Monthly Archives: February 2011

Can “The Confession ” Continue the Oscars Trend of Tragic Short Film Winners?

In The Confession the conventional themes of death and tragedy are presented and altered into an innovative piece of brilliancy, as an innocent schoolboy accidentally commits an act so appalling, viewers are left leaving their theaters filled with a chilling feeling, difficult to shake.

Director Tanel Toom’s live action short film truly reaches the expectations of what a noteworthy Oscar nominated film should possess.

The film begins with the routine of an average day for nine-year-old Sam, filled with school, games, and constant reminders of Christ. As the movie progresses, we learn Sam’s most arduous dilemma is finding a sin to fill his clear conscious. This problem turns into one of entertainment for Sam and his friend as their innocent trick on a tractor driver to cure Sam from his dilemma turns tragic, leaving Sam with guilt so severe that he continues to perform acts of dismay.

Toom executes the film inventively with a shattering climax and conclusion, transforming the once whimsical film into one of both horror and tragedy.

A question I kept asking myself throughout the film was, “where was God?”

Is it fair that a boy, whose biggest sin was locking his sister in a closet, has to now deal with the guilt of causing the death of others? It seems God was removed from Sam’s life once he removed the scarecrow from his position on the cross, which explains why the “tractor driver” drives from the scene moments before tragedy strikes.

“You have to tell the truth, God knows all,” says Sam’s priest. Yeah, well, so does the tractor driver.

The tractor driver is always seen from a distance and is present in Sam’s daily routine. However, is never actually seen by viewers, just as there is no actual figure of God, portraying him to be God. This abandonment of God is a feeling universal to many Christians, feeling a sense of loss in their faith in their most traumatic and heart wrenching hour.

Toom has experience representing religious themes in his work. In his 2008 short film The Second Coming, the portrayal of a man’s struggle with his brother’s death is so immense he refuses to bury his body in hopes of his Christ-like resurrection. This theme is one Toom has excellently used in both films.

The theme and tone of The Confession are similar to last year’s Academy Award live action short film winner.

In Joachim Back’s The New Tenants, the genres of drama, tragedy, and death are also depicted. In the film, two tenants move into an apartment building practically moments before finding out their apartment was the center of a crime scene not long ago. As the former tenant’s past comes back to haunt these two men, they are forced to witness the unpredictable death of a neighbor and her family.

According to viewer Amanda Santoro “After watching the short films, I was not exactly sure what to look for that would make one of them prestigious enough to win the award. After watching last year’s winner, I realized The Confession has all the elements to win, and more.”

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Bad Idea, Good Movie

Playing it cool, after an unspeakable wrong, can snow in one’s youthful innocence, changing their existence from games to life. Now, what in the devil’s basement does that mean? Up-and-coming, European director Tanel Toom exhibits its meaning in just his 10th short film, “The Confession,” a dramatic, short film dealing with an adolescent boy’s anxiety about his first confession, which intensifies the closer he gets to it.


Sam, played by Lewis Howlett, is a slender but not scrawny 9-year-old boy with a conservative, short haircut and hushed personality that makes him a character that one starts to sideline in the beginning of the film but then is the sole character one can recall, on the spot, by the end of the motion picture. Contrary to Sam is his close friend Jacob, played by Joe Eales; the long-haired, well-upholstered classmate’s brusque speech helps make Sam forgettable at first while his idea that was in need of sensible consideration reversed that. Even so, the film’s thrill is resolute, thanks to how it was shot and the script.

The idea is to do a wrong that Sam could confess to since he did not have one; Jacob conjures taking one of Sam’s father’s scarecrows and place them in the middle of an isolated road to cause a tractor accident. For me, that echoed the 1993 movie “The Good Son,” in which two other adolescent boys carry out the same idea, but, unlike Toom’s film, one of them converts the idea to a plan while being aware in all respects about the disastrous aftermath.

“The Confession” did win the 2010 Student Academy Awards® Honorary Foreign Film Award and is a current nominee for an Academy Award in the Short Film (Live Action) category, but, at length, it is not expected to be a titanic box-office hit, filling up multiplexes across the board. But then again, what short film is?  That being the case, the film should not be discredited but valued for its equivocal compassion to evoke self-imposed questions about one’s stance on adulthood, religion, strength and truth.

