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a book, film + chit chatty blog

Saturday, 24 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #1

Today is Christmas Eve, I'm about to share my favourite Christmas film of.all.time and, I've reached the end of Blogmas! Today is a good day. All you ever hear me do is moan about blogging everyday for 12 days and I didn't even do it properly. But it has also made me realise how much I love blogging and sharing all my favourite films at my favourite time of year! So, at Number 1 ... the film that made me do this whole countdown ...


The Best Man's Holiday

Just thinking about this film makes me a bit emotional. This film is actually a sequel, though I've never seen the first film  so I doubt it's important. And besides, the first few minutes of the film catches us to speed on what happened in the first film.

In The Best Man's Holiday, couple Mia (Monica Calhoun) and Lance (Morris Chesnut) send letters tto their closest friends, asking them to join their family for Christmas, all under one roof. That's Harper and his very pregnant wife Robyn, the wayward Shelby, and equally wayward Quentin, Julian and his wife Candace, her best friend Jordan along with her boyfriend Brian. Got that? Okay.

They all arrive at the house, after 14 years of seeing each other and the bond and chemistry between them is exactly the same. However as the celebrations take place, really ugly tensions rise between certain characters, notably Lance and Harper after years of hurt have gone unresolved. Harper, a novelist is penning a book called Unfinished Business (lol) which details the one night stand Harper had with Lance's then fiance years ago (don't know why he feels he need to bring this up :L).  And this betrayal is so humanly (is this the right word?) handled.


This film is a very character driven comedy which is able to juggle all these personalities to the point where you're fully invested in each character and then half way through the film, throws in a tragedy. Because of the work the film does to pull you in beforehand, this halfway point is genuinely devastating. I actually find it very difficult to cry when watching films. I'm that person who is moved, but not to tears. And I wailed. At times, it's emotionally heavy, thanks to the some exceptional performances and it also throws in themes such as black masculinity and betrayal and what it means to be a good friend. That said, it's but it's also breathtakingly uplifting. The Best Man's Holiday never forgets that it's a holiday comedy and you'll find yourself laughing through the tears.

Go find a copy of this film and watch it now, I promise it will make your Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!
xoxo
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12 Days of Christmas Films #2


Elf
You didn't think I'd do an entire list of my favourite Christmas films and not include Elf, did you? If you haven't seen it yet, it tells the story of Buddy (played by Will Ferrell), an orphan who accidentally crawls into Santa's bag whilst Santa is doing the rounds and ends up hitching a ride to the North Pole. When he gets there, he's adopted by Papa Elf who raises him as an elf. But growing up, Buddy knew he was different and doesn't fit in. Given that you know, he's about 5 times the size of an average Elf. When he's old enough, Papa Elf explains that he'd been given up for adoption and his father is in fact alive and lives in New York, working as a children's book editor.   got caught in Santa's bag when he was out on delivery. Santa decides to raise him as his own. Elf is the story of Buddy returning  to New York to meet his father, his new family and find out who he really is.



Robert Ebert described the film as "One of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor" and I couldn't have put it better myself. Every element of this film makes my heart so full: all the elf-like shenanigans that ensue once Buddy arrives in New York like the big confrontation between Buddy and the fake Santa in the department store; Mary Steenburgen who plays Buddy's stepmom and is so mothering and lovable and endearing; and Will Ferrell himself, who is so charming and genuine as this big friendly giant. In his weird way, this is a story of how Buddy saves both his family and in doing so, Christmas itself.
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Friday, 23 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #3

I've already watched this film at least 8 times this year and reckon that after talking about it now, I'll be watching it before bed. It just .. brings out all the feels.



