Female tend to have a rough time in this story in general, but it was never to this degree.

-The original text's racist overtones are handled splendidly in the film. Black actors and actresses are smoothly in the background (some even get to party), and Gastby has servers from different races.

-Baz Luhrmann listens to as much Pop music as I do. That "Crazy in Love" cover? HNGGGG

Hmm, I think that's it. There's one thing at the end to which irritated the begonias out of me for its "movie-ness," but I'll let it go for now.
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Seriously you guys, 2012 was awesome. There may have been a few duds, but overall it was nothing but the good stuff. Now you may or may not have read my list of the nine best hero films of last year, but as much as I enjoyed those films, there were a few standouts that go beyond the "hero" genre.

With that said, some of the items in this list may be repeats (with good reason), but when taking all of the films released last year into account, my favorite film was actually quite different. So, if you care to, read on for more.



5. ParaNorman

As I explained in the hero list, ParaNorman was a story about me. It took an awkward, misunderstood kid and made him a badass by the end of his story. What I forgot to mention was that Norman wasn't a badass in the conventional sense. He was victorious through his kindness rather than physical strength or skill. The awesome lesson of "be kind to others and be a true hero" is one that's rarely seen in this day and age. Also, it's totes stop motion animation, and Laika needs all the support they can get. THEY NEED TO MAKE MORE MOVIES.



4. Django Unchained

Django Unchained was f***ing brilliant. As you'll hear in the Flixist Movie Club, most of us loved the hell out of it. I for one loved the dance between subtly and exploitation. And the truly best films are the ones that stick with you weeks after you've seen it. Thinking back on it, I've discovered things that I didn't notice before. Like the juxtaposed opening and contrasting tones in scenes, to foreshadowing lines of dialogue, to little things in the directorial work which make the film substantially better. While it's not my favorite Tarantino film (that honor goes Jackie Brown), it's damn well one of my favorite films ever. It's cracked that top 10.



3. Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods both revitalized and recreated the horror genre. I've thought more about the effects and canon of this film within the genre than any other film. Because of its ties to horror culture, the very nature of the film can justify every super bad horror sequel. It explains why Jason attacks the same kind of folks in the same way thirteen times, it explains why awful reboots (I'm looking at you Elm Street) don't breathe new life into their franchises at all, and it took the boring, patiche nature of horror franchises and made them interesting again. It can all be attributed to the events of Cabin in the Woods. If the horror genre is responsible for Cabin in the Woods, Cabin in the Woods is therefore responsible for every film in the horror genre.



2. Sunny

While Sunny technically released in Korea two years ago, it didn't come to Netflix until last year (as Alec pointed out in his awesome list). That shouldn't matter since time is an illusion with Sunny. It is a beautiful, bittersweet, seemingly effortless film of seven young girls who vow to stay friends forever. From the seamless shifts between the past and the present, to the lack of evidence of a certain time period to make it seemingly timeless, to the wonderfully acted story of women that truly seemed to "click" with one another. None of Sunny seems fake, and none of it seems tied down. Save for a few story flaws, it's damn near perfect.



1. End of Watch

David Ayer is one of my favorite writers. I friggin' loved Training Day, and I was instantly interested the second I heard about End of Watch. Ayer excels at smaller character moments between loud explosive scenes, and I wanted to see him tackle to cops in Los Angeles. And I was right. While the found footage aspects were lacking in some areas, the genre itself allows for quieter moments that would normally break the pace of other types of films. Somehow the film avoids glorifying the crime world (as most Police films do) and focuses on the main relationship between Taylor and Zavala. They don't go looking for trouble, they just unfortunately find it. After End of Watch released, I didn't hear much buzz about it from people. I hope it wasn't ignored. When it releases on DVD in a couple of weeks from now, you owe it to yourself to give it watch. It's a story that finely balances intimacy, heart wrenching sorrow, action, and even a little bit of bittersweet comedy.

And for all of that, End of Watch is my favorite film of 2012.










[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Hello every/no one! Welcome to the first week of Twi-July! As a refresher, for the month of July, I will examine the four Twilight films because I have too much free time.

When I first started watching Twilight, I realized that the core of the film is basically Disney's version of Beauty and the Beast for the angsty generation (kind of nullifies that other one). There's a young woman who is separated from her family and eventually becomes enthralled with a monster who cannot really love her back since he's too different.