The film has two action-packed, gripping, hair-raising, mind-blowing, riveting, spine tingling or whatever other predictable and repetitive adjective you enjoy hearing over and over again scenes. Believe me? Go watch it. Don’t? Order Avatar for the ninth time on the Blockbuster-killer Netflix and say the words the blue people say before they say it since you think it is hilarious to speak like them, even though you annoy everybody else in the room because the one time they thought it was funny was the first time you did it and even then it was not that funny. Yeah, do that. It is not like seeing “The Confession” is going to take far less time, be more enthralling and cost less than a Chia Obama.

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Cupid’s Arrow Missed Me by a Mile

God of Love,” Luke Matheny‘s lighthearted, comedic tale combining romance with bromance, grapples for ground as an artsy short film using silky jazz and a black-and-white monotone, but slips nonetheless into a muddle of familiar storyline that leaves even its characters oddly uncomfortable.

A modern-day twist on the endeavors of a jazz singing, dart-throwing oversized Cupid who really just wants a little bit of lovin’ for himself from the love of his life, the drum-thumping Kelly— played by Marian Brock—Mr. Matheny’s second short film, which began as his thesis at NYU’s prestigious graduate film program, quickly climbed its way to the big leagues. Recently nominated in the Best Live-Action Short category for the 2011 Academy Awards, along with four others from the UK, Belgium, and Ireland, “God of Love” shows us that sometimes love just doesn’t go the way we want it to.

A scene from "Earano," a short film directed by Luke Matheny

Mr. Matheny, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, writer, and actor, won numerous awards and recognition for his previous short film, “Earano,” a comic retelling that loosely follows the Cyrano de Bergerac tale. “Earano” is the story of Earl, a big-eared bighearted man with a one-sided love, who forsakes his happiness and love in order to woo the love of his life on behalf of his conventionally handsome, but inarticulate Ukrainian friend. It is clear that Mr. Matheny is not a rookie director, so why didn’t he try harder to cover new grounds? Beats me.

Like many romantic comedies of today, take “He’s Just Not That Into You” for example,  “God of Love” echoes a familiar narrative that is all too predictable for us to follow attentively with any degree of surprise or newly made revelations. We all know that love can’t be firmly controlled, even by love-inducing darts from God, so it’s difficult to understand why this film was even chosen as a nominee.

Roberto Lobianco agreed. He said, “I liked the fact that they used black-and-white visually, but it was more lighthearted and that might have worked if it had been on its own, but compared to the other movies, it seemed less sophisticated and more clichéd.”

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Crushing on The Crush

The Crush is a seamless comedic thriller about a sophisticated eight- year- old boy’s first crush.  The film follows young Ardal Travis’ (Oran Creagh) pursuit of his second grade teacher, Ms. Purdy’ s (Olga Wehrly), affection.

The film is nominated for an Oscar this year in the live action short film category, alongside Na Wewe and God of Love.

Oran Creagh’s surprisingly polished delivery of Ardal’s deadpan locution provides The Crush with a strong dose of humor. The film opens with the second grader giving Ms. Purdy a small, plastic ring. “It’s important that you know how I feel about you,”  Ardal says matter of factly.

His hopes are dashed when he and his mother run into Ms. Purdy and her arrogant fiance while shopping.

An avid fan of Westerns, Ardal begins to plot his revenge and challenges the fiance to a duel. The film treats this motif delicately, never shoving the similarities in your face.

The duel is the most intense scene of the film with Ardal bringing a eerily real pistol along with him. Writer and director, Michael Creagh, masterfully injects a shot of pure suspense pairing the exchange between Ardal and Ms. Purdy’s fiance with quick cuts and camera movements.

The film is an homage to the dedication one has to their first crush and is easily relatable.

Last year’s Live Action Short winner, The New Tenants, while also including humor and suspense, is a vastly different film than The Crush, taking a seemingly more serious approach. Whether or not this is any indication of Crush‘s chances of winning the Oscar, the film is memorable in the sense that it combines relatability,  carefully built up suspense, and thoughtful dialogue and humor. Not to mention, Oran Creagh’s impressive acting ability.

