Monthly Archives: February 2012

Jackie Brown The One I Didn’t Like or Watch it if You Like Smoking.

Jackie Brown is a 1997 American crime drama film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.  It is an adaptation of the novel Rum Punch by American novelist Elmore Leonard and pays homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, legend has it the 1974 classic “Foxy Brown.”

The film stars Pam Grier (who also starred in Foxy Brown), Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson (who appears in every Tarantino film), Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton.  Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s third film following his accomplished movies Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

Grier and Forster were both veteran actors but had not performed in a leading role for years.  As Tarantino often does with his movies, he gave once popular but then obscure actors’ careers a shot in the arm i.e. David Carradine in Kill Bill.  The film won Forster an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Jackson and Grier nominations for Golden Globe Awards.

Despite this strong cast, Jackie Brown is the one Tarantino I think stinks on ice.  Yes, I said it, I don’t like this film at all.  One reason is that I don’t find any real enjoyment in watching someone light a cigarette and take the first drag in slow motion.  The story moves at a snail’s pace, which is as fast as one of the cigarette smoking scenes that riddle the film.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) plays a flight attendant for a small Mexican airline as her career takes yet another step down.  To “supplement” her income, she smuggles money into the United States for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a gunrunner on the ATF’s radar big time who learns that one of his workers, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker), has been arrested.  Certain that Livingston will roll over and inform in order to minimize jail time, Ordell arranges for his bail with bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) and promptly kills Livingston.

Acting on information Livingston had provided, ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and LAPD detective Mark Dargas (Michael Bowen) intercepts Jackie arriving in the United States with cash and some cocaine.  Brown initially refuses to deal with Nicolette and Dargas, so she is sent to jail on possession of drugs with intent to sell.  Sensing that Jackie may now be just as likely to roll over as Livingston did, Ordell goes back to his main bail man Max to arrange for her bail.  Max arrives to pick her up, clearly is attracted to her and offers to buy her a drink to discuss her legal options.  The “perp” walk Jackie makes from the prison to the gate could be one of the longest walks in the history of film.

Ordell later arrives at Jackie’s house intending to use his tried and true technique of insuring silence by simple murder.  She surprises him by pulling a gun she surreptitiously borrowed from Max’s glove compartment, and then proceeds to broker a deal with Ordell whereby she will pretend to help the authorities while still managing to smuggle $500,000 of Ordell’s money into the country allowing him to retire.  To carry out this plan, Ordell employs Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda), a woman he lives with, and Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), a friend and former cellmate.  He also uses a naïve Southern girl, Sheronda (Lisa Gay Hamilton).

In a predictable move, Jackie will help Nicolette and Dargas arrange a sting to catch Ordell. Nicolette and Dargas are unaware that Jackie and Ordell plan to double-cross them by diverting the actual money before the authorities make an arrest.  Unbeknownst to the others, Jackie plans to deceive all of them with the help of Max in order to keep the $500,000 for herself.  A triple cross that only takes a little more than 2.5 hours to unfurl.

In a large shopping mall near Los Angeles, Jackie buys a new suit and enters a dressing room to swap bags with Melanie and Louis, in theory passing off the $500,000 under Nicolette’s nose.  Instead, she gives Melanie only $50,000 and leaves the rest behind in the dressing room for Max to pick up.  Jackie then feigns despair as she claims Melanie took all the money and ran.

In the parking lot, Melanie annoys and mocks Louis until he loses his temper and shoots her while Ordell discovers that Louis has only $40,000 in the bag (Melanie having kept $10,000 for herself after being tricked into doing so by Jackie).  Ordell realizes Jackie has taken his money and, angered, kills Louis and is now concerned with the involvement of Max Cherry, having been told by Louis that he spotted Max in the store before the pickup.  Lured back to Max’s office, where Jackie is said to be frightened and waiting to hand over his money, Ordell arrives armed.  Jackie yells out that Ordell has a gun and he is shot dead by Nicolette, who had been hiding in another room.