The difference here is that vampires like totally exist and the beast only abuses her because her loves her too much.

Is Twilight just Disney's Beauty and the Beast remade for Generation Angst? Am I Team Edward or Team Jacob? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.



Twilight is the story of Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart) as she moves to a small (apparently very cold) town to live with her father. She meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and instantly falls head over heals for him when he reveals he is a vampire that has to force himself away from her because he loves her so much. Bella then gets caught up in some deadly family business.

Twilight is a surprisingly hard film to judge as a "chick flick". It follows the rules well enough. Bella is a literal and figurative outsider as she moves to a new town and keeps herself at a distance from the other, oddly super friendly, students at her school. Edward is introduced into her life and she becomes the literal center of her world as other vamps fight over her apparent super tasty blood. There's also very sparkly man candy. That's always a plus.

There is a lot to like about this film despite some major glowing faults. The film has a very "quirky" tone. In the film's small town setting, there a wonderful sense of disconnect from time. It negatively effects believability when I'm not sure how much romantic investment each character has placed in their relationship over time. The small town setting also brings a Cheers vibe, where everyone knows Bella's name, which is at first off-putting but ultimately successful. Also I love one stunningly obtuse scene in the film, where the Cullens play vampire baseball, for its outlandish shift in tone from the rest of the dreary film. It's so damn wacky that it's hard not to crack a smile.

Because Bella's a teenager, I can force myself to accept her questionable logic at times where she needlessly puts herself in danger for some dude. I've learned from analyzing Mean Girls that teenagers act pretty dumb sometimes. All character interaction feels like quick passionate flings that seem to throw caution into the wind which is proper for a traditional "high school teenager" relationship. If Twilight was going for an underlying tone of unintentional hilarity and dumb teenagers, then the film does a good job.



Now for the problems. Bella is a weird, slightly unlikeable person. She's standoffish to her father and the people around her, and when others try to approach her she willingly ignores them while she remains "irrevocably" infatuated with an animalistic ideal. Normally in the "chick flick" genre, the main female lead has qualities that make her an outsider but her positive attitude and other good qualities makes the audience root for her. Bella has none of these. Ultimately, her nature made me question why Edward has a fascination beyond her smellin' reeeeeal good.

Edward is also problematic as the main male lead. Twilight tweaks the male influence in the genre to an extreme degree. Edward constantly refers to himself as an "animal" or "predator". He warns Bella of how dangerous he is, but he backhandedly lures her further in as well. Throughout the film, there is a power play between the two leads that ends in Edward's victory. Bella may be unlikeable, but in the beginning of the film, she had some inner strength as a female character. She seems capable of making her own decisions, like choosing to live with her father instead of her mother, and at one point gives advice to one of her "friends" and calls her a "strong, independent woman". Unfortunately she throws that away, as well as her father figure, in favor of infatuation as Edward becomes the new center of her life. She's literally nothing but a sensual snack for him.

At times, Twilight is self aware of the abusive angle Edward and Bella's relationship takes. Edward mentions his vampire abilities allow him to seduce and consume his prey, so it calls into question every interaction he has with Bella. How much of their relationship is real? How much is Edward "playing with his food"? Edward carries far too much power between the two of them as the film notes how much stronger he is than her. Bella is reduced to this fragile object in need of protecting that cannot control her own emotions while Edward has the apparent self control to remain chaste and not consume her completely.



Bella and Edward's relationship has regrettably abusive undertones. Edward throws Bella around, he tells her what to think and how to act, and always reminds her of how strong he is. But at the same time, he "cannot leave her side" as he's afraid he's going to her hurt her. This comes to a head during the final scenes of the film. When Bella is in the hospital, and you remove all background information and just keep the dialogue and environment, Edward states that he put her there and needs to leave before he puts her there again. It's alarming when she begs him to stay.

I want to discuss the film a bit more, but I feel that the other three (released) films in the saga will allow me to eventually dissect every facet of Edward and Bella's relationship. As a standalone film in the "chick flick" genre though, Twilight centers around a beastly abusive relationship that sends unfortunate messages to the pale Generation Angst with a woman who gives up her life for some dude who just thinks of her as prey.

Eeeh...yup.

Next time (now on Thursdays!), Chick Flix Club is in the second week of Twi-July!