Hopefully it will win for best live action short, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still a worthwhile film to watch. It’s also available for purchase on iTunes, for only $2!

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Wish, I Love You

Wish 143 is a compelling short film that emotionally explores the depth and psyche of a young and terminally ill cancer patient by the wish he desires fulfilled before his dying day–losing his virginity.

An Oscar nominated live action short from the UK, Wish 143 is a dramatic romantic comedy that chronicles the brevity of life and desire for love in just about 23 minutes. It may not show romance in the conventional sense but the film certainly romanticizes love in its essence, and does so with a simple dose of humor.

When the Dreamscape wish maker visits David, he expects the youth to want a trip to Disney World or meet former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville. But he is completely taken aback when David honestly only wants to have sex with a naked woman, and dreams of having it in a car no less. It may seem like the adolescent’s raging hormones are to blame but Wish 143 proves it’s much more than that.

David’s inner feelings about his wish are increasingly revealed and resonant on screen. I realized that he isn’t just seeking the sensation of sex, but that of love, that someone would want to share it with him and touch him physically and emotionally. His mentor, Father Jim Carter, makes him see this. Even though the good priest initially tries to explain to David that sex is a sacred act, he also tries to understand him and eventually help him get what he wants–what he really wants, a real connection with another person that sees past his illness.

I found this dynamic between Father Carter and David so refreshingly amusing. From the priest’s youthful trainers to his easy attitude, he just tries to genuinely connect with the youth and he is completely nonjudgmental in the process. He’s a real friend to him.

So there is definitely a balance between romance and humor in Wish 143, the title itself hints at it. 143= I (1) Love (4) You (3). From David’s innocent desire to be engaged in an act of passion (maybe with his high school girlfriend,) to truly just wanting to be embraced by a woman, to when he compares his tumor to various fruits, to when he pranks the bus driver in one scene, the film is both heartbreakingly touching and comically moving.

Looks like he's bitten a piece of his heart.

Director Ian Barnes and writer Tom Bidwell really strum at heartstrings with the simple shots and subtle but affective storyline. Their piece may not stand a chance next to the visually stunning and intensely dramatic The Confession or romantic thriller of sorts The Crush, but Wish 143 says a great deal about life and love in less than sweeping imagery on a what seems an amateur camera and editing software, its only flaw. The visual quality is grainy and appears almost like a home video, lacking that high definition image, which can distract viewers’ attention.

Therefore, as a collective work, it’s clearly the underdog nominee, quite like Dogtooth in the Foreign Language category. Both are films that viewers undoubtedly appreciate on a profound level but many doubt will earn the award.

But David Ospino disagrees. “I think Wish 143 is gonna win because it deals with cancer. That’s how the Oscar’s work.” Ospino thinks it has a fighting chance because, “It deals with a timely issue in a way that people relate to or empathize with. He’s young and he’s a virgin, and he really just wants affection.”
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The Crush Alert

“The Crush” has proven to be one of the most outstanding, comical short-films that have modernized the acts of childhood love and admiration. Director Michael Creagh, 37, honed his passion for movies and took the next step by producing this short-film, which is also his very first film that has received several praises inclusive of the current Oscar nomination and award for the Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival in Ireland. “The Crush” tells the story of a clever eight-year old, Irish youngster who proclaims his undeniable love for his teacher by igniting a duel to the death with her distrusting fiancé in efforts to reveal the truth and win her heart.

First and foremost, the movie was filmed in Ireland, and produced entirely with capital resources received from the bank and the director’s father. This notable contribution and investment facilitated Creagh’s ideas which swiftly developed into the worthwhile film being nominated at The Oscars on Sunday evening. As a newcomer to the world of short –films, I overly enjoyed this well-developed short; it was astonishing, humorous and memorable. Despite the brief running time of fifteen minutes and a cast of novice actors; this film successfully captured the viewer’s interest using a charming storyline that utilizes the care-free yet common emotions that have stirred in many middle-aged children and teenagers.

