THE SHEPCAT CHRONICLES

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Memorandum

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To: You, the Filthy, Disgusting Citizens of America
Re: Your use of public trash receptacles

Listen up, scumbags.

In March I obtained employment with a major national retailer, in a role whose duties include emptying the trash cans posted at the entrances and exits of the store every evening. I don’t plan to make this a long-term bullet on my résumé, and I don’t presume to speak for the everyday heroes of municipal sanitation and janitorial services who have quite literally seen some shit and who almost certainly deserve more than they’re being paid.

But I am here to speak for the wage-earners who deal with your casual, thoughtless, careless attitude toward any of your trash that anyone but you has to deal with. And that includes kids in fast-food and convenience jobs who are getting paid about half of what I’m making. And no, you don’t get to use “It’s good for them, builds character” as your bullshit defense for making their menial jobs more insufferable.

No one’s asking you to do their job for them, only to do your small part to make their job less of a shitshow. Be a mensch. Use your head. Be part of the solution. It requires less time and effort than you imagine.

And so, a few things for you to consider and file away for future reference:

The Bags
A lesson in simple economics: When Hefty or Glad markets any of their durable, super-strong, high-quality garbage bags for home use, they are selling you, the domestic consumer, security, because they know you are willing to pay for it. And all you’re hoping to do is successfully transport your trash 40 feet to the end of the driveway and not offend your neighbors or the HOA.

Companies aren’t like that. Companies are constantly looking for corners and costs to cut so they can provide more value to their shareholders. So when they purchase garbage bags in bulk quantities, 50 to a perforated roll, 36 rolls to a case, they’ll sacrifice half a mil or more in thickness here and there, because paying a lower unit cost by a few cents now will save them dollars down the line. So the industrial-size bags used by industry aren’t exactly industrial-strength — they’re voluminous enough to hold a lot of trash in theory but not strong enough in actuality to hold the kind of trash industrial-strength maggots like you, their customers, tend to throw away on their premises.

Extreme examples: On a recent shift, some asshole threw an unpackaged circular-saw blade into one of our trash cans. Obliterated the fucking bag, which fortunately wasn’t full when I discovered it and therefore easily swapped out. No, the bag that was full — just moments later — was the one into the bottom of which someone (probably a co-worker) had thrown shards of broken glass which, under pressure from above, completely trapdoored the bag when I lifted it, sending the shards everywhere and requiring me to rebag the broken bag of garbage and double-bag the glass I swept up, the latter of which should have been done to begin with.

Speaking as one who deals with the literal fallout of your misplaced faith in or disregard for thin, cheap plastic: Truly, we won’t mind if you just place any sharp, pointy, heavy or oversize items beside or behind the receptacle if it is safe to do so. We’ll deal with it accordingly and thank you for not springing a trap on us in the form of another mess we have to clean up.

Your Beverages
This is a not-so-extreme example, because it occurs in virtually every bag of trash I’ve handled since I started this job.

Stop throwing your unfinished beverages in the trash. Liquid adds weight and density to the confines of the bag, and in many instances it isn’t going to stay in its cup, which means it goes directly to the bottom of a bag which is otherwise primed to burst at one weak point or another. Here are a few handy guidelines:

  1. Stop buying beverages larger than your bladder or which you have no intention of finishing. When a fast-food joint or convenience store offers you a ludicrous amount of liquid at a low price, stop thinking about value and ask instead, “How thirsty am I, really?”
     
  2. Pour out any beverage you don’t or can’t finish, preferably in an area that people don’t have to walk through. Pour it out in the parking lot, in the street, near a curb, on a landscaped median. Better yet, if you’re near an open area free of people, pets or cars, throw it, scatter the liquid and ice rather than creating a puddle someone might walk through. Do this so you can just throw away an empty cup.
     
  3. Remove your lid and straw and throw them away separately. Particularly your straw. Throw a straw in the trash, and its full length flexes and bends against the pressure of the other trash in the bag. Leave one-third or one-fourth of a straw sticking out the top of a secured cup lid, and it becomes a spike that will inevitably puncture the bag and spill liquid and God knows what else everywhere.
     
  4. Breaking down your cup to its component parts (and crushing your cup) is also more space-efficient.
     
  5. Speaking of which, bottled water — which you shouldn’t be drinking as much as you do, because plastic, however much convenience it adds to our lives, is contributing to the slow-motion destruction of our environment, and your municipal water is typically cleaner and more delicious than you imagine — is often sold in crushable bottles that collapse to take up less space. So crush them after you empty them, or if at all possible, hold onto them to recycle later. Soda cans, too.
     
  6. I mention that last point because, for all their good intentions and talk of conservation and sustainability initiatives, companies like my employer don’t always have the space and resources on site to accommodate proper, comprehensive recycling. We’re sending a lot of stuff to landfills that you might more easily recycle at home through municipal services that your tax and public-utility dollars already pay for.

Indifference
Of course, all of this assumes that you insensate savages even bother to use the trash receptacles at all. As many of you as not use parking lots as trash cans and ashtrays, and while, as of this writing, I haven’t seen ours used as a toilet per se, one of you jagoffs left a soiled diaper in a shopping cart the other day, just roiling out in the noonday sun. Which, oddly, made me recalibrate my anger toward the dipshit who left a full, open, single-serve dish of uneaten coleslaw just sitting there on the apron in front of a parking space one day.

Also — and I can’t think of a better way to put this — don’t leave behind garbage that has no logical reason to be in the venue where you discard it. I realize that at the most basic level, it’s all just run-of-the-mill garbage, but don’t force me to consider questions of motive and opportunity like I’ve come across your trash at a crime scene.

Did the perp(s) who left a six-pack of Stella Artois empties really come to our parking lot just to knock back a few brews?