Next Time (July 12): New Moon

Last Time (June 20): 50 First Dates

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!
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Have you seen Idiocracy? If you haven't, you really should. There's a scene in it where a few cops blow up a police car resulting in a huge crowd of "brosephs" celebrating around it. Suffice to say, every summer, the same thing happens to my brain. I'm not entirely sure what causes my brain to operate less efficiently, but I think I've narrowed down the reason (you know, other than that other one): explosions.

There's something special about this subtle, yet gloriously hyperbolic cue that tells me it is okay to stop thinking. When a film features an explosion or two, that's when I know I shouldn't point out plot holes, character logic, or basic screenplay writing ethic. I should just recklessly cheer when I see stuff 'sploded up and what not.

Well...I'm not sure if I want to do that anymore. I don't feel like I celebrate destruction as much as I used to. The whole scene just seems blasé at this point.

What the hell is happening to me?



Let me start at the beginning. A couple of years back, a friend and I chose chose to view every film released during the summer (starting with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) for no real apparent reason. It was fine at first. Each week's release had enough diversity to keep the whole shebang from getting stale. For example, one weekend we saw Get Him to the Greek with The A-Team the weekend after. While each film had their lacking moments, neither was exactly the same. There wasn't an over-indulgence of 'spolsions.

Summer 2010 was just fine, so my friend and I kept the tradition going for 2011. Through the superheroic adaptations, I began to notice a pattern with each film. In fact, I expected each one to play out in specific way. Each of the significant films that summer (other than a very special few) made a special point to include destructive set pieces and hyper-realities instead of well thought out plots and character development.

Now, do I necessarily need every film to rattle my brain organ? Absolutely not. Popcorn fodder does have a special place in my heart but I'm tired of expecting that fodder. I want to be challenged, entertained, while being allowed to think. 'Splosions have become too easy to rely on. They have become a crutch that allows films to coast through on the same Point A to Point B plots. Want to challenge conventions? No? Then produce a 'splosion!

This year the 'splosion mentality is getting worse. Take a look at the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.



Notice how the trailer adds 'splosions? I mean a tree literally 'splodes when he strikes it with an axe! Alternative reality historical fiction (that's a mouthful) should create an awesome enough premise without over-reaching for entertainment value. Granted I have never read the actual text, but I would assume having Lincoln as a central character could draw all sorts of awesome civil rights and humanities parallels which would force the general audience to reconsider how they view the subjects themselves. Adding 'splosions (and general lazy plot Summer mentality) just seems to ruin the premise's potential because I know I should shut off my brain for it and shouldn't expect deeper meaning from the material.

All that recent hooplah from Ridley Scott's Prometheus? I would argue that the backlash was a result of the film releasing during the wrong season. Prometheus is a thinker's film for the first two acts. Going into mild spoiler territory, there is a 'splosion that cements the Summer mentality within the final act. It sends the wrong message as it basically implies, "Alright, time to forget about logic now" which undermines the very atmosphere the film worked so hard to create. As an audience, we weren't entirely sure how to approach it. The 'splosion cue told us to stop thinking while the rest of the film wanted to promote philosophical conversation.

'Splosions have been relied on so much that they have become outright lies. Lies causing some truly great gems to fall by the wayside.



Through my many misadventures at the Summer theater, I realized the films I enjoyed the most were ones that broke away from the formulaic nature of the season. Unfortunately, most of the time, these hidden gems are skipped in favor of a 'splosion flick (Did you see Winnie the Pooh last Summer?). This year, the films I look forward to the most showcase the most uniqueness, like Paranorman and Brave. The trailers hint at the cinematic soul that 'splosions and the Summer mentality tend to take away. I expect Brave to do extremely well, but for a poor Coraline-esque film like Paranorman? Poor thing doesn't stand a chance in hell.

Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with me. It's not that I'm desensitized to destruction or tired of context appropriate explosion action, but the "awesome lobe" of my brain doesn't fire on all cylinders during the Summer anymore. I liked The Avengers, but just not as much as the ten year old me would have. Even the posters and trailers for The Dark Knight Rises don't have the same effect as Dark Knight's advertising did. Expendables 2? I should have had a heart attack with all of those explosions and action icons!

Wait a minute...I just figured out what's wrong with me. I'm not tired of the lazy Summer mentality. I'm tired of watching the same damn thing over and over again. Please, no more sequels. In fact, take some of the mentions of "splosions" in this article and replace it with the word "sequel" and the whole thing makes much more sense.