Out of the five short-films that we watched at the IFC theatre last week, “The Crush”, provided a nice, lasting impression that made me smile. Specifically, it was the generous amount of creativity employed, which was one sweet element in the film that aided in the dazzling delivery and performance from Oren Creagh, the 10-year old, director’s son and main character in the film. Honestly, I thought Oren Creagh was spunky, witty and bold; he dominated the role by displaying an adorable sincerity throughout the film. In addition, Oren quickly won the audience over when performing the clever, hilarious scheme his character cooked up to humiliate his competition in the pistol duel.

What I loved most about “The Crush” was how the genuine emotions of the schoolboy was demonstrated in the very first scene. In this scene, the director effectively showed viewers the strong, cute infatuation he held for the teacher when he presents her with a ring, which represents the traditional token of love in most films. Director Creagh re-introduced a commonly used theme; in general crushes on teachers are unavoidable but it can be the right universal and relatable experience to illustrate in a film’s storyline in efforts to engage viewers. For example, in an episode of the television show, Glee, female lead character Rachel Berry develops a tremendous, school girl crush on Will Shuester, the New Directions Choir Director.

Initially, Rachel begins to demonstrate her fondness for Shuester by giving a tie gift to get his attention and shortly after surprising him with a home visit to present the home-made dinner she prepared for him. Meanwhile, Shuester struggles during the episode as he contemplates the best way to stomp out her devotion for him without hurting her feelings. This comparison reflects on the youthful storylines in both “The Crush” and “Glee” and its amusing portrayal of the informal, anticipated actions and behavior during a crush period.  

Finally, the award committee for the Oscars may not be open-minded about films that acquired the combined themes of love and comedy but as a longtime fan of movies that captures your heart by employing those themes, I hope they will decide on “The Crush” for the prestigious winner of the best short-film award.

 If you are excited about the Oscars on Sunday and are prepping for the big night with your family or friends, here is a list of 10 appetizer recipes: . These recipes will be perfect for your award party, as they were created to feature the nominated movies for the award of Best Motion Picture!

Also, if you are have been interested in reading the select novels that some of the nominated films were based on, here is a list for you to check out during your free time;

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Temptations of the Gods can Reap Hilarious Benefits

The Oscar nominated film “God of Love” by filmmaker Luke Matheny shows to be a riveting comical display of pursuits for unreachable love that has a rather satirical twist. From the opening of the film some viewers would be oblivious to the humorous backdrop, but once the story begins and ends, it’s easy to see the humor in Mr. Matheny’s madness. From the actors and actresses amusing yet serious facial expressions, to the many witty lines that come from the narrator and main character’s mouth all played also by Mr. Matheny, it’s hard not to at least chuckle at the numerous droll scenes.

Ray (Luke Matheny) is a jazz singing, dart throwing ordinary guy, who has a one sided crush on Kelly (Marian Brock), drummer of their jazz group. After stumbling upon a box of love darts, Ray becomes insistent on targeting Kelly for her love.

Luke Matheny’s simple approach to convey how love doesn’t always go as planned and cannot be forced is ingeniously formatted in his attempt to deliver the message to the viewers. Mr. Matheny isn’t new to the conception of entertaining films especially short’s. His previous success in the video short “Earano,” which won the King Award for Screenwriting at the NYU First Run Festival, as well as well as Best Student Short at the Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City, Nevada, proved him worthy of the 2011 Oscar Nomination for live action short film. Having directed, acted, edited and produced over several short films in his career, Mr. Matheny obviously proved to be no novice.

“God of Love” can be compared with similar romance comedies such as “The Ugly Truth,” which to an extent speaks of another sort of cupid who worked his magic through flirtatious remarks and witty banter rather than the handy love dart. And in the end with all of his handsome flare and dirty seductive conversation, he also learned that love was more complex than originally expected.