And who discarded a half-eaten rotisserie chicken (in its lidded container, thankfully) in the small trash can at one of our checkout registers inside the store? Who does something like that in public, in a durable-goods establishment that is nowhere near a restaurant, grocery store or mall food court? I mean, I see a lot of drive-thru fast-food refuse in our trash cans, and I get that: Someone grabs a burger and fries while running errands and tosses their containers when they reach our store. But a rotisserie-ass chicken from a grocery deli? Who in pluperfect fuck are you?

And another thing: Stop smoking. At the very least, stop smoking in public. It’s fucking disgusting. It’s slowly killing you. And at minimum it’s grossly offensive to the rest of us you’re also slowly killing with your secondhand smoke. And you toss the butts everywhere, and guess what: They’re not biodegradable. So just fucking stop it, OK? Asphyxiate yourself at home, litter your own driveway, and leave the rest of us out of your end-of-life planning.

I wrote recently about the dignity of work and my sense that no job should be beneath me if it means earning a steady wage and paying my rent until something bigger, better and more suitable to my talents and experience comes along. And I believe that. All things being equal, even collecting your garbage wouldn’t be so awful if I could just tie off a bag, replace it with an empty bag, and cart the full bag away without repercussions.

But you thoughtless, vile troglodytes need to consider the dignity of the people doing that work, picture them on the receiving end of that trash bag. Better yet, picture yourself on the receiving end. Maybe you imagine that I’m overthinking — idealizing — something as lowly, menial and literally disposable as garbage. But do my job for three days (or three weeks, or three months) and you’ll overthink it too.

If you think about it all, that’d be a good start.

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Written by Shepcat

May 9, 2019 at 1:28 am

Posted in Life, Work

A Tale of Two Men

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Monday I met a gentleman, 75 years old, who was aging-movie-star handsome — I mean disarmingly, unsettlingly so. Lean, angular, with thinning silver hair combed straight back, and a neatly trimmed mustache on a face lined only at the corners of his clear blue eyes. His was the face of a man who had never smoked, had never drunk to excess, and, most importantly, had discovered the importance of a sunscreen and moisturizing regimen years before any of his peers caught on.

He bent my ear for a few minutes and as he spoke I tried to place who he reminded me of, but I still can’t summon a proper analog. Maybe … some combination of Christopher Plummer and Terence Stamp, but thinner, wiry, and assuming that combination had aged as well as Paul Newman while maintaining Richard Farnsworth’s pleasant, easygoing demeanor. I don’t know. That’s all I’ve got. He’s a cipher.

Most striking about this man, though, were his hands. In the starkest contrast to his face, these were the most gnarled, abused hands I have ever seen. I have the delicate hands of a typist that aspire to be the hands of a boxer, but I’ve known men whose hands display the wear and weather of lives spent performing manual labor — of houses built, of cars repaired, of freight loaded; taut, calloused, sandpapery — and none of them had hands like this man’s.

This gentleman had been an aerospace machinist for 33 years, half of that at Boeing. His fingers and nail beds were darkened in a way that implied not that he had been working on something greasy or dirty that morning but that he had resigned himself years ago to never being able to scrub away the stain of his labor. Most of his knuckles were split open, like dark craters at the joints of his fingers. His hands didn’t look like they had operated or repaired machines for three decades so much as engaged them in fierce mortal combat.

I erred on the side of holding his piercing, youthful gaze just so he wouldn’t catch me staring in wonder at his hands. What little I pieced together about his life in our few minutes together — “I wanted to do something different, but my wife kept having kids” is the line that stuck with me — were details that I could almost reconcile with his leading-man-in-twilight face. But there’s an entire biography that someone should write about that man’s hands.

Written by Shepcat

April 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Life, The PNW

The Dignity of Work

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Last Saturday night on the swing shift I singlehandedly — my hands, my arms, my back, no mechanized or human assistance — loaded 27,000 pounds of freight onto two outbound trailers.

That’s a sentence I never imagined I’d write. That’s an accomplishment that can never be taken away from me. But it nearly broke me.

After only three days on a job billed as “light industrial work,” I quit the following Monday because, at 51, a generally sedentary person coming off a year-plus of unemployment, my body would need more than a Sunday to recover from the physical toll exacted by that volume of manual labor.

I’ve been blessed with a college education and a professional life spent alternately in office settings, on a studio lot, and in the comfort of my own home. While I’ve often quipped that I’m the laziest person in my family, I also have my father’s work ethic encoded in my DNA, and I’ve never thought of myself as looking down on manual labor. I’ve even done a little of it in the past, but not enough to prepare me for the situation I entered last week, a little misguided and misinformed, when after a long layoff I decided to reach out for any kind of work I could obtain to be back among the gainfully employed again.

It’s an idea I began taking more seriously last fall when actor Geoffrey Owens, formerly of The Cosby Show, was “outed” by the Daily Mail and Fox News for taking a job at Trader Joe’s to make ends meet between his acting and teaching gigs, sparking a national conversation about the dignity of work. Shortly thereafter, my brother took a seasonal job with UPS, assisting a driver on a daily delivery route, to help pay the bills during a fallow period in his own line of work.

I know I should have explored these other, blue-collar options sooner. The main reason I didn’t is that at my age, I may be entering last-chance territory in terms of finding the kind of job at which I excel, at which I have experience, and which I might see myself doing for the rest of my professional life. During this search I have already been shunned for being “overqualified,” which is another way of being told either that I’m too old or that I might expect a higher salary than an employer is willing to pay when they can hire someone younger on the cheap.1

So I felt fortunate, at the time, to have landed that so-called light-industrial job before real panic could ensue about my finances and day-to-day necessities. Again, though, I was unprepared for the reality of the work itself, and while I adjusted and adapted quickly to the environment, it still proved to be work that I was not cut out to do, for reasons both physical and temperamental.