In the clear with the law and in possession of the money, minus his usual 10% fee that Max has taken for himself, Jackie wisely decides to leave the country and travel to Spain.  She invites Max to go with her, but he declines before Jackie kisses him goodbye and leaves.

Jackie Brown alludes to Grier’s career in many ways.  The film’s poster resembles those of Grier’s films Coffy and Foxy Brown and includes quotes from both films.  The typeface for the film’s opening titles was also used for those of Foxy Brown; some of the background music is lifted from these films.

Tarantino wanted Pam Grier to play title character Jody in Pulp Fiction, but Tarantino did not believe audiences would find it plausible for drug dealer Eric Stoltz to yell at her.  Apparently when Grier showed up to read for Jackie Brown, Tarantino had posters of her films all over his office.

I’ve always looked at Jackie Brown with a certain disdain.  It is the black sheep of Tarantino’s film family.  This movie has grown old fast though it is still relatively young and has a 1980’s feel and not in a good way.  Reservoir Dogs is 5 years older and looks like it was filmed yesterday.

While it pains me to urinate on this film, I feel I owe it to you.  Also, it’s far too long.  I didn’t expect action throughout the movie but there was nothing: it was just rambling by all the characters and going into (cheap) “deep” analysis about them that was unnecessary and implausible.  Thus Tarantino manages to take a simple plot and drag it out for over 2 hours.  The usual well-paced films we have come to expect from Tarantino is inapplicable to Jackie Brown.  By the end, I just could not care about any of the characters or what happened to them and that is a shame considering the cast of Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Samuel L Jackson and Bridget Fonda.
The plot is not as thin as a porno but not thick enough to withstand the weight and pretentiousness that Tarantino places upon it.  When the switch comes, over 2 hours in, it is shot with the director’s usual aplomb, from 3 different points of view.  Fair enough (and this is the high point of the film aesthetically) but the actual plotting at this point is poor.  We are to believe that a) the feds will allow their mark to go into a changing room without keeping any sort of tabs on her, and b) that the bondsman, who is known to the villains, will be in plain sight. It all comes across as contrived.

I wanted out after the first hour but felt I owed it to the director to hang in there hoping something—anything would move.  I was wrong about that.  Enjoy the cigarette smoking clips, which to me symbolize the whole film, slow and full of smoke and mirrors.



Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Movie Reviews


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Dr. H—long time contributor to JPFMovies makes his Revised Oscar predictions!

Dr. H—long time contributor to JPFMovies makes his Revised Oscar predictions!

Ok we’ve all been waiting for Dr. H. to release his revised picks for this year’s Oscars so here they are.  Please note that the revisions are due to transcription errors on behalf of the JPFmovies staff.

Best Movie:

Will Win:         “The Artist”

Should Win:    “The Artist”

Dark Horse:     “Hugo”

Strangely, after ruling the airwaves for more than three months, the Descendants fizzled out yielding all ground to the “Artist” and never recovered.  Some attribute this shift in power to the “Harvey Weinstein” factor.  JPFmovies feels it is the feel good factor working its chorus for the “Artist.”

Best Director:

Will Win:         “The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius).

Should Win:    “Tree of Life” (Terrence Malick).

Dark Horse:     “Hugo” (Martin Scorsese).

Terrence Malick creates this little-seen masterpiece but the smart money is still on the “Artist.”

Best Actor:

Will Win:         George Clooney

Should Win:    George Clooney

George Clooney will win his 2nd Oscar.  A different role with the understated, repressed emotions played with nobility and panache.  The Oscar voters will love to vote this performance in.

Brad Pitt and Jean Dujardin were plainly unlucky to run into Clooney’s year.

Best Actress:

Will Win:         Viola Davis (The Help).