The “God of Love” was quite different in that the good guy doesn’t get the girl but the other guy on the side who has no interest does. In the end, Ray is granted the gift to become the God of love which seemed to be slightly confusing seeing his many mistakes in making other women fall for him as practice towards Kelly’s heart. The only proper and righteous choice made was using a dart to make his friend Fozzie (Christopher Hirsh) see the love stricken face of the one who desired him for so long. But who knows, maybe one good choice out of several bad ones were all that was necessary to be given the opportunity to give a gift to others Ray never really received, Love.

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Can A Confession Be Any More Painful Than This?

One of the most unexpectedly heart-wrenching and twisted, yet captivating, depictions of a young boy’s loss of innocence is found in this year’s Oscar-nominated short film, The Confession.

Directed and written by Tanel Toom, the British psychological thriller presents the story of two 9-year-old boys, Sam and Jacob, who are worried about their first Catholic confession. However, what is seemingly a harmless, playful story about two boys wondering what to confess and playing a prank on a tractor driver takes a deadly turn for the worse.

This is not Toom’s first plunge into films with religious and spiritual themes.  In 2008, he released his short film, Second Coming, in which a a soldier does not bury his brother who is killed in war, hoping for his resurrection.

Following in the path of other tragic coming-of-age films like 1986’s Stand By Me and other “bad child leading the good child astray” films like 1993’s The Good SonThe Confession does what the other oscar-nominated short films do not: no answers, no relief, no closure. It leaves the audience with an eerie feeling, a yearning for more.

Toom develops the plot not only through the compelling actors and dialogue, but also through the use of symbolism and the cinematography. His juxtaposition of the cornfield, the scarecrow on the cross, and the tractor driver with the church symbols gives the film a thought-provoking depth.

Does the scarecrow represent Jesus and the Crucifixion, and the tractor driver, God? The scarecrow is buried (in order to hide the evidence) with no ressurection, suggesting only death and no hope. Both the scarecrow and the tractor driver provide the turning point of the film. Before the scene of the car crash, his tractor turns instead of driving straight into the scarecrow on the road, sealing the fate of the family in the car.

The cinematography also worked to capture the mood of the film and the main characters. From the start, the visuals evolved, from colorful and bright to gray-scale and dark. The film turns from light-hearted to heavy and melancholic, and the cinematography illustrates the psychological weight of the deaths on Sam.

The Confession questions how faith and religion leads people to do certain things, how a complex religion and its practices through the eyes of a young person or someone who do not understand it fully can be dangerous, and how religious pressure affects an individual. Humans and nature are often in conflict with religion and its practices.

“You have to tell the priest everything or he won’t be ale to absolve you; he won’t be able to forgive you. And God knows when you are hiding something.” warns the priest to class in the beginning of the film.

That is a lot of pressure in of itself; now imagine that amount of pressure in the mind of a 9-year-old, which culminated into the ending of the film. How does Sam find the words to say he was involved in the death of a family and his friend; instead he opts to confess the normal childhood expectation that kids do not listen to their parents and tease their siblings. If only the actual truth was that simple.

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Rollercoaster of emotions at the IFC Theater

Imagine sitting in a dark, tiny movie theater while munching on delicious organic popcorn while trying not to cry in front of your classmates so you don’t look like a loser. Then imagine howling with laughter only moments later. This basically summed up my Oscar-nominated short film watching experience. I went through so many emotions in such a short period of time, that I thought I was my mother going through menopause.

The two short films that stuck out the most to me, were the two that made me experience the strongest emotions. ‘‘The Confession” was the depressing story of a young boy who causes an accident and accidentally kills his best friend.. all in the matter of two days! I sat there in shock and tried not to cry as he sat in the confessional and struggled to confess his sins, only to chicken out. Needless, to say I was more than relieved when that film ended.

The last film, “God of Love,” was definitely my favorite of the bunch. It made me laugh out loud more than a handful of times, and was a nice reprieve from the emotion turmoil I endured from the previous films. The story revolves around your typical awkward-goofy-romantic who is in love with a girl who doesn’t even give him the chance of day, even after he strikes her with Cupid’s arrow and writes her a 9-page poem in Portuguese. Luke Matheny, who made the film AND also played the lead role of Ray, was entertaining to watch and hilariously funny. So much that at point I was sure I was going to be kicked out of the theater for laughing too hard.

