Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted doc director Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Alison Never Sorry interview - Youtube thumbnail compositeAi Weiwei carrying an Oscar on Facebook

The insightful, fun, and sometimes deadly serious documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (艾未未:道歉你妹; title in Taiwan 艾未未:草泥馬) has been Oscar shortlisted from 126 films down to 15, coming out ahead of films like “The Central Park Five” by the legendary Ken Burns et al, and “Head Games” by Steve James (director of the amazing Hoop Dreams).

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, was very nice and cool to do her first post-Oscar-shortlist video interview with me on the day after she came back from a Bangkok film festival trip. Here is my video interview with Alison.

Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry trailer (Official selection Sundance 2012 Film Festival)

I just noticed on the back wall in the following film still, the pictures are the concept drawings that lead to the Remembering (2009), an installation for the Façade of the House of German Art.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Film Still

Golden Ai Weiwei Oscar

Alison and I talked about the middle finger salute in the interview. To me, it is a show of defiance to the powerful, be it the one-party ruled Chinese government or any other governments or powerful institutions.

Weiwei middle-finger art Read the rest of this entry »


Academy narrows best Oscar documentary list from 126 to 15 films

Monday, 3 December, 2012

Ai Weiwei in a big pot

Today The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced 15 out of 126 films will advance to the next stage. Here are the 15 films (in alphabetical order by title) with their production companies (links to the films added):

(**) “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Never Sorry LLC
(*) “Bully,” The Bully Project LLC
(*) “Chasing Ice,” Exposure
(*) “Detropia,” Loki Films
(*) “Ethel,” Moxie Firecracker Films
(*) “5 Broken Cameras,” Guy DVD Films
(*) “The Gatekeepers,” Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
(*) “The House I Live In,” Charlotte Street Films, LLC
How to Survive a Plague,” How to Survive a Plague LLC
The Imposter,” Imposter Pictures Ltd.
(*) “The Invisible War,” Chain Camera Pictures
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
Searching for Sugar Man,” Red Box Films
(*)* “This Is Not a Film,” Wide Management
(*) “The Waiting Room,” Open’hood, Inc.

These 15 films are now qualified for the documentary branch members to further narrow down to five nominees. Regrettably this reporter only has a chance to watch one of the above films Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and I really enjoyed it. Documentary films are insightful sources to expand our views and sometimes world views. I am hope in the coming months to have chances to watch some of the above films, especially the ones I’ve put a “*” in front of.

Rory Kennedy’s (director of “Ethel”) reaction (via Variety) are I guess typical,

“I was just on an airplane — I just got off and got a call and I was very excited,” Kennedy told Variety. “It’s just an honor anytime to get shortlisted by the Academy — it’s a huge honor. Obviously, there are so many extraordinary documentaries out there.” 

This year’s rules changes in the selection process apparently lead to some controversy, Read the rest of this entry »


Lessons from Christopher Plummer 82 and Ronald Coase 101

Tuesday, 28 February, 2012

From G&M, “Plummer says he was ‘totally prepared to lose’ on Oscar night

“Plummer said he was “totally prepared to lose. You have to be. You have to have some idea of what you’re going to say if you do win, but you really wipe it from your mind.”

After his name was announced, though, Plummer delivered one of the most polished acceptance speeches of the night.

He paid eloquent tribute to his fellow nominees – Max von Sydow, Jonah Hill, Kenneth Branagh and Nick Nolte – thanked all of those connected with the film, particularly its star, Ewan McGregor, and acknowledged the critical support given to him by his “little band of agents provocateurs … who’ve tried so hard to keep me out of jail.”

“I change that line every time I have a speech. Sometimes it’s ‘keeping me out of Sing Sing’ or ‘keeping me in martinis for all these years.’ ””

I love Mr. Plummer and think his Oscar acceptance speech is just beautiful!

Following is an insightful and very funny talk given by professor Ronald Coase when he was just 92 in 2003. And next month in March 2012, prof. Coase, now just 101 years young, will be publishing his lastest book “How China Became Capitalist“.

