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Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Viggo Mortensen is Fantastic in “Captain Fantastic”

captain-fantastic-1As the votes become due for the Oscar Nominations and the voting officially closed Friday, the 13th, the one name that kept appearing on lists of the Top Five Best Actor predictions was unexpectedly Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen. Then he got nominated for the SAG Best Actor and his film “Captain Fantastic” became unexpectedly nominated for Best Ensemble. Which is the SAG equivalent of best film. For Best Actor he knocked out(probably) Tom Hanks in “Sully” and in Ensemble it replaced shockingly “La La Land.”

Yes, juggernaut “La La Land” did not make the cut with SAG, but “Captain Fantastic” astoundingly did. So I had to check it out. Better late than never. I do admit I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch it, but guess what? I totally loved it! And Viggo is at a career-high with this VERY atypical role.

He plays a man who has retreated totally from society as we know it, with his six underage children and lives in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in and around a battered green bus. Very hippy dippy. Yeah, that’s what I thought before I gave it a chance and it turns out the film is very sweet and Viggo is as warm as a roaring fireplace (that’s refreshing in this chilly, dour year)and it’s all about fatherhood.captain-fantastic-2

This is a side we’ve never seen of Viggo before, his sweetness. And he’s got a lot to share. He excels in the scenes with his children, who are totally dependent on him, yet he wants them to be as independent and anti-social as he is.

Known primarily as a swash-buckler, swaggering his way through centuries, his trademark role is probably Aragorn, the heroic knight of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is arguably one of the prime reasons for its’ success as a series of well, swash-buckling epics. He’s every Hobbits best friend.

He can go to the Dark Side,  too, as we saw in his Russian gangster, with perfect Russian accent, and multiple tattoos in David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.” His nude fight in a British sauna with thugs who are trying to kill him has been described by the late Roger Ebert as “a benchmark.”

For those who MUST know, he’s also totally nude, briefly, in this film, too. His line is “It’s just a penis.” Every time he takes off all his clothes, it seems he gets Oscar consideration.

But he does more than just strip in “Captain Fantastic.” He lets his soft side show and is just the most admirable pater familias possible. To see the tough-as-nails Mortensen, drop the sword play and guns and,  replace them with hugs and concerned tears, is just, well, kind of Fantastic, as the title says. He does live up to his name.

To say that it’s a change of pace roll in Mortensen’s career is an understatement. It’s more like a total earthquake-like revelation.captain-fantastic-3And he’s surrounded, SAG is right, by an admirable ensemble. Notably the towering rage of Frank Langella as his straight-arrow father-in-law, and nobody less than the redoubtable Anne Dowd as his ultra-maternal mother-in-law. In a few brief scenes that she has the magnificent Dowd shows that there is indeed love to be found in this strangest of family situations.captain-fantastic-4

George MacKay as Bo and Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian, his two oldest sons also stand up to him and challenge him in ways that no ordinary children would. But Captain Fantastic has fashioned nothing that is ordinary. Everything is original and also deeply touching. This is a sweet-natured gem of a film and I’m glad it’s getting the awards attention it deserves.

If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to grow up in a commune, “Captain Fantastic” answers all those complicated life questions. And there are no simple answers.

#Captain Fantastic

# Viggo Mortensen

#fatherhood

# SAG Ensemble Award Nominee

#SAG Best Actor Nominee

# Oscar Nominee

#Eastern Promises

#Male Nude Fight Scene

 

 

 

 

 

Can Meryl Parlay Her Golden Globes Speech Into Oscar #4?

meryl-streep-oscarHer Unforgettable Speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday was fiery, brilliant And she reminded us all that she is the greatest there ever was and certainly deserved her Lifetime Achievement Award. I certainly agreed with every word she said, but was she doing something more? Was she going for the Gold? Was she consciously or unconsciously trying to secure her Oscar Number Four? This time it would be for “Florence Foster Jenkins” which she is currently nominated for both SAG and BAFTA?

It could happen.

