Oops, I did it again. The disturbing Sinner.

Reviews, Tv Series

Oh, the times they called me Mary in the past, because in their distorted minds they thought I looked like Jessica Biel, Mary in Seventh Heaven. I was always responding “I wish” (also because I never had either her body or her perfect lips)… then I must have grown up or something and poof, it ended; whatever happened people just started saying I looked like someone else. How about I look like… me? Also, why do you feel like you need to tell people who they resemble more? Did the doctor prescribed you to do so? I mean… But anyway… all things considered, by now I think I should have something around thirty people all looking like my-crazy-self all over the world. I wonder what happened to just those other six of us who should look like us, according to science. Wasn’t there supposed to be only 7 look-alike of ours on planet Earth? Unless I am an alien, and that would actually explain a lot.

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Jokes apart, I did it again. I binge watched. Well I never stopped of course, but here I am ready to write it down. Moving back and forth, oceans, continents, cities, towns, flights, houses, annoying people, crazy fellows, foooood, …you know all this being all over the place puts you on hold, but then oops. You’re waiting for your Amazon Fresh delivery to get to your door and you have some spare time, so why not using it to talk about one of the last shows you binge watched lately? Said, done. Why have I started talking about Mary and Jessica Biel then? Why yeah, isn’t it obvious? It is because the tv-show I am going to review here, now, is The Sinner, on Netflix, starring her, Jessica Biel, (who is also an executive producer), Bill Pullman and …others. Dots connected yet?

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 94% with an Average Audience Score of 85% liking the show, Metacritic stays on 71% but you have to consider there is NO negative reviews so far, and Imdb rates it for 8/10. I mean, The Handmaid’s Tale got almost the same numbers and we’re almost done with season 2. I wonder if there will be a season 2 for The Sinner, but I doubt it will focus on Jessica’s character any longer, for reasons I can’t explain (I don’t need to spoil this for you). Still, there is always a way as they say, the show must go on, and if a second season gets requested either by the network or by the fans (this is going crazy lately having shows getting reborn thanks to popular demand, look at #luciferonfox #savelucifer #bringbacklucifer #luciferreborn etc), one way or the other it will be done.

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I loved Jessica Biel in this role. The whole story is a nice story that, before checking it out, I felt it had to be coming from a book, but if it weren’t for Jessica’s performance, I would have probably quit watching the series. Yeah no, ok, that was a lie. I never quit. I would have watched the whole series but I may have not spent a second to write about it. No wait, that is not true either. I would have probably written about it, complaining and saying how much I hated it. Oh wait no, ok whatever, I cannot know what I may or may not have done, but as far as I am concerned I did watch it and I am now talking about it, so let’s go back to what I was saying about Jessica’s Cora. Something was not quite right during the first minutes of episode one. I thought, either she is failing the role or something odd will happen. Guess what was it? Indeed, the second. So going back to how I felt when I started watching the show now I say: yasss, Jessica. You gave us that feeling of discomfort, of feeling like “why is she acting so weird?” (acting in both senses, literal and not literal) and also of wanting to know what was going to happen next.

She was almost drowning in the water when she eventually comes out looking all twisted; she suddenly kills a guy -she hears a song this guy and a group of friends were listening to that makes her lose her mind- she stabs him, she scares everyone to death and boom, we are not even halfway through the episode and you think “hmm, interesting“, now I see. “The title was misleading, she is not the sinner, wanna bet?” No. Don’t. You’re wrong. The whole sinner reference will come up with the passing of the time and the new episodes, just be patient. What actually overwhelmed me a little was that the setting of the show is today, but it felt like it was set in the seventies or something. The story goes back in time, we see Cora and her disturbed and disturbing childhood because of her religious fanatic mother, we see her through adolescence and up until now,  but the most important time frame is no longer than five years, from 2012 to 2017. But then again, it’s 2018 and we still have people believing the Earth is flat and stuff like that, so I don’t know why it would surprise me that a similar family would actually exist during the nineties and the beginning of the twenty-first century… but it does, ok? It shocks me. Fine, I’ll kneel on little rocks and ask for forgiveness.