“A man’s got to know his limitations,” goes an old Clint Eastwood line. And there were a couple of occasions on those three nights of work when I consciously pushed myself beyond mine because I wanted to finish the task at hand and make it to the end of the shift. In the end I don’t think my value to the employer would have exceeded those limitations, to the extent that I felt I was doing the job well but too deliberately to be appreciated. It’s work that emphasizes speed and strength more than contributions like my math skills and attention to detail, so I probably did us both a favor by showing myself the door before they did.

As of this writing, I’m awaiting an interview for a white-collar job that I applied for around the same time. I try not to get my hopes up about these things, even though I need to work as much as the next person, but it would certainly help matters if I could land that job and the salary and benefits it offers.

And if not that job, perhaps there’s another one on the not-too-distant horizon — even a blue-collar job — to which my abilities are better suited. Because I can say now, with a little more clarity and credibility than I might have summoned a few weeks ago, that every job matters in this country and moves us all forward — one person, one family, one community at a time — toward the quality of life we all deserve if we work hard and hold up our end of the contract … and employers hold up theirs.
 
 
 
 
 
1 As someone who spends a lot of time scouring job listings online, this is a particular bugbear of mine (there ought to be a law, in fact): Employers, just tell us up front how much you intend or are willing to pay, and let us, the job seeker, decide whether that represents a sufficient living wage for work we might apply for. Then let us stand or fall on our merits alone.

There’s an old line about job interviews: The first person to mention money loses the negotiation. So when advertising for a job, an employer puts a prospective applicant at an immediate disadvantage by asking for their “salary requirements” or “expected compensation,” when it’s just a way for lazy human resources departments to shrink the stack of résumés they have to consider for a particular opening. If you want someone cheap, say so, in no uncertain terms. Employers have all the power to begin with. Don’t put people struggling in a competitive job market in the position of undervaluing their own skills and expertise so they can underbid other applicants for a job you’re too coy, too lazy and too cheap to promote honestly.

End of rant.

Written by Shepcat

February 4, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Life, The PNW, Work

On Otherness and Empathy

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Take a trip with me, if you will, back to the beginning.
 
 
 
 
 

Written by Shepcat

January 21, 2019 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Life

My Year in Film 2018

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My prolific filmgoing and -viewing in 2018 resulted from a perfect storm of factors and influences, chief among them my subscriptions to MoviePass and FilmStruck (and, by extension, to Fandor and the Criterion Channel, respectively) and an abundance of spare time due to my continued unemployment. For a relative pittance, the world of cinema unfurled before me as it never had, and I took full advantage of its offerings.

I have a Letterboxd profile, but I haven’t updated it since I saw the Key and Peele action comedy Keanu on May 5, 2016, as its regular emails remind me. Perhaps someday, in a fit of administrative pique, I’ll make a project of entering all these films, on my way toward being a more faithful updater of my timeline there.

In many ways, though, this feels like a more interesting accounting of my viewing, because it looks more like a roadmap or a journey in film. I can track larger trends, like my reconsideration of Paul Thomas Anderson’s oeuvre or an urgent desire to gaze upon Juliette Binoche for hours upon end, or pick out the smaller, subtler moves, like how I went straight home after Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour to watch his Atonement for a Dunkirk doubleheader (and then saw Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk later that month), or how a screening of the Argentine crime film Nine Queens led to my pushing its American remake, Criminal, up in my queue to screen 11 days later.

Presented here are only the feature films that I saw in theaters, on DVD or Blu-ray, or on subscription streaming services (the aforementioned, as well as Netflix, Hulu and the public-library affiliate Kanopy); any film I saw on broadcast or cable television, edited (or even — gasp! — reformatted), with commercial interruptions — like, say, NBC’s presentation of Jurassic Park or Lifetime’s airing of Secretariat — is excluded from this listing.

* theatrical exhibition
+ repeat viewing this calendar year

January (49)

1 Ant-Man (Reed, 2015)
1 All the Money in the World (Scott, 2017) *
2 The Way of the Gun (McQuarrie, 2000)
4 Darkest Hour (Wright, 2017) *
4 Atonement (Wright, 2007)
5 Molly’s Game (Sorkin, 2017) *
5 The Paper (Howard, 1994)
5 Good Night, and Good Luck (Clooney, 2005)
7 Good Night, and Good Luck commentary (Clooney, Heslov)
7 Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946)
8 The Shape of Water (Del Toro, 2017) *
8 Enemy at the Gates (Annaud, 2001)
9 North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959)
10 The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (Morris, 2003)
11 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Johnson, 2017) *
11 Odd Man Out (Reed, 1947)
12 I, Tonya (Gillespie, 2017) *
12 Seabiscuit commentary (Ross, Soderbergh)
13 The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2014)
14 Dave (Reitman, 1993)
14 The Commuter (Collet-Serra, 2018) *
15 The Negotiator (Gray, 1998)

 
When I subscribed to MoviePass, back before the rush, when it still appeared to be a somewhat viable business model, I purchased it through Costco, which bundled with it a subscription to the streaming service Fandor, whose biggest draw for me was its comprehensive trove of early Hal Hartley features and short films. The shorts are not listed here, but all told Fandor streams about 20 works by Hartley.