She effectively upstaged every one and everything that night at the Globes and ended up on the front page of every newspaper and magazine world-wide, looking like she had just one something BIG. Like an Oscar. The nominations are going to be announced on Tuesday morning, Jan. 24, albeit in a new format. They are going to be  shown as a live feed to all and sundry, not a live announcement in front of an audience of press at 5am PST as always before. So it can be shown as part of GMAmerica. We’ll see how this gambit works out.

But Meryl will be nominated again, you can take it to the bank, for her astonishing star turn as the worst opera singer who ever lived Florence Foster Jenkins in the hilarious, touching movie of the same name.florence-foster-jenkins-2-jpg

And in a tumultuous year where she was one of the bravest possible making the political statement that she did, SAG may decide to reward her courage first, when it holds its’ ceremony this week. And that may set the stage for her to win her fourth Oscar, too, tying her with all time winner Katherine Hepburn. Although Young Emma Stone seems a slam dunk at SAG. Best Actress is the only place SAG members can vote for the” La La Land” juggernaut.

The 67 year young veteran has some stiff competition this year.Perhaps her stiffest ever, as she is looking at her 20the Oscar Nomination! 20th! That’s already a record breaking honor.meryl-streep-2

The Best Actress race is the tightest in Oscar history. We have front-runner and Golden Globe winner Emma Stone, closely followed by BFCA winner Natalie Portman as Jackie, and now French icon Isabel Huppert, who just won ANOTHER Best Actress trophy at the Palm Springs Film Festival for the French language film “Elle.” Huppert also just won the New York AND LA film critics, so she’s on a major role. Meryl could upstage them all. Once Again. The power and anger and eloquence behind her Globes speech is something SAG, then the Academy might want repeated on their stages, too. It made headlines.

Supposedly going to be the lowest rated Oscar broadcast in years, industry voters may just want La Streep to put it back on top. and needless to say, her Florence was a fine, fine award-caliber performance. She’s got stiff competition with Stone and Portman and Huppert, but they’ve got stiff competition, too. And with Taraji P. Henson’s “Hidden Figures” suddenly trouncing “Star War: Rogue Nation” at the box-office this MLK long weekend. It’s going to be quite a jam-packed category. Stay tuned.florence-foster-jenkins-3#Meryl Streep

#Oscar Number Four

#Florence Foster Jenkins

#Meryl Streep

#Hugh Grant

#Best Actress Oscar

#Acceptance Speech at Golden Globes

#Golden Globes

#Natalie Portman

#Emma Stone

#Isabelle Huppert

#La La Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Gosling Wins Best Actor/Musical Comedy for “La La Land”!!!!

la-la-land-6ryan-gosling-1Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor Musical/Comedy for “La La Land”!!! As Expected. He wore a white tux. Very dignified speech, thanking his wife. And now “La La Land” wins Best Screenplay!!! Whoa! Damien Chazelle wins this instead of Best Director probably. That makes FOUR Golden Gloves, as Sophia Vigara called them. Chazelle looks very, very young. To young almost to have done this. Very thin and  very nervous. Seems genuinely astonished to have won Best Screenplay.

 

Debbie Reynolds Dies One Day After Carrie Fisher “Brights Lights” both

carroe-fisher-debbie-reynolds

Hollywood’s heart is surely broken forever with the devastating news of Legend Debbie Reynolds death the day after her beloved daughter Carrie Fisher’s death. I’m sad. I’m reeling. I just saw them featured quite marvelously in “Bright Lights” a doc on their tangled lives at the NYFF. And the thing that struck me so much about “Bright Lights” by Fisher Stevens, was how much they loved each other. How much fun they had and what a joy and a treat this documentary was.

It’s supposed to air on HBO, now probably sooner rather than later, but don’t miss it. It now has an air of tragedy hanging about it, that both Fisher and Reynolds dispel completely by their constantly being “On.” And entertaining us mightily and forever. It’s a fitting tribute to them, as they always say.

And they don’t hold back. It’s like they just couldn’t. But they loved each other and clearly couldn’t live without each other as events have sadly born out.