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The show focuses on Cora’s motive to kill this guy who, since the beginning, you basically want to hate because he is accused of raping her in 2012, although it is a lie and we get to know this right away. To be honest, it seemed like Cora was hiding something, willingly, making up motives, excuses, wrong memories, mismatching not only facts but also names, but you will eventually feel a sort of relief by the end of the series. I particularly appreciated how a story that started as a simple whydunit (after all we know who did what, how and where) turns out to be the story of a traumatized person who eventually loses it, and it is not even her fault. I want to underline this is not at all related to actual murderers, and I am not even justifying murderous impulse on sick people. What appeared from the very beginning of the show, although of course she actually killed someone at the end of the day, was that this Cora girl was somehow half innocent, we just needed to know more and figure out how we can even think of a killer as “innocent”. I promised not to spoil this to those who haven’t seen it yet, so I cannot go further into details, except from saying this, and it may or may bot be linked to the series, so no blame: there will come a day when people will pay for their own actual mistakes without having someone else cover for them. Not only “to cover up” in the sense of hiding the truth, but also letting someone else destroy his or her life because of the consequences that these mistakes have created to the third parties. I don’t know if I made sense with this, but trying not to spoil a movie or a tv-show by talking about it, is hard, folks. Hard.

Trauma and traumatic experiences, the way they act on the human brain and the tools that our psyche uses to cope with it (and I will never get tired of repeating this), is something that we need to study, to understand and to let people be aware of, just like what is happening with mental problems, suicide, depression and mental health awareness. I feel like this show was all about trauma, abuse, violence, drugs, and yes, even mental health, so really, get a chance and watch it, and if you want to make ME happy, just binge watch it right away: 8 episodes go by rrrreally quick.

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The Sinner

Genre: they want to call it “crime-mystery drama”
Based onThe Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr
StarringJessica BielChristopher AbbottDohn NorwoodAbby MillerBill PullmanJacob Pitts
Watched on: Netflix
One season, Eight Episodes binge watched in: one afternoon, evening, night.

Let’s see, how am I supposed to review this series? One word: disturbing. As I said before, what started as a crime investigation on a sudden murder committed in public on a beach, turns out to be an investigation on abuse and sick events that hijacked a person’s mental stability and life. Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) is married to Mason, they work at the Tannetti’s company and Mason’s mother takes care of their little child. Cora seems to be tired, (maybe a postpartum depression? you would think) something is bothering her as she is on medications and she does not seem to enjoy sex with her husband anymore. One day, they are at the beach, Cora goes for a swim and she is not coming back when her husband starts worrying. Eventually she gets out of the water and she starts feeding her child, cutting fruit and chatting with her husband, letting the audience sense a little envy while they watch two couples having fun next to them, playing music, kissing and flirting. The most obnoxious girl in the world (ed.) plays a song on her phone (which I actually kind of liked) and starts kissing the guy veeeery passionately, I mean, not be prude, but in public you could at least be a little more discreet. This seems to trigger something inside Cora, along with the song she seems to recall in her head, and she starts being delusional, she runs towards them and she stabs the man with a fruit knife 7 times, killing him. There is no apparent reason for her to do so, just a sudden homicidal instinct.