15 My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, 1985)
16 I Am Not Your Negro (Peck, 2016)
16 The Unbelievable Truth (Hartley, 1989)
17 Trust (Hartley, 1990)
18 Surviving Desire (Hartley, 1992)
19 The Fallen Idol (Reed, 1948)
20 Phantom Thread (Anderson, 2017) *
20 Rebecca (Hitchcock, 1940)
21 Streets of Fire (Hill, 1984)
21 Must Love Dogs (Goldberg, 2005)
22 Nothing Sacred (Wellman, 1937)
23 Call Me By Your Name (Guadagnino, 2017) *
23 Mudbound (Rees, 2017)
24 Proud Mary (Najafi, 2018) *
26 I Confess (Hitchcock, 1953)
26 Hostiles (Cooper, 2017) *
26 Office Christmas Party (Gordon/Speck, 2016)
26 Becoming Cary Grant (Kidel, 2017)
27 The Game (Fincher, 1997)
28 Secret in Their Eyes (Ray, 2015)
28 The Florida Project (Baker, 2017) *
28 Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) *
28 The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963) *
30 Dunkirk (Nolan, 2017) *
30 Mood Indigo (Gondry, 2013)
30 Farewell, My Lovely (Richards, 1975)
31 The Disaster Artist (Franco, 2017) *

 
February (23)

1 The Wrong Man (Hitchcock, 1956)
2 The Post (Spielberg, 2017) *
2 All the President’s Men (Pakula, 1976)
3 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh, 2017) *
3 Stage Fright (Hitchcock, 1950)
3 Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002)
4 The Cloverfield Paradox (Onah, 2018)
5 Moonstruck (Jewison, 1987)
6 Coco (Unkrich, 2017) *
6 Super 8 (Abrams, 2011)
6 The Illusionist (Burger, 2006)
8 The Shape of Water (Del Toro, 2017) * +
9 War for the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2017)

 
This gap of six days between movies was precipitated by the first week of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, after which I recalibrated toward a more equitable balance of my dual nature as sports fan and movie junkie. This will be a recurring theme in the months to come.

15 Simple Men (Hartley, 1992)
16 Black Panther (Coogler, 2018)
17 Sudden Manhattan (Shelly, 1996)
17 Micmacs (Jeunet, 2009)
18 My Family (Nava, 1995)
21 The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 1940) *
23 Game Night (Daley/Goldstein, 2018) *
24 Grand Illusion (Renoir, 1937)
25 Annihilation (Garland, 2018) *
27 The Master (Anderson, 2012)

 
March (18)
The even lighter month of March can of course be explained by college basketball. My Kansas Jayhawks are perennially in the thick of March Madness, but during this month every year I love even the lowliest midmajors and surprise qualifiers and cheer every upset-in-the-making. Christmas is overrated; March Madness is truly the most wonderful time of the year, even if it means I don’t make it to the movies that often.

2 Black Panther (Coogler, 2018) * +
7 Red Sparrow (Lawrence, 2018) *
9 Gringo (Edgerton, 2018) *
9 Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997)
12 Magnolia (Anderson, 1997)
16 Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, 1951)
19 Tomb Raider (Uthaug, 2018) *
19 Hard Eight (Anderson, 1996)
20 Love, Simon (Berlanti, 2018) *
20 Creature from the Black Lagoon (Arnold, 1954)
22 Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Stoller, 2008)
23 Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)
26 The French Connection (Friedkin, 1971)
27 Network (Lumet, 1976)
28 Unsane (Soderbergh, 2018) *
28 There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
29 42 (Helgeland, 2013)
31 Dog Day Afternoon commentary (Lumet)

 
April (21)
As college-hoops season winds down, a new Major League Baseball season is just underway, which would explain why I experienced only a very slight uptick in movie viewing this month. I was unusually (though admirably, I think) devoted to my Kansas City Royals on their way to 104 losses and would watch all but a few of their 162 games this season.

3 Ready Player One (Spielberg, 2018) *
6 Isle of Dogs (Anderson, 2018) *
7 A Quiet Place (Krasinski, 2018) *
8 Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 1938)
8 My Man Godfrey (La Cava, 1936)
11 The Big Heat (Lang, 1953)
13 Isle of Dogs (Anderson, 2018) * +
13 The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941)
14 Chappaquiddick (Curran, 2017) *
17 In a Lonely Place (Ray, 1950)
18 Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007)
19 Crossfire (Dmytryk, 1947)
21 The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941) +
22 The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Yates, 1973)
23 Super Troopers 2 (Chandrasekhar, 2018) *
25 Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (McGuigan, 2017)
27 Avengers: Infinity War (Russo/Russo, 2018) *

 
I have no good explanation for why I waited as long as I did to subscribe to FilmStruck, and now that it’s gone I’m kicking myself over all that lost time. Any affinity I have for stringing together double features or theme nights or retrospectives had now been super-sized by such FilmStruck features as the director and star of the week. In a quirk of exquisite timing, the first two directors featured after I subscribed, one right after the next, were David Lean and Billy Wilder. My first order of business, however, was to screen all six Thin Man movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, during my first week.

29 Mister Roberts (Ford/LeRoy, 1955)
29 The Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1934)
29 After the Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1936)
30 Another Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1939)

 
May (42)

1 Shadow of the Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1941)
2 Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988)
2 The Thin Man Goes Home (Thorpe, 1945)
4 Song of the Thin Man (Buzzell, 1947)
6 Foreign Correspondent (Hitchcock, 1940)
6 In Which We Serve (Coward/Lean, 1942)
7 Westworld (Crichton, 1973)
8 The Passionate Friends (Lean, 1949)
9 Tully (Reitman, 2018) *
9 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
10 The Equalizer (Fuqua, 2014)
11 Blithe Spirit (Lean, 1945)
11 Unstoppable (Scott, 2010)
12 The Sound Barrier (Lean, 1952)
14 Crimson Tide (Scott, 1995)
15 Iron Man 3 (Black, 2013)
15 Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017)
16 Madeleine (Lean, 1950)
16 Iron Man 3 commentary (Black/Pearce)
17 Summertime (Lean, 1955)
17 Nostromo: David Lean’s Impossible Dream (Bermúdez, 2017)
17 Tequila Sunrise (Towne, 1988)
18 Deadpool 2 (Leitch, 2018) *
18 A Passage to India (Lean, 1984)
19 Joe Versus the Volcano (Shanley, 1990)
20 Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (Nichols, 2003)
21 Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (Dunne, 2017)
22 Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Dean, 2017)
22 The Spirit of St. Louis (Wilder, 1957)
23 Band of Outsiders (Godard, 1964)
23 Angels in America: Perestroika (Nichols, 2003)
24 To Have and Have Not (Hawks, 1944)
25 Solo: A Star Wars Story (Howard, 2018) *
25 Dark Passage (Daves, 1947)
25 Key Largo (Huston, 1948)
26 The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946)
27 Eight Men Out (Sayles, 1988)
27 Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)
29 The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)
30 A Night at the Opera (Wood, 1935)
30 Harper (Smight, 1966)
31 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Conran, 2004)