The Holiday 
*Mild Spoilers*

The Holiday is one of those films that you might love, but when you strip it back, you can't deny how flawed it is. Are Kate Winslet's Iris and Cameron Diaz' Amanda really in a state of crisis? Or are they overreacting? Why has no-one told Iris this whole obsession with Jasper is properly pathetic? And like her character, Kate doesn't seem to know her own worth because why did she take this role? Also, now that they've both found the love of their lives in different countries, what are they going to do about their living arrangements? But we don't care because as Mindy Kaling once said, a good rom-com is basically sci-fi - a universe with rules completely different to the ones in the world we live in. And in this movie, everyone who lives in England lives in the cosiest, cutest, most picturesque, hobbit looking cottages you've ever seen; making movie trailers for a living actually makes you a millionaire and; sleeping with Jude Law is a problem and subsequent plot twist.

It tells the story of Iris, a English journalist who agrees to swap her cottage in Surrey for Amanda's lush mansion in Beverly Hills, after the two women find themselves - apparently - at a crossroads in life which has been triggered by chasing after losers. After their respective "heartbreak", they both meet the men their meant to be with. For Amanda, it's Iris brother Graham, played by Jude Law, a book editor and single father *swoon*. And for Winslet, it's Jack Black's Miles, a film score composer who is superduperuber charming. So not only does everyone have the coolest jobs, they live in the most beautiful locations, fall in love with the most intelligent and romantic and thoughtful people (bar Cameron Diaz, who is as ditzy as ever) AND, it's all set around Christmas! In the winter! In the snow!

Directed by the Queen of rom-coms herself Nancy Meyers, the film understands that at this time of year, all we want in a rom com is mind numbing rosiness and bliss.
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12 Days of Christmas Films #4

Now that Christmas is TWO DAYS AWAY, I promise these last four films do more than deliver on the scale of festive spirit. So without further ado ...



The Santa Clause 

The Santa Clause is a. the best of the three films and b. THE story of Father Christmas, making it required holiday viewing.

It's Christmas Eve and Scott picks up his son from his ex-wife. Unfortunately as Scott is shouting, Santa Claus is on his roof and the shock of his shout (it's better than it sounds I promise) causes him to slip, fall and ...die. Bit morbid but the film gets over it pretty quickly. You see, Santa's body disappears (don't ask) and Scott is left with the red suit. So he puts it on and tarts doing Santa's rounds (because logic) with Charlie in toe. The North Pole elves inform Scott that according to the "Santa Clause", he must now become Santa. Of course when Charlie relays this back to his mum, she's convinced he's got issues - because of his cray Dad. So now not only is Scott adjusting to the hefty task of being Santa Clause, he's now got to deal family drama in the form of court hearings. As Christmas approaches, Scott has to ya know, be Santa and convince his family, friends and the justice system he isn't crazy.


There's really no way of explaining the plot without it sounding really lame, right? Such a cliche but trust me when I say, it's one of the most touching Christmas films out there.  Scott is thrust into our world as Santa, in a world where no one above the age of 6 believes in Santa but his son. This story arc is then layered with the fact that he's just come out of an ugly divorce and is struggling with his own identity and worth. His son is struggling too but also suddenly has faith in him when he sees him become Santa ... but then no one else believes him .. THE FEELS IT'S JUST SO SAD. But the film also lightens the mood with fun and comedic elements, notably the attention taken to create the North Pole and also the way it handles Scott's transition into Santa Claus! A perfectly struck balance between emotional heartstrings and festive cheer.
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Thursday, 22 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #5





Nativity! 

In Nativity! Martin Freeman plays Paul, a man who dreamed of being an actor/director but finds himself as a primary school teacher. Every year, the public school he teaches at, St Bernadette Catholic School in Coventry competes with the local private school, to see who can produce the best nativity play. Paul himself has been a bit of a Scrooge in recent years, after his girlfriend dumped him on Christmas day. So when Paul spreads that said ex-girlfriend, a Hollywood producer, is coming to see the show to turn it into a film ... the stakes are pretty high.