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When Cora is taken to the police station, a detective sees something in her behavior that does not link to her accuse of premeditated murder, and he starts researching until he’s led to find out the truth taking out some traumas from her past. Each episode disentangles details from Cora’s youth and life ruined by a mother who is a religious fanatic who claims that Cora’s actions are the cause for her sister Phoebe’s (Nadia Alexander) lymphoma, and she needs to constantly pray and be a good girl in order for her sister to heal (now seriously how f* up is this? Sick!). Even more twisted than their mother, Phoebe seems to be taking a little bit too much advantage of her sister with the excuse of being sick, to the point that she forces her to go out with guys and more. She creates an online profile where she picks up her sister’s dates so they can rob them and save money to leave home and go to Florida and we also see when sick (literally and mentally at this point) Phoebe forces her sister to masturbate her in order for her to feel what it is like. After all, she stole all her mother’s energy in the womb and that’s why Phoebe is sick, so she owes it to her. See? Disturbing. Super sick. We’re pretty much at the stage where we start to sympathize for this poor girl who yes, has killed a guy, but she was also raised in guilt and abuse and whatsoever, so no wonder she is traumatized. All the things that happen later with J.D (Who?), Maddie (what?), Frankie (Really?), private club houses (wait what? sex?), masked abusers (now, seriously?) and odd detective’s behaviors (oh come on!) cannot be disclosed for spoiling reasons… just watch it and then we can discuss about it. Enjoy.

Oh well, I just found out in August I’ll have to binge watch season 2, where there will be Carrie Coon, you know, from The Leftovers?! Wait, haven’t I reviewed it yet? Bad BWQ, bad. Now I know what to do next.

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Germans do it… as good as Hollywood: Dark

Reviews, Tv Series

Dark-TV-Show-Character-ListDid I really say it? Am I trying to say the Germans outsmarted Hollywood’s geniuses? Uhm, not necessarily so, but I am honestly taking my hat off, chapeau! We are so used to the Hollywood style, or at least I am, that it surprised me to watch such a good TV show that captured me since episode one. As the binge watching queen that I am, when Netflix warned me about this new show coming on air I put it on the list back then, but wasn’t sure about it, most of all when I read “the German Stranger Things“. Now, yes, I liked Stranger Things and I will be watching the second season when the time will come, but not to the point that I am dying to watch something similar to that creepy show. At this moment, since I actually watched Dark, (one week after release day) let me say it out loud: it is NOT like Stranger Things, at all, folks. It is not!

Dark-01I would rather put it on a list where I would also add The O.A. (which I reviewed here!) considering the themes that can be listed as touched by the storyline, such as time (in the unusual way of traveling through it), family, trauma, grief, violence, guilt, and the metaphysical sphere of the unknown. Apart from the awful dubbing (I mean, Italians have been doing it for decades and decades so they mastered the art of dubbing, but English speakers? No way, no. Watch it in German, the original language, with English subtitles! It is way, way better like that!), I seriously found no negative sides of this show. It is charming, addicting, and the story is so messed up that although you may have guessed since the beginning what is going on, there are new elements added episode after episode making you expect the unexpected, and you still get overwhelmed by the end of season one. Good job Germans! Yes!

8c177a79f366ef305f7534fe8bae7009dd1d2407Apparently, there are secrets in a small town in Germany. Children are disappearing and weird events are repeating after a certain amount of years. When we get familiar with what could be the cause of the disasters occurring (i.e. there is a nuclear-power-plant which may be the direct link to these strange horrifying events), the attention is moved to something else, a diversion in the storyline: lights fading, animals falling from the sky, people appearing in places that are not from their time clearly by the way they are dressed…  we are only certain about something haunting this German community but nobody talks about it, except for those who are labelled as crazy. It sounds a little familiar actually, considering what is going on today in the world, but this is a different story.

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Dark

Genre: they want to call it “science fiction, thriller drama”
Created by:Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese
StarringLouis Hofmann, Maja Schöne, Oliver MasucciStephan Kampwirth, Angela WinklerJördis Triebel, Daan Lennard Liebrenz, Lisa Vicari, Moritz Jahn, Paul Lux, Karoline Eichhorn … and many more.
Watched onNetflix 
One Season, Ten Episodes binge watched in: One night, like a whole night.