You see, Christopher Plummer 82 and Ronald Coase 101 are inspiring to me for they are both at an age where many people would have long “retired” to “happy” lives of doing absolutely nothing. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing absolutely nothing. But why are Mr. Plummer and Prof. Coase still hard at work? I believe this saying says it all, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life“. Both Mr. Plummer and Prof. Coase are doing work they just LOVE to do. And would do it anyway even if no one pays them to.

So Mr. Plummer‘s and Prof. Coase‘s lessons for me is to find and do a job I love so that I will never have to work a day in my life! Oh, and living to 82 or 101 to work will be just GREAT and a bonus!


Oscars 2012: A safe, unfunny, retro-disaster

Monday, 27 February, 2012

I love Billy Crystal and even held my VHS copy of When Harry Met Sally to show +Maria Quiban of +My Fox LA I love and respect Billy. I found Billy funny in the years he hosted in the past (videos 1998, 2004). The key is those acts worked in the past, not NOW. To me, last night’s Oscars feel so dated and it was boring, badly paced, and even had technical audio problems! Hello Oscars, audio problems? You must be kidding!

Maria made a great producing point, if the show had opened with the big Cirque du Soleil act with Billy flying in and out of the stage, that will be WOW and something to start the show on a bang! Of course, the rest of the show will still need to be fixed and updated to 2012 but at least that would have been a great start!

One of my tweet last night expressed my sentiment as a viewer.

#Oscars Fooled me once (2011). Fooled me twice (2012). Fooling me three times in a roll (2013)? #youmustbecrazytothinkthat #fail

For those that are in the business of creating entertainment and not just consumption, here is one heck of an insightful review of the retro-disaster Oscars 2012 by THR Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman. Here are some excerpts from the review. Read the full review, it is good.

“The colossal hosting disaster from last year is now forgotten by the safe, unfunny, retro-disaster that was Crystal making jokes that he laughed at repeatedly and overseeing an Oscars telecast that was as poorly paced as any in recent memory. [...] Read the rest of this entry »


Oscar 2012 – Best Picture The Artist & more

Sunday, 26 February, 2012

Check out this “Oscars 2012: The Artist Producer and Jean Dujardin Backstage Interview

Here is a THR hosted “Q&A with the cast and crew of ‘The Artist.’ The crew talks about filming on th Warner Bros. and Paramount back lots as well as Los Angeles’ historic Orpheum Theatre.”

THR “Award Season Roundtable Series: The Actors Uncensored” - Full uncensored video of our roundtable interview with George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, Gary Oldman, Chastoph Waltz, Albert Brooks and Nick Nolte. Read the rest of this entry »


2011 Oscar Press Room

Monday, 28 February, 2011

Colin Firth – ‘Best Actor’ For ‘The Kings Speech’ – Press Room

Natalie Portman – ‘Best Actress’ For ‘Black Swan’

Christian Bale – ‘Best Supporting Actor’; ‘The Fighter’

Melissa Leo – ‘Best Supporting Actress’; ‘The Fighter’

CBS News: “Aaron Sorkin: Oscar win like being hit with bat

CBS Video: “The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin on his Oscar

***

Here is a clip of Colin Firth at Toronto when The King’s Speech premiere at TIFF 2010 on his birthday, complete with a Happy Birthday to You sang by the audiences!


2011 Oscar telecast – Ebert: “Dead. In. The. Water.” The Hollywood Reporter: one of the worst in history

Monday, 28 February, 2011

I had so much hope and good wishes for Oscar hosts James Franco (see this) and Anne Hathaway to do a good/reasonably good job. Instead, I was, like many others, terribly disappointed of the show itself from beginning to end. Don’t get me wrong, the award winners are well deserved of their Academy Awards, my disappointment is with the show itself. Boring and witless. There were only very few moments that I enjoy the show itself (e.g. Kirk Douglas was still very funny at 94 and great to watch).