When I heard Carrie had died, I just KNEW in my heart that her death would kill Debbie, too, and it did. Their houses adjoined each other more or less “up a steep hill” as Carrie put it in Hollywood. They collected endless memorabilia from the Golden Days, and now Debbie herself, one of the biggest symbols of Hollywood’s hey day that there ever was is gone.

I can scarcely stand it. Debbie Reynolds played such a large role in my life, always the smiling, dancing teenager from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tammy” that song that never leaves your mind. And she was even nominated for an Oscar once for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Carrie had “Star Wars” a bigger hit financially than any of her mother’s films ever were. And her now iconic Princess Leia never really bowled me over. But her millions of fans disagree.

I loved her acerbic wit, which the film “Bright Lights” capitalizes on by starting with Carrie calling Debbie “tsu-Mommy,” but not to her face. When she enters the room with Debbie in it, it’s always “Mommy.” And the sweetness is not faked for the cameras.

With all her addictions and bipolar disorders, I always thought of Carrie as crashingly normal despite her upbringing and her surroundings. And so did she.

Debbie once said of Carrie “She’s genuine.” And she was. They both were.

We, the fans, are with them forever and are happy that they are together again in Hollywood Heaven. And we do have this great upcoming doc “Bright Lights” to watch over and over again as soon as it starts airing.

No Mommie Dearest relationship here. They truly loved each other. Don’t miss “Bright Lights.” Their bright lights will never go out.

#Debbie Reynolds Death

# Bright Lights doc

# Carrie Fisher Death

La La Land Most Golden Globe Noms Seven!

la-la-land-8The Nomination announcement of the Golden Globe Awards always seems to me to be more important to The Race than the actual awards presentation themselves. THIS is the day when all the barriers are broken and all the gloves come off and the speculation just HAS to stop. Because well, we’re faced~ AT LAST~ with the actual participants in this Oscar saga. Or Awards saga, or what have you. NOW we know. With a historic SEVEN nominations for “La La Land” it is what has been rumored all along and I heartily concur, a great big fat solid award-winning hit!golden-globe-1

I loved it as I said the day before yesterday and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves it, too. And I’m so glad they did.

Sure, I feel sorry for the runner-up, the VERY deserving beautiful “Manchester by the Sea.” Of course, there’s a bias there, too. I love New England. Manchester by the Sea seems like a Cape Cod town not unlike Provincetown, with all the gay people removed. And in winter.

And yes, if that sounds depressing, it is. But it’s WONDERFULLY depressing. It’s THAT good a film. It may even be a great one, a classic. It’s GOOD depressing. It makes you think. It’s screenplay and director, both the great Kenneth Lonergan got nominated, and that’s very important.manchwarwe-by-the-sea-6

And it got nominated for Best Actor Casey Affleck, yes, him again. And Best Supporting Actress Michelle Williams, who will sadly lose in that category, if Viola Davis stays in that category.manchester-by-the-sea

Everything seems set in stone(though it’s not) once the Golden Globe nods are announced. THESE are the contenders, the people all the Oscarologists and Oscar strategists will have to bob and weave around. Yes, and SAG, too.

The Broadcast Film Critics moved their CEREMONY to last night and no one even knew it was on! So even though there was the strange upset of Emma Stone for Best Actress by Natalie Portman’s “Jackie,” it barely registered with the general public, which in this case means the Academy voters.jackie-tourBut it WAS noticeable because it was the only upset.

It will register with them the way that Isabelle Huppert’s three wins for Best Actress from the New York Film Critics, the LA Critics and the National Board of Review. As hardly a blip on the radar.

This season is going to now be all about “La La Land”s winning everything and whether or not that means Emma Stone loses to Natalie Portman. Emma will, of course, win in Best Actress Comedy or Musical and Portman will win in Best Actress Drama. Then what happens at the Oscars is anyone’s guess.

I know you’re all dying to know who actually WAS nominated for Best Actress, Drama, well, besides Portman it was Huppert, Amy Adams for “Arrival”, Jessica Chastain for “Miss Sloane” and the wonderful Ruth Negga for “Loving.” But the battle royal is shaping up between Emma Stone and Portman.