Should Win:    Viola Davis

Dark Horse:     Meryl Streep

The last time Streep won her Oscars was for her performances in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982), in which she gave a heart-wrenching portrayal of an inmate mother in a Nazi death camp.  Those Oscars were won when most Academy voters were still in high school.  Since Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice, Streep has been nominated numerous times but no awards.  The only problem is that her impersonation of the “Iron Lady” Margret Thatcher is just that—an impersonation and Mrs. Thatcher does not have the same charisma she did in the 1980’s.  Unfortunately, JPFmovies does not see the pendulum swinging her way, which is too bad because Streep is probably the best living actress today.

Best Supporting Actor:

Will Win:         Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

Should Win:    Christopher Plummer.

Dark Horse:     “Jonah Hill.”

Jonah Hill did do a great job as the whiz kid totally against type casting.  But Plummer battles cancer and comes out of the closet two totally politically correct topics that raise hell of they were ignored.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Will and Should Win: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon for the “Descendants.”

Dark Horse:     “Moneyball.”

Best Original Screenplay:

Should and will win “Midnight in Paris.”

Dark Horse  “The Artist.”

Best Foreign Film:

Will and should Win “A Separation” (Iran).

Dark Horse  “Footnote” (Israel).

Best Animated Feature Film:

Will and Should Win—“Rango.”

Dark Horse “Kung Fu Panda  2.”

Best Original Score:

Will Win “The Muppets.”

Best Cinematography:

Will Win and Should Win “Tree of Life.”

Art Direction:

Will Win Should Win—“Hugo.”

Dark Horse “Harry Potter.”

Best Documentary:

Will Win To “Hell and Back Again”— From his embed with US Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis reveals the devastating impact a Taliban machine-gun bullet has on the life of 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris.

Dark Horse –“Undefeated” A documentary on an underdog football team who look to reverse their fortunes with Coach Bill Courtney.

Best Short Documentary:

Will Win “Saving Face” (Pakistan).  Every year hundreds of people — mostly women — are attacked with acid in Pakistan this short documentary follows several of these survivors.

Dark Horse “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.”  Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan’s recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins.

Best Makeup:

Will Win:  “Iron Lady” (Streep as Thatcher).

Dark Horse:  Albert Nobbs (Glen Close as a man)

Best Editing:

Will Win “Moneyball.”

Dark Horse “The Artist.”

Best Costume:

Will Win “Hugo.”

Dark Horse “Jane Eyre.”

Best Original Music Score:

Will Win “War Horse.”

Dark Horse “The Artist.”

Best Sound Editing:

Will Win “War Horse.”

Dark Horse “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Best Sound Mixing:

Will Win “Transformers Dark of the Moon.”

Best Visual Effects:

Will Win “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Dark Horse “Hugo.”

We’ll see how Dr. H. does this year.  It will be tough for him to beat last year.  Good luck Dr. H we’ll see you in a couple of weeks.


Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Movie Reviews


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Part I of the 84th Academy Awards predictions, comments and thoughts brought to you courtesy of JPFmovies.

After a lengthy sabbatical, Dr. H finally returns to give us his take on the Oscars again.  Last year longtime contributor to JPFmovies Dr. H predicted 90% of the winners.  Very impressive and much more accurate than many of the “experts” that slither around the big name movie sites—which goes to show you that good things do in fact come in small packages.

The good news is that the overall quality of movies is up (way up from last year) — the flip side is that the Oscars are as irrelevant as ever.  Still, we must continue this tradition which does bring everyone a little fun.

In this post, JPFmovies (courtesy of Dr. H) provides you with a synopsis of this year’s 8 major contenders.

The Artist.

To the film’s credit, The Artist is the leader of the pack with 10 nominations including:

Best Film, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor and Actress.  The Artist has already won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Musical Comedy as well as Best Actor for Jean Dijardin.

The movie is set in 1930’s Los Angeles and George Valentin is the major silent movie star who feels threatened by the advent of the sound era and finds solace in the arms of a rising starlet, Penelope Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and finally agrees to a musical.