When a show failed this spectacularly, there are enough blames to spread around, including the producers/directors (the most to blame?), the writers of the show/jokes, and others. What were these people thinking? Were their senses so out of tune with what constitute a good and fun to watch TV show?

The Hollywood Reporter, “83rd Annual Academy Awards: Television Review - Was it a bad idea to have actors host? No, it was spectacularly bad.” (emphasis added),

“In what could go down as one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history, a bad and risky idea — letting two actors host — proved out in spectacularly unwatchable fashion on the biggest of all nights for the film world.

Despite an overall rewarding of brilliant performances and no truly shocking didn’t-see-that-coming upsets, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards will likely be remembered as the night James Franco couldn’t act like a host.

It was not a great night to be on the Internet if you were one of Franco’s trusted advisers, as the likable, quirky actor was torched on Twitter and pimp-slapped across the web for his lifeless performance. He had no business agreeing to host the Oscars, and his resulting pratfall in front of — what, a billion people? — must have made David Letterman gleeful, as his stint will no longer be pointed out as some kind of nadir. Anne Hathaway at least tried to sing and dance and preen along to the goings on, but Franco seemed distant, uninterested and content to keep his Cheshire-cat-meets-smug smile on display throughout.

[...] Few awards shows ever learn that lesson or get the mix right. And to be fair, this Oscar telecast lacked spark from start to finish despite an impressive number of fine films and acting performances — and the hosts can only be blamed for so much. These Oscars were a bore-fest that seemed to drag on relentlessly but listlessly. Perhaps next time more thought will be put into actually making this a good television event. You can trot out all the big-name actors or directors you’d like, but nobody at home paid $11 to watch. The Academy Awards may be about movies, but it’s a TV show. Nobody feels any regret walking out or snapping off the set if you don’t entertain them. A good host is invaluable.

This year, the Oscars hit a new low. Like it fell into a hole.

Roger Ebert, “Oscars: “King” wins, show loses” (emphasis added),

Despite the many worthy nominated films, the Oscarcast was painfully dull, slow, witless, and hosted by the ill-matched James Franco and Anne Hathaway. She might have made a delightful foil for another partner, but Franco had a deer-in-the-headlights manner and read his lines robotically.

Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening. This was the worst Oscarcast I’ve ever endured. It’s time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself.

At one point I tweeted: “If Bruce Vilanch is within 50 miles of the Kodak Pavilion, they should helicopter his ass backstage and put him to work.” I was quickly put straight. Vilanch, the comedy writer responsible for countless great lines in Oscarcasts past, was a writer on this year’s show. Since Franco and Hathaway lacked a single clever line, there must be an untold story.

[...] Again, I have to say this was the worst Oscarcast I’ve seen, and I go back a while. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.

ABC News via AP, “Oscarcast: Young Co-Hosts, but the Same Old Show“.

The Telegraph, “Oscars 2011: as it happened

NY Daily News, “Oscars 2011 winners: Kirk Douglas, at age 94, upstages hosts during best supporting actress award

***

Feb 28, 9:42 update: I think New Yorker is being too easy on James. I expect a lot more from James even he is a Yale Ph.D. student. If his heart isn’t into doing a great job, he should take the job. I admire people going out of their comfort zone to try new things, but James didn’t seem to give his all. Here is an excerpt from New Yorker,

QUESTION FROM EN: What did you think about the hosts?

DAVID DENBY: Ann was sweet, enthusiastic, changed dresses every few minutes; James was odd, as he often is in his performance (though it worked perfectly in 127 Hours)—sly grins, squints, looks off to the side, casual, throwaway delivery. I’m not sure he’s really cut out to be a movie star, or if he even wants it. He’s a Ph.D. student at Yale in the English Department at the moment.”