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Media Decoder: Palin, Tell-All Books, Dirty Tricks & Joe McGuiness

Sarah Palin, a skilful self-promoter and consummate actress, is a savvy user of social networking–Twitter, Facebook–and also a highly marketable brand. Say ‘Palin!’, and presto the media and paparzzi appear, and in the background the kerching of cash registers.

Palin is self-advertising in motion. She has the looks of an angel but the tongue of a devil. And from her Etna-hot mouth spews a stream of lava to scorch and dry and wither her enemies. To her camp followers, it matters little that she lacks logic or that she displays her ignorance of general culture or the wider world or that in her private life she strays from her evangelical Christian beliefs; for them, she’s the ‘little woman‘ from a humble background, who has had to work hard in life for everything in this earthly life; for them, too, she’s a who knows how to stick it to the big, privileged rich kids, born with silver spoons in their mouths.

Palin’s a media star with the same tawdry appeal of a ‘Kooki‘ Her antics and hijinx resonate with the very people who relish putting the ‘rich’ into uncomfortable and awkward postures, while at the very same time that she is laughing all the way to bank and hobnobbing with the very people she socially despises. She’s, in other words, a parvenue and in a perverse way a grand entertainer of the masses. The country’s right-wing moneyed and political elite have made a place for her in their midst for the plain and simple reason they believe that the American people are too lazy or stupid to understand what the powers-that-be are talking about, even if they have an interest in politics. For them, it takes a great effort to approach things logically. To get them on your side, say the big guys, requires a shoot-gun effect. And, that packet of pellets of the right-wing is Sarah Palin.

Writers of two ‘tell-all’ book on Sarah Palin are engaged in a ‘battle royale‘ over whose book is going to cash in on the life of the woman who had the ears of the world stand up by proclaiming that she was like a ‘pitbull with lipstick‘ in 2008, thereby instantly becoming a recongizable, global household name.

Frank Bailey, Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon‘s ‘In Blind Allegiance‘, soon to be published by St. Martin’s press has been blindsided by Joe McGinniss who ‘leaked an early copy of their book’ on his blog, Mudflats. At the same, he was keeping his own book ‘The Rogue: searching for the real Sarah Palin‘, to be published by Broadway Books in September 2011, under wraps.

Bailey, Morris and Devon, through their lawyer, have accused McGinniss of behaving with malice of intent of wanting to destroy their book’s ‘marketability’. What’s more blame him of more than being a ‘jealous author sabotaging a competitor,’ but a man who would stoop to get his way ‘vai unlawful and unscrupulous means’.

McGinniss at the age of 26 burst on to the best seller list with The Selling of the President, describing the marketing of presidential candidate Richard Nixon in 1968. His book was a ‘tour de force‘ in the way it described the staging of political theater in getting the ‘new Nixon’ elected as president. His book became a classic in campaign reporting, as well as a key to the sleights of hand used by the old media in projecting a man who, after his defeat to JFK in 1960, famously announced to the press that ‘they won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.’ And there he was eight years later the 37 president, thanks, in part, to a favorable manipulation of the media.

McGinniss did play dirty pool. Leaking his competitor’s manuscript, he torpedoed any hope that ‘In Blind Allegiance’ would sell like a hot-ticket item. Unfortunately, Bailey, Morris, and Devon may not have taken the full measure of him, nor appreciated his telling how a man like Nixon could be turned into an ‘Abraham Lincoln‘. It was though a bully had come into the children’s sandbox and threw dirt in the kids’ eyes.

Yes, McGinniss by leaking his competition’s manuscript played dirty. He learnt his lessons well during the 1968 campaign, it seems. He was out for the big bucks his book will bring to his publishers and the royalties he will garner. Nonetheless, as he might have had Wikileaks in his sights, a leaked document has news value but hardly turns a profit but for the ones who leaked it.

McGinniss may not be Mr. Nice, but like the subject of his book, Sarah Palin, he knows where the beef, oops, the Greenbacks are.

Comments:   “Alas, unlike old generals who fade away, dirty tricks are here to stay.”

“The ooze of deceit percolates through them thar Mudflats.”

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