Reportedly the original idea by the French director/writer was to set this film in 1930 Berlin and draw a parallel between the rise of Nazis and the advent of sound in movies and make the hero commit suicide.

All we can say is – how very un-French. Fortunately saner heads prevailed and the movie was relocated to 1930’s L.A. The rest as “they” say is history. It remains an ultimate crowd pleaser and a feel good movie typical of what most movie audiences eat up today.  Whether this is good or bad, we will have to leave up to the viewer.

Will it pass the test of time?

No, but who cares?

Don’t watch this movie expecting Casablanca.  It’s not.  But it’s jolly good escapist fun and tailor-made for today’s recession days.

Recommended to watch once with your significant other.

2. The Descendants

If The Artist is the king this year, The Descendants is most likely the wise old grand counsel. Although billed as a dark comedy, there is hardly anything comical with the theme.  A rude awakening to the grim reality of losing one’s beloved.

Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (George Clooney) and Screenplay.

Honolulu-based lawyer Matt King (Clooney), grieving for his comatose wife, has to make decisions about pulling the plug and selling some prime family land while confronted by his two dysfunctional daughters and the surprise knowledge of his wife’s infidelity.

A better movie than American Beauty, this movie brings the best in George Clooney that we have seen so far.

A critic’s favorite, the movie may or may not win but Clooney should surely win. He has already bagged the American Film Institute and Critic’s Choice Awards.

Very resonating screenplay.

Recommended to watch twice, once with your significant other and the second time with your ex…

3. The Moneyball

A sports movie based on true events, The Moneyball draws on a 2003 book about the Oakland Athletics baseball season of 2002, when the league had lost all its star players.

General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and an Ivy League whiz kid Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) devise a strategy to scout new talent and rewrite the rule book for talent hunting.

Nominated for six Academy Awards, all major ones except Best Director.

A very interesting story with old fashioned linear narrative style, a sharp, tight script and stellar performances from Pitt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Brad Pitt will lose to his best pal Clooney and Jonah Hill in supporting role to heavyweights like Nick Nolte and Christopher Plummer.

Recommended to watch with buddies.

4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

JPFMovies is screaming extremely loud and incredibly close to your ears, “Don’t watch this emotionally manipulative, extremely irritating and incredibly soul drenching movie.” It is a 911 exploitative yarn about a son who lost his father.

No problem with the theme, but it’s so shallow.  Not at all Oscar worthy – that it would be lucky to go direct to DVD is being kind to this abortion.

You have been warned – and take it seriously.

5. The Tree of Life

An experimental movie from Terrance Mullich (Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven) is one that moved me for its intellectual honesty and the director’s brave attempt to break new ground, while it doesn’t always resonate with the audience and existential questions with creation and metamorphosis remain unanswered. Too much for the average moviegoer.

O’Brien (Brad Pitt) is a stern father raising his two sons in Waco, Texas. The older son (Sean Penn) reflects on his childhood and the death of his younger brother.

The cinematography is brilliant and the entire movie can be summarized in one word – elegant. Too bad it’s way ahead of its time.

Still (and  you heard it from JPFMovies), The Tree of Life will have a shelf life and cult following far exceeding anything we have seen this year or the last few years for that matter (and we love cult films at JPFMovies).

6. Hugo

Michael Scorcese extends himself to explore a child’s fantasy in a 3D adventure-based on Brian Selznick’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Colbert.” It is a captivating tale of a 12-year-old boy trying to fulfill his deceased father’s dream project, repairing a broken “automaton” – a robot like contraption that writes with a pen.

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and nine technical awards, it has some stiff competition this year. In other years, it would likely have been a shoo-in.

7. The Help

An inspiring tale of the civil rights era through the eyes of black housekeepers, Hope succeeds in capturing the screen with some really spicy dialogues and good acting. A particular bit of dialogue has been oft quoted:

Celia Foote: They don’t like me for what they think I did.