****

March 6 update:

Hollywood Reporter, “Live Blog of Oscars 2011 Telecast” (very readable)

Winnipeg Free Press, “That’s enough, kids; it’s the adults’ turn again

HuffPost, “James Franco: Oscar Host Says Ricky Gervais ‘Bombed’ At Golden Globes”


Newsweek Oscar Roundtable 2011

Friday, 25 February, 2011

My definition of a great evening is one where I am with good friends and we just talk and talk. The wonderful yearly Newsweek Oscar Roundtable gives me great insight to the actors and actresses (Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Annette Bening, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman) as people and how they do their “job”.

Part 1 of 7

Part 2, part 3, part 4, you can find the rest easily.


Funny Oscars Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway

Friday, 25 February, 2011

Looks like Oscars Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway are all set to be funny hosts. They even did a promo to spoof the Oscars. May be after watching Ricky Gervais in Golden Globe, they are trying to be funny in their own ways.

Boot camp.

Outakes.

Anne sings “Evita

Can you believe?

***

Ricky was trying to have some fun in his blog and wrote “a little opening” for James and Anne.

Oh, and good luck to James Franco and Anne Hathaway at The Oscars on Sunday. I know how nervous they must be right now.

They will do an absolutely fantastic job and don’t need my help, but I’ve written a little opening in case they have a few minutes to fill.

(Drum roll)

V.O.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please welcome your hosts for this evening…
James Franco and Anne Hathaway

(Music and applause)
(James and Anne walk out looking absolutely perfect)

JF
Hello and welcome to The 83rd Academy Awards,
Live from Los Angeles.

AH
That’s foreign for City of Angels.
And this room is certainly filled will those angels.

(Applause)

JF
Thank you. I’m James Franco.

AH
…and I’m Anne Hathaway.

JF
You probably know me from 127 Hours where I play a man trapped in an enclosed space who decides he would rather cut his own arm off than stay where he was. Now that sounds “way out” but wait till half way through this fucking ceremony and you’ll start to identify with him.

AH
And I’m the new Catwoman. The first white woman to play that role since Michelle Pfeiffer. I want it to be an inspiration to all white people everywhere. Your dreams can come true in Hollywood too.

JF
It’s a daunting task hosting The Oscars but we’re not alone. Presenting awards tonight will be a string of Hollywood legends and some other actors who have a film out in March or April. Read the rest of this entry »


Dear Academy: My Oscars tweets

Sunday, 7 March, 2010

The 2010 Oscars is tonight. To make it fun in Calgary, here are some Oscar predictions in the following two tweets. What are your predictions for tonight?

***

Dear Academy: Avatar (picture), Bridges (actor), Streep (actress), Waltz (s.actor), Gyllenhaal (s.actress), Hurt Locker (directing)

Dear Academy: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Doc short), Up (Animated Feature Film), Avatar (Art Direction+VFx)


Watch Oscar nominated Madame Tutli-Putli online

Sunday, 21 February, 2010

Madame Tutli-Putli (full video on NFB)

The 2008 (or 2009?) Oscar nominated Madame Tutli-Putli is finally available to watch online at NFB! I highly recommend readers check out the film.

After you watch Madame Tutli-Putli, you can have a read and listen to my “Chat with Laurie Maher – Soul of Madame Tutli-Putli“. Laurie’s eyes and mannerism were used by filmmakers Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski to make Madame Tutli-Putli so beautiful and soulful.

By the way, I’ve finished watching Chris & Maciek’s new short animation “Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There must be more to life” (featuring the voices of Meryl Streep & Forest Whitaker) and I will be reviewing the film soon.


China’s Unnatural Disaster should win Oscar Documentary Short (My tears and The Tears of Sichuan Province flowed like a river)

Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short : China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province was nominated for Oscar Documentary Short and should win, if nothing other than allowing humanity a chance to bare witness of the pain the Sichuan parents suffered and still suffer in this unnatural disaster. The suffering is ongoing because all levels of Chinese governments have refused to conduct proper investigations and punish the government officials and business people who were responsible for “the deaths of many children, often due to the collapse of their shoddily constructed schools“.