“Jackie” a film I loved personally and thought “How could the Academy deny this films’ greatness?” got only Portman as a main nominee. No screenplay. No director. No Best Picture. It WILL do much better at the Oscars. But compare the Golden Globe nods. “La La Land”s 7 to “Jackie”s 1.

Then of course, there’s the always unpredictable Supporting categories that suddenly seem to be the most predictable of all. Mahershala Ali wins for “Moonlight” and Viola Davis for “Fences.”

There was a serious lack of support for “Fences” too. Like “Jackie” it was surprisingly snubbed for Best Picture Drama, Best Director Denzel and Best Screenplay (by the late August Wilson). However, yes, Denzel did get ANOTHER Best Actor nod. But he and Viola were the only two from “Fences” which shocked me.

That will change come the Oscars, too. But it doesn’t have the myriad possibilities of nominations in the below-the-line categories that “La La Land” and also, unbelievably “Jackie” does.

And then what if the Academy decides, as it did so recently with Kate Winslet, to put Viola Davis not in Supporting, but lead for “Fences”?!?!? And why do I think they may just do that and who would get bumped out?fences-1

Taraji B. Henson already saw all the air go out of her tires this morning and only Octavia Spencer from “Hidden Figures” got in.

And it seems pre-ordained now that Mahersala and Viola will just march in lock step to the Oscars and Supporting duo winners(not from the same film) seem to keep doing. As recently as Lupita Nyongo and Jared Leto only three years ago,

If Viola had to break up the Natalie v. Emma log jam, I think she would win. Then Michelle Williams would win in Supporting for HER incredible performance in “Manchester by the Sea.”

We shall see…

For a list of the complete Golden Globe nominees go of course to http://www.awardsdaily.com

“La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.

Hard.la-la-land-2

Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

“La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

“La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

“La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

Josh Groban Makes Musical Theater History on Bway in Spectactular “Natasha, Pierre…”

Can you believe that schlump is  handsome rock star Josh Groban???

natasha-pierre-1How to describe what is certainly one of the best musical theater experiences I’ll ever have in my life? There are no words. Only superlatives, and they can’t even begin to do justice to the transformative, shocking, heart-breaking, bravura performance Josh Groban gives in the pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comic of 1812” now on Broadway at the Imperial Theater. Former home to “Les Miserables” which ran there for decades and I’m predicting this will, too.

And win Josh Groban Best Actor in a Musical and every other Tony in the book. Move over “Hamilton” there’s a new masterpiece in town! (And it’s right next door to “Hamilton” too!)”Natasha, Pierre…” is a tiny sliver of Leo Tolstoy’s 1000 page epic Russian novel “War and Peace” and is as unlikely a musical comedy blockbuster as “Hamilton.” The War that’s “breaking out somewhere out there” is the Napoleonic War against Russia. But in Moscow, the decadent aristocracy is partying like it’s 2016.

They sing “Chandeliers and caviar! The war can’t touch us here!” But of course, it is, led by Napoleon. And  as it gets closer and closer the  aristocrats & the party crowd are becoming more and more frantic.

 

natasha-pierre-5Those who’ve been following the career of pop star Josh Groban will be stunned by the absolute 360 he’s done with “Natasha, Pierre…” which is as innovative and spectacular a musical, and risky, too, as the astounding performance Groban gives in it. You see, “Natasha, Pierre…” is not your ordinary musical comedy. It’s hardly a comedy at all, though you do feel like you’ve been in the midst of a drunken Russian party that turned into a wild, thumping troika ride.

As a handsome young man, who is now unbelievably only 35, one did wonder what Groban, a brilliant musician, lyricist and composer as well as a platinum selling recording artist with four world tours and seven albums under his belt, and millions of fans to boot. Sexy, and angelic at the same time, one wondered what he was going to do when his teenaged good looks and youth appeal began to wear off. Not that it has, but Groban was open-minded and daring enough to take on the completely incongruous and daunting role of Pierre Bezukov, Tolstoy’s depressive, over-weight, bespectacled alter-ego in “War and Peace.” It’s proving to be the role of his career.natasha-pierre-4