The film is clearly trying to be a British School of Rock set in Coventry. And in the beginning, it's as, contrived and forced and frankly dire as it sounds. But then we meet all the kids and the film just allows them to be kids meaning the humour doesn't feel forced. The final show itself is so endearing and genuine and very British!
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12 Days of Christmas Films #6

I've now got big respect for people who do Blogmas/Vlogmas consistently. I've now got a big ol' back log of posts so stay tuned over the next few hours!
Number 6 ...


The Family Stone

Christmas is often spent with family, nuclear and extended. Of course when so many personalities and values are coming together, a lot can go wrong. And that's what happens during the Stone family's holidays. Everett (Dermot Mulnorey) the oldest son and a business executive; brings his tightly wound, traditional girlfriend Meredith (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) home for the holidays to meet his bohemian family, lead by family matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton).


The film explores three unconventional romance arcs that capture the complexities and nuances in relationships that I think for the most part, deviate from the conventional rom-com formula. In exploring themes such as familial tensions, illness, racism and personal identity; the central cast deliver some surprisingly poignant performances for a film of this nature.

Things sort of fall apart a bit in the final act, as if the film suddenly becomes aware that most Christmas films are cheesy and predictable and so it must follow suit. Once Meredith's more likeable sister Julie (played by Claire Danes) arrives, it rushes to give us the happy endings that wouldn't naturally happen for these particular set of characters and so the film loses a touch of its realism. That said, its a solidly fun and uplifiting Christmas film, with a stellar cast.
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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #7

Today's choice is something a little different and much needed break from our typical festive films ...


Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas

Last year, the Hallmark Channel brought us a special with the Queen of Christmas herself  - Mariah Carey (!) It's an hour long musical documentary where Mariah sings some of our favourite Christmas tunes and carols, may I add impeccably whilst slaying at every possible camera angle. There's beautiful music, elves and everyone in the audience seems to be having a great time; this is a light, fun viewing but will get you feeling super festive!

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The music is broken up with Mariah talking about her own Christmas (if you're a Lamb, your soul was craving this. If you're a part of the population who believe Mariah is the most annoying person in the world, I'm sorry),a reading of a Christmas classic by Kelsey Grammar a stun-ning duet with Babyface,  and Santa Claus himself also makes a cameo.

Yes because it's Mariah, it's rather self absorbed. You've been warned, this isn't the Christmas show with Mariah, this is the Mariah show with Mariah believing she is the embodiment of Christmas (again if you're a Lamb, your soul was craving this. If you're a part of the population who believe Mariah is the most annoying person in the world, I'm sorry). The guests literally shower her with compliments that only come across as rehearsed and scripted by Mariah herself. That said, you cannot deny after watching this that she's one of the best vocalists of our time. And there's enough great music to distract you.

It's also now available on Netflix UK!
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Monday, 19 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #8

Oops! It appears we're a day behind on the countdown soo I'l have two posts tomorrrow! Lucky youu! Okay enough faffing about. At number 8 ...


The Santa Clause 2

In this sequel, Scott aka Santa Claus (Tim Allen), is now settled in his role as Santa only to find out that his final obligation for the job role is to get married before Christmas (a month away) else he can no longer be Santa Clause. And then you know, whose going to give us presents? The stakes are high. So, he decides to return home to find a Mrs Claus and upon his return, finds out his son has been acting up - finding himself on the naughty list.  I mean , the stress. He's got to fulfil the final clause so that Christmas as we know it isn't dead, and also deal with his own family drama. There's not much more to say without spoiling anything but know that these two plot lines very satisfyingly overlap. 

The Santa Clause 2 finds itself on this list because, find me another film that directly addresses the intricacies and technicalities of Santa's role. Exactly. 

The mechanics of this are well executed in this film with such great attention to detail. Santa's grotto, is where dreams are made off. And in this film, we get to see Tim Allen as a fully fleshed Santa with the beard and the belly and oh it's so great. There's even a lovely little pointless sub plot going on back at the North Pole whereby Santa's substitute has let's say ... dictatorial tendencies.