 
June (38)

1 Let the Sunshine In (Denis, 2017) *
2 Dollars (Brooks, 1971)
2 Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh, 2001)
3 Inside Man (Lee, 2006)
5 The Late Show (Benton, 1977)
6 Small Town Crime (Nelms/Nelms, 2017)
7 The Brothers Bloom (Johnson, 2008)
8 Ocean’s Eight (Ross, 2018) *
8 Haywire (Soderbergh, 2012)
9 Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017)
9 Anon (Niccol, 2018)
11 Hotel Artemis (Pearce, 2018) *
11 The Asphalt Jungle (Huston, 1950)
13 Nine Queens (Bielinsky, 2000)
15 Incredibles 2 (Bird, 2018) *
15 The Incredibles (Bird, 2004)
15 Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017) +
17 Ninotchka (Lubitsch, 1939)
17 Always (Spielberg, 1989)
18 A Farewell to Arms (Borzage, 1932)
19 History Is Made at Night (Borzage, 1937)
19 Body Heat (Kasdan, 1981)
20 Tag (Tomsic, 2018) *
20 Words and Pictures (Schepisi, 2013)
21 The Wolfman (Johnston, 2010)
21 Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas, 2014)

 
Of course, June 22 is Mr. Wilder’s birthday, which this year FilmStruck permitted me to celebrate with a full daylong program, whereas in other years I typically screen either Some Like It Hot or The Apartment in the evening. I.A.L. Diamond’s birthday is a mere five days later, so I usually alternate those or opt for The Fortune Cookie, among the films I own on DVD.

22 Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950)
22 Ace in the Hole (Wilder, 1951)
22 Stalag 17 (Wilder, 1953)
22 Witness for the Prosecution (Wilder, 1957)
22 Love in the Afternoon (Wilder, 1957)
23 Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959)
24 Summer Hours (Assayas, 2008)
24 Criminal (Jacobs, 2004)
25 L’attesa (Messina, 2015)
26 Blackhat (Mann, 2015)
28 The Apartment (Wilder, 1960)
29 Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944)

 
July (43)

2 Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957)
2 Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1949)
3 His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1939)
4 Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)
4 The Missing Person (Buschel, 2010)
5 Double Indemnity commentary (Dobbs/Redman)
5 Swordfish (Sena, 2001)
6 Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941)
7 Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini, 1965)
8 Seven Days in May (Frankenheimer, 1964)
8 Thieves’ Highway (Dassin, 1949)
10 Captain Phillips (Greengrass, 2013)
11 A Few Days in September (Amigorena, 2006)
11 Chocolat (Hallstrom, 2000)
12 Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018) *
13 Sorry to Bother You (Riley, 2018) *
13 The Big Easy (McBride, 1986)
13 Surviving Desire (Hartley, 1992) +
14 Desperately Seeking Susan (Seidelman, 1985)
14 Shock and Awe (Reiner, 2018) *
14 Sully (Eastwood, 2016)
14 The Silent Partner (Duke, 1978)
15 Cloud Atlas (Tykwer/Wachowski/Wachowski, 2012)
16 The Women (Cukor, 1939)
17 Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Sollima, 2018) *
18 Skyscraper (Thurber, 2018) *
19 Traffic (Soderbergh, 2000)
20 Leave No Trace (Granik, 2018) *
20 Midnight Run (Brest, 1988)
21 JFK (Director’s Cut) (Stone, 1991)
22 The Equalizer 2 (Fuqua, 2018) *
22 Choose Me (Rudolph, 1984)
22 Love at Large (Rudolph, 1990)
23 Laggies (Shelton, 2014)
24 The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1997)
25 Gaslight (Cukor, 1944)
26 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (McQuarrie, 2018) *
27 Rules Don’t Apply (Beatty, 2016)
28 Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)
28 Hitchcock/Truffaut (Jones, 2015)
29 Wonderstruck (Haynes, 2017)
30 His Kind of Woman (Farrow, 1951)
31 The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957)

 
August (33)

1 Stop Making Sense (Demme, 1984)
2 Libeled Lady (Conway, 1936)
4 American Made (Liman, 2017)
5 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962) +
7 Thoroughbreds (Finley, 2017)
8 Eighth Grade (Burnham, 2018) *
9 Arsenic and Old Lace (Capra, 1944)
10 Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957)
11 Paddington (King, 2014)
11 Paddington 2 (King, 2017)
11 All That Jazz (Fosse, 1979)
12 2010 (Hyams, 1984)
15 Outland (Hyams, 1981)
17 The Postman Always Rings Twice (Garnett, 1946)
18 Inception (Nolan, 2010)
19 The Party (Potter, 2017)
20 The Great Race (Edwards, 1965)
21 The Prestige (Nolan, 2006)
21 The In-Laws (Hiller, 1979)
23 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino, 1974)
24 Gunga Din (Stevens, 1939)
25 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Reis, 1947)
26 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Potter, 1948)
26 The Goodbye Girl (Ross, 1977)
26 The Sunshine Boys (Ross, 1975)
27 Eraser (Russell, 1996)
27 Narrow Margin (Hyams, 1998)
28 Persona (Bergman, 1966)
29 Mile 22 (Berg, 2018) *
29 RBG (Cohen/West, 2018)
30 Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
30 The Two Jakes (Nicholson, 1990)
31 Operation Finale (Weitz, 2018) *