Why don't I like sameness anymore? Because I love movies.
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[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Like The Wedding Singer before it, 50 First Dates is a romantic comedy with "Sandler quirk". Also like Singer, 50 First Dates has a lot of the same problems since it reverses the conventional gender roles of the "chick flick" genre. Fortunately, this film has a lot more positive than negative.

I'm just not sure how much more "Sandler quirk" I can take.

What are the positives and negatives? Why do I crave pineapples? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

As always, spoilers ahoy hoy.



Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a womanizer who preys on tourists of his hometown in Hawaii. That suddenly changes when he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and falls in "like" with her. Trouble is, Lucy lacks the ability to convert short term memory to long term memory, so her new experiences are wiped clean every time she sleeps. Henry has to find a way to approach Lucy and get her to go out with him each and everyday.

In the last segment, I discussed why I thought Sandler might have been a good character actor as long as the character was well thought out. I mean does the character have a personality beyond raging weirdo? In this department, 50 succeeds. Although I may not personally like Henry, he seems well established and goes through a fine enough evolution through the film. He starts off as a womanizer who uses the same tricks (as established during the cavalcade of women in the intro), but realizes that he needs to change in order to impress a woman with actual substance.

That brings me to Lucy. At first I thought she would go the same route as Julia in Singer, but as the film went on, she proved to have character definition beyond her one-dimensional seeming illness. I was honestly ready to not like her as much as I did. Oddly enough, I believe her illness of forgetting new information overnight actually strengthens her character. Every time she "reboots" there is a new aspect of Lucy's personality. When Henry tries his original cheap tricks on her, they work one day but he hilariously strikes out on the next several occasions. Her "reboots" force Henry to grow in order to accommodate her ever changing personality. Because of the constant changes, their eventual coupling seems well earned.

The world built around the two leads is also pretty well realized. There are enough characters supporting Lucy which gives it a "small town" vibe, but there are hints of a greater world around them. Nick (Pomaika'i Brown) steals every scene he's in as a wise cracking chef, Sue (Amy Hill) replaces the absent mother figure well enough, Dan Aykroyd makes an awesome cameo, and Rob Schneider as Ula sort of steals the show. Ula is a stereotypical pot smokin' islander, but he is just "Sandler quirky" enough to be entertaining without becoming annoying what with his "ugly" wife, shark bites, and ton of kids.



Now to explain what I don't like about 50 First Dates. As much as I praised the films intelligent use of Lucy's illness, I do not like how the film is ultimately resolved through videotapes. Lucy's plight is understandably rough, and I believe the film underplays that fact. Henry eventually devises a way to break the news of Lucy's accident in the form of a videotape that she needs to watch every morning. Admittedly, it's not exactly gentle but it seems slightly insensitive from someone who isn't an immediate family member. It's just weird Lucy's father would go through the effort of re-creating the events of the day of her accident but not just straight out tell her. I do realize, realistically, how hard it must have been for Lucy's father to come to his decision to lie to his daughter but the film never truly explores these issues.

Her illness is only taken seriously during a few key moments, but that's negated by the film's ending. Lucy eventually remembers Henry (after she erases him from her memories in a non-convoluted way) through a gut feeling and dreams which seem to defy all reason in order to satisfy the viewer. It's a cop out. I'm not even going to mention the ethical implications of impregnating a woman with no real short term memory and taking her to Alaska. Since Lucy becomes a subordinate character, the film follows Henry as he tries to win her over and it becomes a comedy. I don't (usually anyway) like to harp on a film because of lost potential, but that's exactly what I'm doing here.

Finally, the "Sandler quirk" is far too overbearing in this film. There's a manwoman, walrus vomit, several mentions of nocturnal emissions and walrus genitalia, and it all just wore me down.



All in all, this film does have more positive than negative (about 60/40 to be precise). I like that reversing the gender roles in the genre doesn't result in a complete personality void of a female lead, but I don't like the overbearing "Sandler quirk".

I just I'm just tired of using the phrase "Sandler quirk". Too hard to write.

Next month is special! I'll be plowing through the four Twilight films each Wednesday since I like totally just finished reading/watching them. Look forward to it?