If you think about it, the film actually makes Santa more relatable because, he has a life too ya know? It must get pretty lonely all year alone up in the North Pole so, I could get on board with the romantic story line. And like all of us, Santa also has his fair share of familial drama. Only of course because it's Father Christmas himself, the film is littered with Christmassy shenanigans. 
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Saturday, 17 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #9

Yep, these posts are going to be short and sweet. Number 9 is a Christmas classic ...


Home Alone

I think what made Home Alone such a hit is that if you think about it, it's quite dark for a Christmas film. These parents go on holiday, accidentally leave their child, don't come back to get him and whilst he's home all alone at Christmas , these two really menacing looking guys are trying to break into his house and he's left with the task of fending them off! I mean this really sweet kid is called "a disease" by his older siblings and a "little jerk" by his Uncle. So unlike most Christmas favourites, noone is falling in love here with cute Christmas music, there's no hygge, there's no copious amounts of family time. Instead, there's a really smart kid who isn't even slightly frightened, at the prospect of spending Christmas alone, a lot of slapstick violence and I guess bad language - for a 90's family film anyway.



And yet despite all this, it still manages to have an underlying message about community spirit and the importance of family. 
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Friday, 16 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #10

Ho ho ho. I've noticed these posts are getting shorter and shorter. But I've got tomorrow's film and it's going to make for a loooong(er) post. I think. I wouldn't know seeing as I haven't written it. Oh boy this is hard.

Jumping straight into things at Number 10 ... 


When Harry Met Sally

Haters will say this isn't a Christmas film. I'm saying, that this movie has a Christmas tree. And two New Years Eve parties sooooo



Harry and Sally meet in 1977 when they share a ride to New York (FYI, the most magical movie Christmas setting). During the drive, they butt heads over their differing views about whether or not men and women can be friends, Harry arguing that men and women can never truly be friends. After crossing paths again and again in a 5 year period; they find themselves being friends, bonding over their failed relationships. Though if you haven't seen this yet you can probably guess what happens, their friendship is probably one of the most believable ones I've seen onscreen. There are no insta-love vibes going on and for the majority of the film, we see a genuine friendship with real arguments that actually shock you, like a real friendship would (not low key/movie shock) and real moments when they're actually there for each other at their lowest. Ugh it's just beautiful!  The film's dialogue is for the most part, delivered in a fast repartee style which makes it so quotable and I think is what puts it up there with one of the best rom-coms of all time.


Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal chemistry is warm. And with all the other mild (arguably v. mild) Christmas vibes going on, this is a great one for this time of the year.
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Thursday, 15 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #11

How do people do Blogmas seriously, it's Day 2 of my countdown and I nearly forgot I had a post going up today. Well better late than never! At Number 11 ...


Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh

Bet you weren't expecting to find this gem in a top 12 Christmas movies of all time list, did you? Well if you must know, it's up there. That's right, I chose Merry Christmas Drake and Josh over Love Actually (if you missed my disclaimer yesterday, I hate Love Actually so it won't be here).



The storyline is pretty straightforward. Drake accidentally (he was momentarily distracted) promises to give a little girl and her foster family, the best Christmas ever.  He later throws a party which gets a little out of control, to the point where Josh calls the police on them. In true Drake and Josh form, Josh is the one who ends up getting arrested because the police thought he was the one causing trouble. Drake then tries to get him out with Helen's help. Of course that doesn't work and the judge rules that unless they give this girl the best Christmas ever, their both going to prison. When of course ensues is a serious of classic Drake and Josh slapstick sequences as they try to make this "best Christmas" happen.


Perhaps the best thing about this film is that every Drake and Josh fan wanted it. At the time, it'd been ages since we'd seen them on the screen and it's so nice to see their chemistry hadn't changed. Throw in the fact that this film is literally about trying to create the perfect Christmas, and all our favourite characters are back (doing exactly what we thought they'd be doing); the cast get right back into the groove and humour that made the show such a success. Listen it's a Nickelodeon film so yes the plot is a bit out there. But just go along with the ridiculousness, it's such a throwback and, it's a lot of fun.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

12 Days of Christmas Films #12

It's now 12 days till Christmas (eek) so, I'm going to make things a bit festive over here and do a countdown of my favourite Christmas films in the lead up! Disclaimer: Love Actually will not be featured on this list because I'm part of the small population of people who hate that film.