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Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci) is a police officer and father of three. He cheats on his wife with a woman whose husband commits suicide right at the beginning of the show. One night, Ulrich’s youngest, Mikkel disappears, just like someone else before him, leading the police to start researching if local youths are being on the spot for criminals and serial killers. Something weird happens every time there is a child’s disappearance: birds drop dead from the sky, lights flicker and old residents recall older times when they were younger and weird things were happening similarly to the present events. We also start wondering about what is going on when a scene shows the line on the newspaper saying “Where is Mikkel?”, crossed out with “When is Mikkel?” and that is a very good question! For the rest of the plot, watch the show!!!

medium-cleanTime travel, mystery, police knowing but not telling, old people revealing truths and other details entwined in the story, reminded me of my beloved Lynch’s Twin Peaks: supernatural lies underneath what we see and what we perceive as reality because there is something else… beyond us. Maybe this is what makes of these TV series a sort of more than fascinating shows, worth binge watching on a Saturday night. You get lost in the time of your binge watching session and you get lost in the complicated plot they try to mix with a good dose of soundtrack and colors. Cinematography is growing wiser, sexier and more interesting, or am I growing fonder because I am growing older? Nice question. No answer. As of right now, I am going to giggle at the idea of having another Country, Germany, producing amazing pieces for TV which are adding up to what Hollywood has been offering us. More work for me to do. More binge watching sessions, more food for thought, more nutrition for my majestic curiosity and visual need for detachment from this… reality.

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Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Movies, Reviews

In a couple of days Great Britain will celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night, a tradition that has not become popular in the United States or better, although it was imported with the thirteen colonies, it died out following the growth and the development of America as a separated unit from the United Kingdom. Differently than Halloween, which has become a deeply felt celebration, the Bonfire Night-being apparently too much related to the Protestant, Puritan celebration of victory over the Catholics- lost importance rapidly until it disappeared.

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Who was Guy Fawkes and why am I even telling his story? Well, I learned about him in second grade, when English started to be taught in Italian primary schools during the Nineties, and my marvelous Teacher Michela introduced us to British English and the culture of the U.K. I remember my first carved pumpkin, my first English pudding, my first Christmas cracker, my first singing of Molly Malone, my first reciting of Auld Lang Syne, my first Tea with milk, my first A’s in English class (lol), my first recital of We Are The World -years after it was released in the US of-ha course-ha, and finally my first Guy Fawkes’ dummy made out of my brother and father’s old clothes.

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His story dates back to 1605, when he and his friends wanted to blow up the House of Parliament in London, but he was caught and imprisoned on November 5th, giving birth to the celebration of the English Thanksgiving for dismantling the Gunpowder Plot. Long story short, what they do overseas (but not here in the US) is to celebrate the 5th of November with fireworks, bonfires, and burning a dummy that looks like Guy Fawkes, while children knock on doors asking for “a penny for the Guy” (yes, this happens not even a week after they went around annoyingly trick or treating for All Hallows‘ Eve). Let’s get to the point now: have you ever watched V for Vendetta? Yes? Good! No? Go watch it NOW!

V for Vendetta

Created by: James McTeigue
Based onV for Vendetta, 1988 – DC Comics by David Lloyd and Alan Moore
StarringNatalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

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In a dystopian future ca. 2020, Americans are almost all dead and fascists rule in England. V, a vigilante wearing a Guy Fawkes’ mask, saves a TV reporter, Evey (Natalie Portman) from rape, and forces her to join him not before teaching her something with what I would call harsh but necessary manners. For 12 months, from Guy Fawkes Night’s Eve to the 5th of November of the following year, V “plays games” with Evey in a sort of “Phantom of the Opera style”. But I am not going to spoil the movie so please, watch it and see for yourselves what happens next.

What needs to be said is that the film provides food for thought: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Basically what I understood from watching it over and over (and again last year after my head shaving madness) is that if you want a revolution, it has to start within yourself in order to have effects on society. People who are the victims of oppression and some kinds of distraction, enforced to live wearing masks, can actually remove them and replace them showing their true self. To remove these masks you have to dedicate yourself, to gain knowledge, to get informed, to turn the lights on and face the shadow of society, but you have to repress and sacrifice part of your social self in order to succeed. Evey’s torturing rituals are painful to watch, but after all that pain there is one big truth that gets revealed to her: “You said you wanted to live without fear. I wish there would have been an easier way, but there wasn’t.” She is at complete peace, without having to rely on someone else’s help, looking for it on the outside because she is has strength within herself. Both V and Evey went through traumas before getting reborn like Phoenixes, burning and raising back again from their ashes. “What was done to me, created me” V says, and no major truth has ever been told.