Minney Johnson: No, they don’t like you because they think you’re white trash.

Hope has been nominated for Best Film, Best Actress and Supporting Actress.

 8. War Horse

A disappointing movie by Spielberg about a boy, a horse and World War I. This movie would not have gotten anywhere near the Oscars without Spielberg’s name attached to it. It is classic Spielberg, lots of effects, technical excellence, but also has Spielberg’s tendency to emphasize style over substance.

9.  Midnight in Paris.

Woody Allen pays a tribute to a glorious film making career—his own.  After a brief respite, Allen bounces back
with what is arguably his best work for the past decade.  With his usual New York witty sarcasm and his entourage of fringe characters, you would find nowhere else but in the lower east end of Manhattan.  Owen Wilson plays a disillusioned Hollywood scriptwriter vacationing in Paris with his drop-dead gorgeous fiancée Rachel Adams and her obnoxious parents where they run into her even more obnoxious friends one of them is an expert on impressionist art.  Bored to death, Wilson takes a stroll down deserted boulevards for fresh ideas for a novel he is writing where, at the stroke of midnight, a car pulls over and the boisterous passengers of the car invite him for a ride which becomes a portal to the 1920’s where he is introduced by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Hemingway, Cole Porter, T.S. Elliot and subsequently Wilson falls in love with Picasso’s mistress.  His love is before she decides to travel even further back to the gilded age to be with Monet.  A very entertaining movie although scenes of the present day pale in comparison to the bohemian fun Allen takes us to enjoy.  Not a real contender for the best movie but as usual he had pretty much locked in best original screenplay and deservedly so.


Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Movie Reviews


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The Best $6,000,000 Hollywood Ever Spent: The Usual Suspects (1995), Or Double Indemnity Meets Rashomon.

A new follower of JPFmovies, JF (no relation), requested our thoughts on the lineup scene in The Usual Suspects.  As you know, we don’t turn down requests so JF this one is for you.

In 1995, director Brian Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie created The Usual Suspects for $6,000,000.  It is some of the best money ever spent in Holly Wood.  The title was taken from the famous scene in Casablanca:

Captain Renault: Major Strasser’s been shot.

[Renault looks at Rick, Rick gives him a look]

Captain Renault: Round up the usual suspects.

[The police pick up Major Strasser’s body and leave, Renault looks over at Rick, who is smiling]

The Usual Suspects was shown out of competition at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, and then initially released in a few theaters.  The film received favorable reviews, and was eventually given a wider release.  McQuarrie won an Academy Award for the screenplay and Spacey won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.  Ultimately, the film grossed about $24,000,000 during its run.

The film begins where it ends, on a ship in San Pedro Bay, as someone acknowledged as “Keyser” briefly speaks with an injured man named Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), and then shoots Keaton and sets the ship aflame.  The next day, FBI Agent Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito) and U. S.  Customs special agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) appear on the scene to determine what happened.  There are only two survivors: Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey), a con man with a case of CP and a limp, and a fried Hungarian mobster named Arkosh Kovash.  Baer (while smoking a cigar) attempts to question the still smoldering Kovash in the burn unit, who is delirious but claiming that Keyser Söze, a ruthless Turkish criminal with a legendary reputation, was killing everyone in the harbor. Kovash manages to give a description of Söze to a police sketch artist.

In the present, looking back on events, Kint sits across a desk from Agent Kujan, unfolding the tale as he remembers it.  Five criminals are brought together in a police lineup: Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a corrupt former police officer who has apparently given up his life of crime to become “a lawyer’s wife;” Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), a short-tempered professional thief; Fred Fenster (Benicio del Toro), McManus’ partner who speaks in distorted English; Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), a hijacker who forms an instant rivalry with McManus; and Verbal.