Next Time (July 4): Twilight

Last Time (June 7): The Wedding Singer

Questions, suggestions or comments? Drop me a line below!
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[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Before Adam Sandler began his onslaught of lackluster comedies (Grown Ups and You Don't Mess With the Zohan), he was involved in a short streak of "chick flick" films (like Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, and Click) which started with 1998's The Wedding Singer.

Even with Sandler's trademark "quirk," this film manages to tell an interesting (albeit not that compelling) romantic story with characters that seem more human than in most of Sandler's other romantic comedies. Although each character's personality is slightly exaggerated, there is a redeemable core that ultimately makes the experience.

Why are the characters more "human" than Sandler's other "chick flicks"? Does reversing the sex of the lead character change the properties of the genre? Does any of that matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.



Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is a wedding singer who is left at the alter and Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) is a waitress who is engaged to a pompous playboy, Glenn (Matthew Glave). Through the course of some wacky adventures, they find out that they are in a relationship with the wrong person and Julia and Robbie actually like one another.

The Wedding Singer reminds me of a time I thought Sandler had potential as an actor. Robbie is pretty well characterized, at least compared to his previous extreme portrayals. Robbie's broken relationship causes him to go through an emotionally believable arc as he goes from confident to unstable. Most importantly, Robbie is believably human. In Happy Gilmore, Sandler plays a man-child with anger issues who happens to be extremely proficient in swinging a club or stick. In Billy Madison, he's a man-child who needs to go to elementary school. In Wedding Singer, he plays a wedding singer. You see where I'm going with this? He's not an overt man-child.

Since this film is full of Sandler's trademark "quirk," there are also numerous one-liners and cameos that are more hit than miss.The film's ancillary characters take the film's 80's aesthetic and mirror famous individuals of the time. Glenn (Julia's fiance) is dressed as Don Johnson in Miami Vice, George (Robbie's backup singer) is basically Boy George, and countless others. Even if I didn't live in the 80's, the references still made me chuckle a bit. Sandler also tends to force singing into each of his films, and this is one of the few occasions where it is appropriate. In fact, when his singing is played for comedic value (he sings a bipolar song about his ex-girlfriend) it makes sense instead of feeling out of place and awkward.



Above: Jon Lovitz makes a hilariously creepy cameo.

With a male character in the lead role of the film, the rules of the "chick flick" genre are subverted but practically work in the same manner. Instead of a man entering a outsider type woman's life, it is a woman entering a outsider type man's life. Robbie is an outsider: he's orphaned, he desperately wants to get married, and he is a failed rock musician. My main problem with the film is that even if the sexes are reversed, the power between the two does not shift. In the genre, the mysterious stranger is supposed to change the life of the lead as the stranger shows the lead a different perspective. In Singer, the lead changes the life of a random subordinate character.

Drew Barrymore's Julia, is a genre lead trapped in an Adam Sandler film. Conventionally, Julia's situation is made for a certain women's network film. She's engaged to a man who is cheating on her and is just going through the motions in her life. But she is relegated to a subordinate role as she is mainly there to react to Robbie's shenanigans. She doesn't showcase too much strength as a character, but there are moments where she is a free thinker. She is a kind person, but that is pretty much her only quality. Robbie seduces her to a slight extent and eventually wins her favor. When he eventually relates his feelings toward her, there is a cute moment between the two that feels earned despite the awkward notions of power between the two.

My biggest problem with the film is the ending. I really dislike when a "chick flick" ends in a marriage because of the negative way it affects most stories of the genre. In film centered around weddings, Robbie and Julia's wedding at the end was rushed. Granted I am unaware of the amount of time passed between the final two scenes of the film (from the plane ride to the their wedding), so I can only assume their wedding was just there to keep with the overall theme of the film. Both of these characters just got out of harsh relationships to be with another character which means that they are "rebounding" from their previous relationship. With that in mind, their marriage becomes a wrongly made snap judgment.



All in all, I still enjoyed The Wedding Singer very much. The Sandler "quirk" eventually won me over because it was not very overbearing, the ancillary characters and cameos were hilarious, and it did tweak the genre formula enough to keep it fresh and distinct.

Arguably, The Wedding Singer may not be a "chick flick" film by definition, but next time, Sandler reunites with Barrymore for another succesful crack at the genre with a more traditional template...

Next Time (Jun. 21): 50 First Dates

Last Time (May 23): To Wong Foo

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Drop me a line below!

EDIT: Sorry for the delay!
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