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My previous studies on Freud may influence my perception of this character, but I found fascinating and tremendously relatable (metaphorically!) that he was imprisoned, used as a lab rat, tortured until he reached a point where he could no longer recognize who he was. He wants revenge and freedom from tyranny detaching himself from what it means to be human, to be a social animal, and he chooses loneliness or better, aloneness over community, sharing, relationships. He has an extremely strong mind, but also a kind heart and a just spirit, and what he does, he does it with a purpose. Today he would be considered a terrorist and a psychopath. Although he is highly intelligent, he does not corresponds to the standards of normality.

Let’s try to look at this man from his characteristics more than from his actions, then. V stands for justice, he wants people to know the truth, to wake up and to pursue freedom from oppression. He sacrifices himself so that people can live in a free world and although he loves Evey, (which is quite understandable) he suppresses his feelings for the greater good. Is there anyone capable of doing something like this as of today? I doubt it. Would we need it? Yes. I mean, would you judge Batman for his actions? No, he’s a hero. Just like V, and sympathizing for him does not mean we are sociopath. Understand? Capish? Very well. Now let’s go watch this movie. Again. After all, it’s a tradition!

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Isolation, trauma and the O.A.

Reviews, Tv Series

I think I explained this already: my “reviews” are considered alternative because I do not focus on judging a work of art (any kind of art!) by using specific knowledge or terminology, but by simply following the train of thoughts that the vision of that artwork creates in my brain, if it does. I do not consider myself an expert in anything, probably nothing at all. I know a tiny bit of many things, but I do not excel in a specific matter, and that may be one of the reasons why I could never find “my way”. Why am I even saying this? Because the idea of writing about The OA, a Netflix series that was released almost a year ago, has been moving around for quite a while; I had this feeling that I had to make up my mind before writing about it, and then I may be able to say something coherent. I finally realized I just needed to accept something that I was too blind (or too proud?) to see.

giphy-downsized-largeThe OA received several contrasting comments and opinions among the experts. While I personally loved it, I can understand that the critics might be a little reluctant in showing appreciation when it is a little hard to see through, a little deeper, a story that makes no sense to the Western culture. Moreover, both plot and style are entwined, the story pops like a bubble during the season finale, leaving the spectators speechless, and those charming dance moves are definitely not accepted, or simply not understood, by many: too spiritual, too superficial, too …stupid.

05AO-master768As always, when a TV series catches my eye (I mean, literally), it is because of something they say, a song from the soundtrack or some other features I can relate to, easily. It is in the very first episode that the protagonist, the OA, says “It’s not really a measure of mental health to be well-adjusted in a society that’s very sick,” referring to an outburst of violence of one of her friends. For instance, violence, pain, isolation and trauma, not only suffered by the OA, but by other people as well (spectators too?) seem to be the “leitmotivs” of the whole story, making it more relatable to a more general public, well at least more to me. When you’re trained to find allegories, symbols, metaphors, (I was a student of literature for a long time, after all!) it is a little easier to go further, to look for what is hidden behind the written words because the author might have wanted to say something, although not explicitly. What I wanted to see in this case is how, by using scenes that to most are normal fiction-based images, a message of freedom, an open door from isolation, had to be cautiously portrayed: the last episode is about high school students getting assaulted while trapped in their glass-walled cafeteria, just like Prairie -the OA, was trapped in her blindness first, and glass-walled cage later. Her story, whether made up -as they want us to believe-, or not, got her through her own imprisonment, until she freed herself and the students, by teaching them a sense of community, sharing what I interpreted as ancient traditions, made of dance moves and spiritual calling: “I survived because I wasn’t alone”. (Damn, I am screwed.)