Here is part of a LA Times review (emphasis added),

As all over Sichuan Province, schools filled with students collapsed while other buildings remained standing, grief-stricken parents demanded help from the government, help that never came. First emergency teams were routed away from smaller towns and villages where parents could hear children crying for help from beneath the debris. A fortunate few were able to actually dig their children out, others eventually found the corpses of their children (and were told to bury them themselves) but many were left with only the heaps of brick and dust to serve as a mass grave.

In life, there are horrific events that happened and it was too late or we are too remote to have anything influence, but if we are to progress as a human race, we have to at least bare witness to what had happened. To me, what I saw in the documentary counted as one of those moment.

To me, it is well-made and insightful documentaries like China’s Unnatural Disaster that give me the energy and inspiration to tell stories that are interesting/important to me.

By the way, someone has posted the program up. And I hope HBO will not take it down.

P.S. For people who think China has rule of law and their court cases can be adjudicated fairly, I want to remind them their protection under the law is as thin as how their cases are viewed by the “powerful” and if their cases are remotely related to any sensitive topics (including corrupt acts by government officials and business people).


Avatar pictorial review – I love Avatar and why box office records will be broken

Saturday, 19 December, 2009

Avatar - Air Battle - Sky 1

This is a pictorial review of Avatar with lots of pictures and only a few well-chosen comments and links. After the review, I will write a few words about why I think the box office records will be broken this weekend and later. I’ve written about Avatar previous “Avatar reviews are good“.

Warning: there are spoilers in this review but I’ve alphabetized things so you won’t know when exactly things happen.

Lets start with the pictorial review! (Images from the amazing Avatar HD trailer.)

1) The Air Battle is simply spectacular. The story telling rules supreme over the well tuned and used special effects. You care about the characters and are following the story. Unlike some other big budget films where you go to watch the special effects with completely silly characters who you don’t care.

Avatar - Air Battle - Sky 2

Avatar - Air Battle - Sky 3

Avatar - Air Battle - Sky 4

Avatar - Air Battle - Sky 5

2) I was rooting for this scary monster and was excited when it took out this soldier.

Avatar - Air battle Oops (1)

Read the rest of this entry »


Ana’s Playground qualifies for an Oscar nomination in 2010!

Monday, 30 November, 2009

I am really excited to hear Eric Howell’s Ana’s Playground now qualifies for an Oscar nomination. Here is what Eric wrote in his blog,

I am very pleased to report that “Ana’s Playground” has won “Best International Short Film” at the 22nd Foyle Film Festival in Northern Ireland. This festival is one of a few festivals that are sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. WIth a win in the short film category, Ana’s Playground has automatically qualified to be considered by the Academy for an Oscar nomination in NEXT year’s award cycle. Wow.

Congrats Eric! I am really happy for you.

You can check out my previous interviews with Eric and a film trailer linked here and here.


Making a Face

Thursday, 1 October, 2009

Here is a video of Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth making a face live (video sped up).


Roman Polanski Arrested in Switzerland

Sunday, 27 September, 2009

*******

Sept 30 Update: I’ve posted another blog entry on this with further comments.


The Spine in Calgary International Film Festival

Sunday, 30 August, 2009

Wonderful news: Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth’s new film The Spine (see video interview) will be in Calgary International Film Festival Sept 25 – Oct 4. The film is also showing in Toronto International Film Festival on Sept 11th & 12th.

[via Chris]


SIGGRAPH 2009

Tuesday, 4 August, 2009

I am looking forward to Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth sharing his experience of attending SIGGRAPH 2009 in his blog.

Here is a really cool and specialized SIGGRAPH 2009 Technical Papers Video Preview

And a neat (and technical again) “Deforming Meshes that Split and Merge, SIGGRAPH 2009″

Here is a cheesy SIGGRAPH 2009 Preview Video. No idea why SIGGRAPH made this preview so cheesy to look and sound like a bad ad. :)

Watching all these videos reminded me of the old days in 1991 when my friends were rending teapots and simple objects in the computer lab calculating the shadows and reflections, etc. We’ve come a long way.