Serendipity

If you're still at work/school/uni like I currently am, you're probably not in full frontal Christmas spirit. Serendipity is one of those films that slowly eases you into Christmas because it's not an ostensibly (not sure if this is the right word) Christmassy. In fact it's not ostensibly anything. It's one of those very flawed, forgettable films that you only whip out around this time of the year and you can sort of watch in the background? But it still fulfils its purpose of getting you slightly more excited and feeling all cosy and hygge.


The film stars John Cussack and Kate Beckinsale as Jonathan and Sarah; two characters who meet at a Christmas store when they're both trying to buy the same gloves. Of course (!) there's an instant spark because what are the chances, am I right or am I right?! They then decide to share a desert at a cafe called Serendipity, they go ice skating, they fall in love  - obvs. Inconveniently however, they're in relationships with other people. Sara I guess is a bit of hippy and gives us a speel about fate determining all her decisions and they agree that if it's meant to be, if fate is on their side, they'll meet again.

What then ensues is essentially fate banging at the front door. I mean they meet again literally 5 minutes later. The funny thing about this film is it's obviously trying to evoke that feeling of: will they, won't they ... but fate is on their side! ... it's so romantic!  The screenplay so wants us to be super frustrated every time their paths cross. But there's a moment in a every rom-com I believe when you know, because the screenplay makes it ostensibly (well I'm love throwing this word around today don't I?!)  that your characters are going to be okay and find each other again.This moment happens in the first 10 minutes which essentially means you can just switch off after. I normally grab a book or have a nap at this point. I would however recommend looking up for the ice skating scene and the last twenty minutes. Both sweet moments. But honestly the sequences that follow their first meeting are so ridiculous, it's  more witchcraft than destiny.


Serendipity for me, is one of those films instigates all those feelings of Christmas spirit despite its many many flaws. You watch it being fully aware that this was John Cussack's most side eye career move and, that Beckinsale is far too intelligent and talented to play such a hollow character. You watch it knowing the plotline is conceptually basic and flawed. You watch it knowing Sara and Johnathan wouldn't make it to Valentine's Day. But I think your enjoyment of it lies solely in your ability to a. get over all of this for the sake of Christmas; and embrace the "magic" (you know the snow, ice skating, coffee, falling in love with the backdrop of Christmas, Cussack and Beckinsale's chemistry)  of it all.


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Sunday, 11 December 2016

being a nervous speaker



I was considered a "chatty" child. And not in the endearing sense. We all know a child who doesn't know when to be quiet.  Happy to say that the older I got, the quieter / more mellow I've become.  Since Year 12, when my friends sort of dispersed to various colleges etc etc, I've become really reliant on good ol' Whatsapp and Facebook chat to catch up with people. But I think to the point where my conversational skills have taken sharp decline. Without sounding too self indulgent, the years following Year 12 are v. transitional and it's not been very easy. And because I'm the type of person whose closest friends have been the same since secondary school, a lot of those long, complaining, emotional convos/rants have been on either Whatsapp or Facebook chat.

And of course it's great we have the Internet to keep in touch with people blah blah blah. The point is, all these long chats online have been to the detriment of my real life conversational skills. The thing with talking online is:

- You have a bit of time to think through what you say - very useful for folks like me, who aren't v.witty
- You can dip in and out of a conversation and still feel like it's been a fruitful one. For instance I'll sometimes Skype my brother for 2 hours and at least half an hour of that time, is just silence - we're just surfing the net or not even in the room. I also hate small talk. So the other great thing about this, is that if you're bored, you can make up an excuse and leave.Ahh

But these traits that I'm now used to, do not make you a good conversationalist irl. I now find I put a lot of pressure on myself (depending on the company) to be quick and witty and articulate, because I'm now so comfortable typing behind my laptop. So much so that I sometimes stutter ugh.