 
September (26)

3 BlacKkKlansman (Lee, 2018) *
3 First Reformed (Schrader, 2017)
3 Moneyball (Miller, 2011)
4 First Reformed commentary (Schrader)
5 Adam’s Rib (Cukor, 1949)
7 Brick (Johnson, 2005)
8 Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958 – 70mm) *

 
Lawrence of Arabia is my favorite movie of all time, but 2018 might actually mark the first time I’ve ever watched it as many as three times in a calendar year — in this case once on FilmStruck; once on DVD (on my birthday, when I went out for a steak dinner then came home to drink whiskey on the balcony during the overture, before the feature attraction); and now on the big screen at Cinerama’s annual 70mm Festival, the way God and Sir David Lean intended it to be seen.

9 Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962 – 70mm) * +
10 Kong: Skull Island (Vogt-Roberts, 2017)
11 The Misfits (Huston, 1961)
12 Juliet, Naked (Peretz, 2018) *
12 The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940)
14 Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) +
15 The Man Between (Reed, 1953)
16 My Favorite Wife (Kanin, 1940)
18 A Simple Favor (Feig, 2018) *
18 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Neville, 2018)
21 The Cheyenne Social Club (Kelly, 1970)
22 Wyatt Earp (Kasdan, 1994)
22 Shotgun Stories (Nichols, 2007)
22 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)
23 Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, 1951)
25 The Thing from Another World (Nyby, 1951)
26 20th Century Women (Mills, 2016)
30 Police Story (Chan/Chen, 1985)
30 Helvetica (Hustwit, 2007)

 
October (35)

1 What’s Up, Doc? (Bogdanovich, 1972)
2 Mud (Nichols, 2012)
2 Police Story 2 (Chan, 1988)
6 The Death of Stalin (Iannucci, 2017)
6 Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Almodóvar, 1990)
8 A Star Is Born (Cooper, 2018) *
9 Christine (Carpenter, 1983)
10 Dark Star (Carpenter, 1974)
12 Sabotage (Hitchcock, 1936)
13 King Kong (Cooper, 1933)
13 Three Colors: Blue (Kieslowski, 1993)
14 Three Colors: White (Kieslowski, 1994)
17 First Man (Chazelle, 2018) *
18 Supercop (Tong, 1992)
19 Three Colors: Red (Kieslowski, 1994)
19 Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
19 I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur, 1943)
20 Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987)
20 Dial M for Murder (Hitchcock, 1954)
20 Fahrenheit 451 (Bahrani, 2018)
22 Crossing Delancey (Silver, 1988)
22 The Americanization of Emily (Hiller, 1964)
26 Tampopo (Itami, 1985)
26 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Wilder, 1970)
27 Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987) +
27 Blood Simple (Coen, 1984)
28 A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)
29 Our Brand Is Crisis (Green, 2015)
29 Burn After Reading (Coen, 2008)
30 Five Corners (Bill, 1987)
30 Drunken Angel (Kurosawa, 1948)
31 The Body Snatcher (Wise, 1945)
31 Diabolique (Clouzot, 1955)
31 Cat People (Tourneur, 1942)
31 Kuroneko (Shindo, 1968)

 
November (37)

2 Yojimbo (Kurosawa. 1961)
2 Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)
2 The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)
3 The Lure (Smoczynska, 2015)
3 Fargo (Coen, 1996)
3 Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Zellner, 2014)
6 The Candidate (Ritchie, 1972)
6 Destination Wedding (Levin, 2018)
7 Scarecrow (Schatzberg, 1973)
9 The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Peckinpah, 1970)
10 Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen, 2013)
10 Breaker Morant (Beresford, 1980)
11 Destination Wedding (Levin, 2018) +
12 Heathers (Lehmann, 1988)
12 The Lake House (Agresti, 2006)
13 Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Peckinpah, 1973)
14 Miller’s Crossing (Coen, 1990)
16 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Coen, 2018)
20 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Hill, 1969)
23 Catch-22 (Nichols, 1970)
24 The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)
24 Hopscotch (Neame, 1980)
26 The Last Emperor (Bertolucci, 1987)
26 Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen, 2013) +
27 The Lower Depths (Renoir, 1936)
28 The Bad Sleep Well (Kurosawa, 1960)
28 La Bête Humaine (Renoir, 1938)
28 Pépé le Moko (Duvivier, 1937)
28 The Getaway (Peckinpah, 1972)

 
I’m grateful for the opportunity FilmStruck presented me to revisit old favorites, to catch up on Kurosawa, to discover Borzage, to finally get around to Wenders’ Wings of Desire and to fall madly in love with Itami’s Tampopo in the first 15 minutes.

Oddly, though, when it was first announced that FilmStruck’s last day would be November 29, I didn’t clear my schedule and dive headfirst into my watchlist, which at that time comprised about 75 films, give or take. Instead, as time ebbed away from me, I found myself just as often paring my watchlist down to account for movies I’d have access to on other platforms or media.

By FilmStruck’s last week I had made a run at Sam Peckinpah, whom it added as one of its last directors of the week, and watched a few films starring my favorite Frenchman, Jean Gabin. By the final day my list was down to about 15 films, seven of which I managed to watch during my daylong vigil, five of which I had never seen before.

I chose a repeat viewing of Certified Copy as my last film of the day because — and I believe Count Almásy would back me up on this — Juliette Binoche’s face tops the short list of Last Things to See As the Lights Go Out. But either FilmStruck interpreted “midnight” very loosely or they meant midnight in either the Alaska or Hawaii time zone; in any event, I was able to watch to the end.