lonely20161013_630_630That was the moment when I opened my eyes. Social isolation is real. When a person starts avoiding social interaction well, as they say, the “shit has hit the fan”, but being an introvert, it may not be as clear as it should be. Have you ever stopped to think about this? Have you ever had a friend denying offers to go out, even to just have coffee and not necessarily to go partying all night long? Have you ever thought of a friend “what a bitch” for canceling last minute on you? Have you? Do not feel bad (yet). It’s ok. As far as you’re concerned, it is not a big deal. When does this go from “not being in the mood” to isolation? When this denial, this resistance, this rejection of interaction persists for a longer time than usual, and it is well often a consequence of a period spent in a depressive state, sometimes caused by a sense of shame, or low self-worth (rings a bell!). What many do not understand is that there are several factors that can impair social skills leading to isolation, and it is not always by choice.

giphyPrairie survived because she was not alone. When you spend most of your time all by yourself though, you get used to be alone. It only takes time to realize that eventually being alone sucks. You start avoiding not only social interaction but professional events as well. You make up excuses and you miss that chance to meet new people, new opportunities, turning your isolation into a vicious circle of worthlessness. You register to be a reporter for a cultural festival where you really want to interview people who are successful, who made of their passions their job, and their daily inspiration, to potentially stumble upon people you used to know, to breathe fresh air and walk down the crowded roads of the historical center of a town -that you used to know, but -you- are no longer who you used to know or used to be. You choose your aloneness over opportunity. You choose vacuum over fullness. Withdrawal over moving forward. You choose to let go even of all those things you may want to keep…

I watched The OA when something was coming down the pike but it was not so evident yet. Not to me, even less to others. It definitely takes a while for me to digest things, and this took almost a year, but in my defense I can say that… well, no need to defend myself. These days, everybody is focusing on mental health, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and actual successful performances. It is not that common to hear someone talk about isolation and alienation, when I believe it is actually part of the same game. While missing all the events and the various opportunity I may have, I did not want to miss the chance to talk about it. Even if not in person, not to someone, and not actually -talking-!

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The O.A.

Genre: they want to call it “science fiction, supernatural drama”
Created byBrit MarlingZal Batmanglij
StarringBrit MarlingEmory CohenScott WilsonPhyllis SmithAlice KrigePatrick GibsonBrendan Meyer
Watched onNetflix 
One Season, Eight Episodes binge watched in: One day.

A Russian blind special girl gets adopted by an elderly American couple. They rename her Prairie. When she turns 20 she runs away from home to go to NYC because she believes her dreams showing her father looking for her in the city. She lives homeless for a while playing the violin on the streets, with a song her father taught her when she was a child hoping he would come to her. Instead she catches the attention of a doctor who offers her a place to stay if she agrees to be a part of a research about NDE, near death experiences. She leaves with him but he keeps her into a glass walled cage in the basement of his house. For seven years, she is held captive with four other people while being drowned and revived many times. They do not realize this is happening until she teaches each one of the prisoners a move to a five part dance ritual that can help open a portal to bring people back to life or heal them. Once the doctor has proof there is life after death he gets rid of Prairie, and she finds herself stranded somewhere. Her adoptive parents recognize her and take her back home. She does not socialize much, but she befriends some high schoolers with troubled backgrounds and convinces them to meet so she can tell them her story. Here she starts calling herself the OA, the Original Angel, and she begins teaching them the dance movements so she can open the portal and save the remaining prisoners. One day there is a shooting at the high school. While the disciples do the dance moves, the OA gets shot and the season ends with a collection of books the police found under her bed with titles referring to her story, making it all appear to be made up. Like I said, alienation/isolation and trauma seem to be the foundation of this story where, in order to understand, you have to believe reality is not what it looks like. Your mind has to be wide open, your mentality has to be flexible, believe it or not, this may be just another version of the truth, a multi-faceted reality nobody knows at its whole. Crazy? Maybe. Trustworthy? Possibly. Fascinating? Definitely. 

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