“The Spine” helpers

Friday, 31 July, 2009

The Spine - Chris Landreth

I love to put a spotlight on young & upcoming student artists (in this case, students from Seneca Animation Arts Centre). The following is a partial list of people that helped in the making of “The Spine“.

If you are one of these Seneca Animation Arts Centre students, please kindly leave me a comment/email me with a link to your personal website. The way I see it, It is never too early to get your names and works out. :)

*******

** = those who volunteered their time as individuals
# = those who volunteered their time and Graduated from Seneca in 2008.
@ = Students participating via Summer Institute program

Mark Jones (head of Seneca Animation Arts Centre)
Sean Craig (animation director and program coordinator, Seneca AAC)

Students:

Animators
DIANNA BASSO – @
KEN COLLINS – @
MORGAN DE LANGE – @
ANDREW GREGOIRE – @
CHRISTINA KELBERT – @
RUNDEEP KHAIRA – @
SCOTT MACNAB – # + @
AUGUSTO QUIJANO VAZQUEZ – @
LUCAS WRIGHT – @

ANGELO LIBUTTI – ** Volunteer
BIAGIO FIGLIUZZI – @

VFX Artists
TYSON GROTH – @
CANER SALMANLI – ** Volunteer

VFX TD
MARK SCHMIDT – ** Volunteer (Mark teaches at Seneca and offered up all his free time for the project)

Environment / Asset Modelers & Texture Artists
CARLTON BRANCH – #
BIAGIO FIGLIUZZI – ** and @
GABE MUNN MAGILL – #

Shot Finaling Artists
BIAGIO FIGLIUZZI – @
SEAN D’SOUZA – # + @

******

Nov 18th, 2009 Update: Thanks to Alexandra Gunter, Production Manager at Core Digital Pictures for flagging the list of helpers with the appropriate annotations.


A chat with Oscar winning animator Chris Landreth about his new film “The Spine”

Friday, 31 July, 2009

The Spine - Chris LandrethThe Spine - Chris Landreth

I first saw and was deeply touched by Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning animated documentary Ryan and the documentary Alter Egos (a film about Ryan and Chris) in the 2004 Calgary International Film Festival. And I wrote a blog entry in 2007 in memory of Ryan‘s passing.

So it was my great pleasure to chat with Chris to talk about his new film “The Spine”. The following are the three parts of my Skype interview with Chris.

By the way, here is a separate blog entry about the helpers of “The Spine”.

The Interview - Part 1

  • How did Chris conceive a story about the seemingly strange relationship between the couple Dan and Mary?
  • Explaining what does the term “psycho-realism” mean to him? And how did he apply “psycho-realism” in “The Spine”?
  • Three big questions that seem closely related to each others,
    • How does “The Spine” avoid “Uncanny Valley” (the “creepy” effect of making CGI characters too realistic) ?
    • Animators using a Method-acting approach ?
    • Balancing realism and stylization ?

The Interview – Part 2

  • All of the animations in “The Spine” were key framed (no motion capture). So “motion capture” seems to be quick and easy. Why don’t Chris like it? What are the trade-offs in Chris’ mind?
  • Chris talking about Polar Express, Final Fantasy, and Beowulf.
  • The Spine (2009) uses Maya V8.5 for modeling, animation, visual effects and some rendering and Bingo (1998) used Maya V1.0. Chris talks about how he feels about some of the changes over the years.

The Interview - Part 3

P.S. Here is a story genesis of “The Spine” from the NFB official site. Here is Chris’ “walkabout“.

I found this YouTube of Bingo. Enjoy.

*******

Sept 23, 2009 Update: The Spine is going to be screened at the 2009 Calgary International Film Festival.

*******

Nov 17, 2009 Update: The Spine wins in Portugal, “The Festival Internacional de Cinema de Animação, also known as Cinanima, has just awarded its Grand Prize to The Spine!!” Congrats Chris!


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