29 The Hidden Fortress (Kurosawa, 1958)
29 Pickpocket (Bresson, 1959)
29 Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1947)
29 Heaven Can Wait (Lubitsch, 1943)
29 The Front Page (Milestone, 1931)
29 The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, 1948)
29 Certified Copy (Kiarostami, 2010)
30 Bel Canto (Weitz, 2018)

 
December (25)

2 Marwencol (Malmberg, 2010)
3 The Song of Lunch (MacCormick, 2010)
3 Hail, Caesar! (Coen, 2016)
4 Madeline’s Madeline (Decker, 2018)
5 De Palma (Baumbach/Paltrow, 2015)
6 Roma (Cuarón, 2018) *
7 Hearts Beat Loud (Haley, 2018)
10 O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coen, 2000)
10 Love & Mercy (Pohlad, 2014)
11 Barton Fink (Coen, 1991)
11 Zero Effect (Kasdan, 1998)
12 Isle of Dogs (Anderson, 2018) +

 
I shouldn’t complain about MoviePass, because in the final accounting my subscription enabled me to see 46 films in theaters at a cost of roughly $1.95 per screening. But by the time I MoviePassed my last movie of the year — a 9:55 a.m. screening of Steve McQueen’s Widows, nearly two full months after I MoviePassed Damien Chazelle’s First Man — the service had become infuriating in its inability to offer even a single eligible screening on any given day. (On one occasion, a film vanished from the app in the 15 minutes it took me to drive to the theater.)

Clearly, as the year waned, MoviePass was reduced to shilling its platform and mailing list to any advertising partner who could prop it up and pay down its debts while providing ever-diminishing returns to its paid subscribers. And truth be told, I hadn’t minded any of the individual restrictions it began to place on subscribers earlier in the year when it became clear it was hemorrhaging money, but it’s staggering that the powers that be possessed so little vision as to think they could offer subscribers virtually unlimited moviegoing without enacting some of those reasonable restrictions from the get-go.

Having flown too close to the sun, MoviePass ultimately alienated a subscriber base that now has no incentive to renew unless its updated subscription tiers offer a more viable model at those price points. Otherwise, it was nice while it lasted.

14 Widows (McQueen, 2018) *
14 Gravity (Cuarón, 2013)
14 Roma (Cuarón, 2018) +
15 The Book of Life (Hartley, 1998)
15 The Man Who Wasn’t There (Coen, 2001)
16 Carol (Haynes, 2015)
17 A Beautiful Mind (Howard, 2001)
25 Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959) +
26 Instant Family (Anders, 2018) *
27 Murder, My Sweet (Dmytryk, 1944)
30 The Tall Target (Mann, 1951)
31 Choke (Gregg, 2008)
31 Another Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1939) +

 
And then we came to the end.

I traveled home for the holidays, so my viewing mostly trailed off in the final two weeks, except for movies on TV (interrupted by an onslaught of commercial breaks in both number and volume that posed the most compelling case yet for my never again subscribing to cable).

All told, I watched 390 films in 2018 — 16 of which were repeat viewings this year; six of which were commentary tracks (which I’m not counting as repeat viewings for this list); 205 for the first time; 65 in theaters. Just over a film a day but just shy of that elusive 400 that would have felt like a first-ballot invitation to Cooperstown. It will be embarrassing to witness how short of that number I fall in 2019, but it won’t be for a lack of trying or a dearth of love for cinema.

Written by Shepcat

December 31, 2018 at 8:09 pm

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma

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In late November, when the celebrated Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci died the same week the streaming service FilmStruck shut down, I seized that brief window to sneak in a screening of Bertolucci’s 1987 epic The Last Emperor. It has long been on my short list of the most beautiful films ever photographed, with its brilliant color palette and the striking, grandiose cinematography of Vittorio Storaro.

In the few short weeks since that viewing, I have added another film to that short list — a film with no color palette at all.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma — with its immaculate composition and pristine monochrome shot in 65mm — is breathtaking to behold.

The semiautobiographical story, centering on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the nanny of a well-to-do Mexico City family in 1970, begins slowly, quietly, unremarkably, giving the audience more time up front to appreciate the austere beauty of Cuarón’s visual style.

Serving as his own D.P. here with a toolbox of wide and anamorphic lenses, Cuarón shoots almost entirely in masters, favoring slow, sweeping pans and long tracking dollies, using coverage sparingly. He’s not just letting you into the life of this family; he’s placing them at the center of the spaces they inhabit — the seeming security of their home, the daily rhythms of their community, the teeming chaos of Mexico City. He wants you to linger on their surroundings and the intimate details, to take in all their conversations and conspiracies. It’s less voyeurism than a God’s-eye view of their lives being lived among other lives.

Meanwhile, as Cuarón lulls us with the painterly beauty of his washed-out daytime exteriors and the Ozuesque framing of his long static shots, he’s boiling the audience like a frog, turning up the dramatic heat so gradually that we’re slow to realize we’re beset on all sides by interpersonal turmoil, family upheaval, betrayals, tragedies, political strife, and even cataclysmic acts of God. We have been gently tugged into the midst of this personal drama, only to find we’ve been watching an epic the entire time.

If this epic has a central theme, it’s the strength and resilience of women, particularly in the wake of mistreatment by men. Cleo and her employer, Sra. Sofia (Marina de Tavira), respond to their respective indignities in the only ways they can — first by leaning on each other, then by moving forward with the knowledge that they alone can bear the weight of their destinies and, ultimately, that they are stronger than the men who betrayed them. That they, with the assistance of the abuelita Sra. Teresa (Verónica García), manage this with love and patience and humor and without cynicism is the film’s testament.