When I'm in a group of people who maybe aren't my tightest group of friends, I'm all like "errghh I need to work the room ... I need to speak up ... I need to smile more ... I need to ask more questions". Just very self critical and self aware. And I low key love having my phone so I have something to reach for when the conversation is dying. Btw this isn't with friends or family but you know when you're maybe catching up with people you're not super tight with or a completely new group of people.

 With close friends though, I love that you can babble on and not make sense and talk freely and make mistakes and laugh at things don't always make sense and not think before you speak! And I want to be like this with everyone. I think spending so much time on the internet or texting instead of calling people has meant I'm always in my head, all day long. Which in my case, has made me a lazy, nervous conversationalist.

I've been in restaurants where they neighbouring tables are all on their phones, I'm guessing because nothing juicy is being said and it's more interesting/fun to check what's happening online. I never want to get to that point.

SO. CHANGES.

I put my phone off when I go out. #Radical It's been so nice to completely be in someone else's company where they have your undivided attention. It's made me switch off and hence feel more at ease in conversations. I think without even noticing, we've all put quite pressure on conversations. You know we've all bitched about people who are "really boring", "really awkward", as if every conversation we have should sound like a Cheryl Strayed interview level of articulate and meaningful.

Happy Sunday xo
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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Life Online & Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon


Another day, another memoir. Emma Gannon is one of my favourite writers, her blog being quite possibly my favourite blog, and her podcast sits firmly in my Top 5 podcasts, ever. What I'm trying to get at, is that this book was an instant-buy. But like any well written memoir, you don't need to know anything about Emma or the subject matter, to get on this Ctlr Alt Delete bandwagon. Though if you're reading this post, chances are you already know a thing or two about the internet.

"There are even people in the world who say the word 'hashtag' out loud. It's scary out there" ... 

As the title suggests, the book is essentially broken up into personal essays where Emma discusses her experiences online from childhood to adulthood. It begins at what I'd consider was the birth of social media so; MySpace, Bebo, MSN and Facebook were all happening. Now considering that at this point, none of us knew how to use the aforementioned "in moderation", coupled with the fact that (if you're a 90's kid) we, and Emma were using it at a rather interesting age developmentally; makes for some laugh out loud, awkward and sometimes upsetting anecdotes. Emma talks about having low self esteem as a teenager and how the online world only made this worse; pining it down to "the fault of centuries of people telling women that they need to be pretty little objects and looking a certain way is the fastest, most fail safe way to achieve success" -  quite emotional to read because it rang so true.

You may not have had MySpace or Bebo, I didn't, but the themes are pretty universal. I think now, if you're a user of the internet, it's shaping or moulding you in one way or another. I personally couldn't say I grew up online, I wasn't really interested in social media until I turned 17. Fast forward to 3 years later and I think I read a blog post/watch Youtube/waste hours scrolling through Twitter and Facebook nearly everyday.

In general, I'm a big cheerleader of the internet. I love that people get behind each other on Twitter through hashtags and twitter chats, that you can create and share, that you always know what's going on in the world, that you can catch up with people (even if that's through stalking them on Facebook), I love that saying hashtag online is a thing now, I love memes ...

But there's also the obsession with comparing yourself to other people's social media accounts, cyber bullying, relying on the internet to maintain relationships instead of actually making an effort. So I've recently decided to scale back from the internet a coupe of days a week. Rely less on my phone to keep me company on the loo or in boring situations and you know, actually develop some life skills.

Without setting out to be, this book is really uplifting and insightful. I found a life lesson at the end of each chapter and as I said, hilarious and relatable anecdotes throughout.  Ctrl Alt Delete is a real gem and Emma's voice is like noone else's out there.

5/5
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