The lineup scene is the most famous scene in the film; a snapshot appears in the movie’s posters and other promotional materials. The scene caused the movie to run into scheduling problems because the actors kept blowing their lines.  If you watch the clip closely the actors were fed questions off-camera and they improvised their lines.  When Stephen Baldwin would give his answer, all of the others kept breaking character.  Spacey is quoted as saying that the hardest part was not laughing through takes, with Baldwin and Pollack being the worst culprits.

Anyways back to the show.  While in the bull pen, McManus convinces the others to join forces (in part as retaliation for the harassment) to commit a robbery targeting New York’s Finest Taxi Service, a group of corrupt NYPD police officers who escort smugglers to their destinations around the city for a few hundred dollars a mile.  After robbing and humiliating the NYPD the fab 5 head to L.A. to fence the goods. The fence talks them into another job: robbing an ostensible jewel dealer.  Instead of carrying jewels or money as they were told, the dealer had heroin.  After an angry confrontation, the fence reveals that the job came from a lawyer named Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite).  The thieves later meet with Kobayashi, who claims to work for Keyser Söze and blackmails them into attacking a ship at San Pedro harbor.

Back to the present, Verbal tells Kujan the legend of Keyser Söze: Keyser understood that true power was not in how many guns you had, it was having the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t do, so the story, said Kint, was that after some Hungarian rivals invaded his home, raped his wife and killed one of his children, he showed these mobsters what true will really was by killing his own family rather than having them live another day after that. Then he butchered the entire mob and went underground, never directly dealing with anyone in person, and became “a spook story criminals tell their kids at night.”

With Verbal’s story finished, Kujan divulges what he knows: an Argentinian body was found that morning on shore, and it is revealed that the man, Arturo Marquez, in order to escape jail time, had said that he could personally identify Keyser Söze.  A group of Hungarians was offering to buy Marquez (not drugs) for $91 million.  Using the drug deal as cover, Kujan believed that Söze used Verbal and his crew to allow Söze to personally kill Marquez.  Kujan concludes that Keaton actually was Keyser Söze and Verbal admits that the whole affair was Keaton’s idea from the beginning.

His bail having been posted, Verbal retrieves his personal effects from the property officer including the gold watch and lighter seen in the opening minutes of the film.  As Kujan, looks around the office he realizes with shock that all the details and names from Verbal’s story are from various objects in the room.  Kujan realizes that most of Verbal’s story was improvised and chases after him, running past a fax machine as it prints the police artist’s sketch of Keyser Söze that is none other than Verbal Kint.  As Verbal walks away from the police station, he drops his feigned limp and gets into a waiting Jaguar, pulling away just as Kujan comes outside, searching in vain.


The Usual Suspects came out the year of Kevin Costner’s acute downfall with Waterworld and (rightfully so) is lauded as Bryan Singer’s best film and Christopher McQuarrie’s masterpiece.  When people talk about the film, its surprise ending is the most commented upon, followed by Kevin Spacey’s performance, Benicio Del Toro’s crazy accent, and the famed lineup scene.  The Usual Suspects is one of those movies that is on the one hand beloved and on the other hand often nitpicked by the small minded screw-heads.  Even those who don’t readily identify with the film should recognize that it belongs in the must-see file.  Any movie that has the guts to tell a story largely based on the rumor of a phantom villain so terrifying his mere name inspires horror at the very least deserves to be seen.

The Usual Suspects is also another variation of the Rashomon technique known as the “unreliable narrator.”  Verbal Kint, our unreliable narrator, is revealed at the end to have referred to random words and visual details visible to the Kint in the interrogation room (i.e. a Kobayashi brand coffee mug) raising the question of how much, if any, of his story was true.  Kujan begins his questioning with a particular theory in mind, and Kint happily leads him astray by telling Kujan exactly what he’s expecting to hear (he even states that this is how police officers think, they only find what they expect to find).  What a film.


Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Movie Reviews


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