At first entrance, on to the stage, flanked by a blinding bank of rock star lighting (by Mimi Lien, whose contribution  is inestimable) Groban enters as Pierre with an accordion, then makes his way almost lumbering to center stage, down several stair cases (director Rachel Chavkin has carved up the Imperial into a brand-new, almost intimate cabaret-like space and puts the audience onstage, too!) and you think that middle-aged, almost-fat man CAN’T be Josh Groban, but it is! josh-groban

Heavily bearded with long-grown out, almost greasy, dark, curly locks, he looks nothing like any iteration we’ve seen of Josh Groban  before. He’s almost unrecognizable!  He’s totally transmogrified himself into this hulking Russian bear of a character, but that’s exactly what Tolstoy wrote his hero as. He’s the symbol of pre-Napoleonic Russian aristocracy.

He’s depressive. He’s unattractive and he drinks and drinks and drinks.

“I drink and read and drink and read and drink,” he sings in a confused clarion of voice that is less than happy about this inactive plight.

He’s married to a completely inappropriate wife, the witchily attractive Helene, who is referred to in the opening number simply as “Helene’s a slut.” Amber Gray plays Helene with exactly the right blend of nastiness, sexuality and charm. as she sashays  her way through the night seductively telling our heroine, the virginal Natasha (Denee Benton) that she is “Charmante, Charmante.”amber-greyHer brother, who turns out to be a dastard of the first water, Anatole, is portrayed with a devil-ish  blend of blond good looks, rock star pompadour hair, and VERY tight military pants by Lucas Steele. “Anatole’s hot” the opening chorus sings. And who are we to disagree?natasha-pierre-2He’s out to elope, or basically kidnap, Natasha. He’s already married and clearly an irresistible and untrustworthy slime-ball. Anatole’s seduction of Natasha, who thinks he’s going to marry her, forms the plot that is as wildly complicated as the novel itself. But don’t be scared of Tolstoy. You can follow him.natasha-pierre-6

 

Dave Malloy, who I saw play Pierre originally three years ago, wrote the music, lyrics and adaptation. It is all sung-through, so yes, it is indeed an opera, but it’s only a tiny sliver of Tolstoy. Volume 2, Part 5, to be exact. I saw it first in a circus tent in the Meat Packing District of the West Village, where they served a Russian meal to you while seated at cabaret tables(see above.) It was dazzling, even then.

Phillipa Soo was astounding as Natasha, and went on to become a Broadway star as Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton.” But Denee Benton, who plays Natasha now, just glows and glows and grows on you, too, the absolute picture of willful innocence and stubbornness as she falls in love with, then insists on her ill-advised elopement with bad boy Anatole.

A core of miraculously agile, vocally and physically, actors continued with the show from the tent  they called Kazino to Broadway, including Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford and Grace McLean. In that cast I first saw, Josh Canfield of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” fame, was equally charismatic as Anatole.

But it’s Groban that kicks this show upstairs and into theatrical history with his astonishing performance and perfect voice. To hear someone who has been called a choir boy for years with his perfect pitch and miraculous tenor, tear into the gutsy, difficult, challenging, sometimes discordant vocals of “Natasha, Pierre…” is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Drunken, depressed, over-weight, near-sighted and scruffy though his Pierre convincingly is, his golden tones ring out in the night(and twice weekly at matinees.) His respect for the other actors is evident as he also blends seamlessly into their tight ensemble.

Josh Groban, genius that he is, has perspicaciously plunged himself into the midst of an equally amazing group of fellow-artists, who are geniuses, too, in their own ways. Did I mention Mimi Lien’s lighting? She’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant. So it’s official. And of course, there’s a killer solo that composer Malloy newly wrote just for Groban that they call “Dust and Ashes”, but I would call “This is how I die?” as Pierre berates himself for his intellectual inaction as “there’s a war going on out there somewhere.”

I’ve seen “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” three times now and I can’t wait to see it again!

Groban has committed an entire year to staying in this historic production and helping it thrive. It’s been making a million dollars a week.

#Josh Groban

# Broadway musicals

#Natasha, Pierre…

#Tony Awards

# Broadway

 

 

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