Roma exudes naturalism, and being an American, I wouldn’t know going in whether any of these people were actors. In fact, only a handful of the principal cast had ever acted in film or on TV before — making all the more remarkable Aparicio’s luminous debut performance as Cleo. She carries Roma with a soft-spoken, lived-in and, finally, heroic grace that can’t be faked.

Even if you’re not as fortunate as I was to see Roma in a theater, don’t hesitate to find it on Netflix and watch it on the largest screen and with the best sound system or headphones available to you. Regardless of venue or medium, it is a jewel cut and polished by a master craftsman at the apex of his form and the most magnificent and life-affirming cinematic experience of 2018.

Written by Shepcat

December 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Movies

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365 Days: A Maow Story — #5 in a Series

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One year today.

And a quiet, lonesome year it has been.

Maow was the soul of our home, the mouthy, furry, opinionated, playful, scornful, purring, napping still point of my turning world, and not a day passes that I don’t miss her like an amputated limb. She was the long-suffering object of my constant affection, my greatest gift, my sidekick, my backup, my office manager, my supervising editor, my not-so-silent partner, my confidant, essential to the machinery of daily life — and the gears of our little operation have slowed to a grind in her absence.

Because I tend to anthropomorphize and project, and because I had scant prior experience with cats, I used to fret that Maow’s world was so small, confined to the walls of whatever space we lived in or the backyard we occasionally allowed her to roam and forage, that she was a hostage, a prisoner. Then over time I shrank my own world down to fit into hers. Her world became mine.

And before you think it or say it: Yes, I know that was probably unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that it — that she — wasn’t the best thing for me at the time. You can’t convince me that human contact had anything more to offer me. I mean, you’ve met people, right?

In many ways my world is still as small as the one I shared with Maow. I am branching out a little at a time, gradually re-expanding the sphere of my experience, but I am still waiting for the catalyst, the inciting incident, the course-altering event that will point me toward the undiscovered country of who I’m going to be without her.

Of course, Maow is still with me every day. Literally. The tiny pine box that holds her cremains occupies a shelf not 20 feet from where I spend most of my time — which is to say where we spent most of our time together those last two months.

She pops up frequently in Facebook and Instagram memories, and rare is the day that Adriane or I don’t have a picture of her to share with each other. I admit to feeling cheated on those pictureless days, but I have also had at any given time as many as 16 open browser tabs in which I’ve saved various ones for quick reference. (Never mind the voluminous archive of Maow photos that is effectively just a few extra mouse clicks away.)

She turns up in my dreams occasionally, as recently as a few weeks ago in fact. And I hope she continues to do so, even though my febrile unconscious mind too often busies itself with improbable architecture and casts of unknowns staging impromptu one-acts cobbled together by whatever’s playing on TV when I fall asleep and whatever I happened to eat or drink that night.

She lives in my waking imagination as well, which is to say I often consider an alternate timeline in which Maow is alive and well and factoring into my decision-making, however unmoored from reality those big-picture considerations might be.

When Adriane and I finally listed the Silent J on the market, I scrambled to find Maow and me a new place to live. The house had been at least twice as much space as we needed, and had I not required the use of the master bathroom, neither of us would have had any reason to climb the stairs.

For the short term, we were downsizing to an apartment, but I had for some time fantasized about — was frankly mildly obsessed with — an unconventional dream house: a converted Quonset hut with a mostly open floor plan of about 1,000 square feet, no stairs to climb, a domain whose breadth Maow could survey with a single sweeping glance. Never mind the unlikelihood of finding an extant one locally or the unreality of my buying a plot of land and commissioning the design and construction of one — if people can live in yurts and igloos and tiny houses, I saw no reason why Maow and I couldn’t have a Quonset hut to call home.

It was not to be, of course, but even now I find myself on walks about town judging the merits and drawbacks of various small ranch homes and ramblers I encounter, considering their suitability for Maow and me. Not some prospective feline to be rescued, adopted and named at a later date, mind you. Maow.

Earlier this year, when I read for the first time Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America, I indulged the equally ludicrous fantasy of hitting the open road with Maow in a Rocinante of our own. Never mind that Maow loathed and distrusted the implications of car travel. I imagined that, appointed with appropriate creature comforts, as it were, a homey enough vehicle would grow on her, and she would gladly divide her time either comfortably ensconced in our cozy living quarters or curled beside me on the front seat as I drove. (Much like my Quonset-hut pipe dream, I imagined cutting a hole in the back window to accommodate a Maow-size airlock connecting the truck’s cab to the camper.)

At one time or another, in one way or another, I’ve failed everyone I’ve ever loved. So when Maow and I became two against the world, she became my last, best hope to love someone without fail or regret.

Over what we did not know at the time was the last year of her life, I left Maow on a few occasions — a fishing trip with my dad and brother; back home again for Christmas; a family wedding in Texas — and I dreaded every departure and hated our every minute apart. Even though the neighbor kid was a kind, attentive and reliable pet-sitter, even though Adriane had bought us a Wi-Fi–connected camera so we could look in on her, I hated the thought of Maow alone in that big house, with no sense of the passage of time, no certainty that I would eventually be coming home to her, even though I always did.

All told we spent about five weeks apart that last year, and even though I spent that time in the company of people I love, I wish I had it all back. I wish I had never left her.

That’s exactly the kind of monster I am. Now you know.

Because with an unhesitating degree of certainty I can claim for no one else, I would have run into a burning building for Maow. And at the end, as she became weaker and smaller and the inevitable drew nearer, I would gladly have traded her failing health for that burning building, because it would have meant that I could actually do something for her.

In the end, all I could do was let her go. I hope but will never be entirely convinced that I didn’t fail her in some way. I will never believe I entirely reciprocated all that she gave me. I will always have debits in the ledger. I will always wish I could have done more. I will always wish we had more time together.

Maow was my whole heart. She still is.

Written by Shepcat

November 14, 2018 at 4:05 am

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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