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December 17, 2004


Dear Wingnuts,

If you don't like what Hollywood produces, go make your own movies. If you don't like the way Hollywood awards its own, go create your own awards.


As this is the area that i work, don't even get me started here. If anyone thinks Hollywood is run by liberals, may i refresh or educate as the case may be: Hollywood is run by Sony (Sony/Tri-Star etc), Time Warner (Warner Bros/New Line/HBO), Fox (20th Century Fox/Fox Network), Disney (Disney/Miramax/ABC), Viacom (Paramount/CBS/UPN) and General Electric (NBC/Universal)... in other words, the above group of 'liberals' run the entertainment industry. These corporations are about as liberal as Enron and would sell the souls of anyone or anything for a buck, just like every other major multi-national regardless of what industry.

Reverse paraphrasing:

"Conservative Hollywood critics are hopelessly biased because they do not endorse Moore's film for an academy award."

Or maybe the conservatives are taking a page straight out of communist orthodoxy -- art works are to be judged solely on their political merit.

After all, we are talking about "imposing one's values" here, and who has more experience at that than all those Marxist/Leninists?

dmbeaster, you had me up until you referred to Hollywood movies as "art works".

Anyway, I suspect Hollywood's paying a lot more attention to the money that POTC has made than to any stupid petition. I can't imagine that the voters are completely unaware of the marketing impact of their choices.


any insight into whether POTC will get any nominations?



Passion will get a tech nom or two just to get the squeaky wheels off the Academy's back, even though it is an incredibly weak year for American films, one of the worst in ages but indicative of where the industry is heading.

When i say weak year, i mean artistically. Hollywood is now becoming on the whole a theme park for 12 year olds and adults who don't think film is an art form but a place to see sex, violence and what are basically becoming video games on large screens. Just look at the dreck that makes money: Bridget Jones 2, Christmas with the Kranks etc., bad films with bad writing and poorly directed that make a bloody fortune. Even the end of the year films like Kinsey and Alexander aren't ultimately satisfying.

I refused to go to the PotC for several reasons:

1. I'd read the medieval Passion Plays on which this was based, and couldn't imagine anything duller than sitting through them for hours. (Most of my friends who went were expecting a "Life of Christ" more like The Man Born To Be King, and were disappointed to discover it was hours and hours of gory pain and mutilation that was supposed to have Spiritual Significance.)

2. I don't like violent movies, and therefore tend to avoid them unless I see some overwhelmingly good reason for going. I saw none for this.

3. It was the first movie I'd ever seen advertised by spam, and I have a general rule that I don't buy anything advertised by a spammer. Granted, I had no reason to believe that Mel Gibson himself had sponsored these spammers - but it was certainly an excellent secondary reason not to have anything to do with it.

So, not having seen it, I have no idea if PotC "deserves" an Academy Award or not. But that advert comes from exactly the same mindset as the spammers who thought I could be persuaded to go see the damn movie if they sent me enough e-mails (or posted enough random LJ comments). So, I kind of hope PotC doesn't get one, if only because spammers should learn that this isn't an acceptable way to get what you want.

Geesh Edward, you need to breath into a paper bag for a few minutes. First of all, I can't for the life of me think of anything disingenious and transparant about taking aim at Hollywood. If the junk yard dog didn't growl at them a little, where would it end. And besides, they instigate it for increased ticket sales. And yeah, you're shedding some 'serious' light on them (whoever 'them' is). An 'entire blog' AND a petition. Whew, the earth shudders!! You're right about the relentless lobbying - but that's America these days, nothing escapes human desparation in it's pursuit for attention. Nothing. That should be the unspeakable insult to 'millions of us'. And as you reach your breathless conclusion, I'll agree this should be ignored as the work of wingnuts, if you'll agree that wingnuts are the right hand side unhinged fringe of the bell curve, a mirror image to the same proportion of hyperventilating left hand fringe that would support Michael Moore in the same vein. This is just about as insignificant to everyday life as it gets.

nice rant blogsbudsman,

but this was just to illustrate the tone of the rhetoric...stay tuned... ;-)

Oh and by the way,

And yeah, you're shedding some 'serious' light on them (whoever 'them' is)

re-read the post...the antecedent for "them" is "efforts" ... it's fine to get snarky about something like this, but it helps if you're snarking in the right direction.

I didn't watch PoTC either. But I've seen real life self-flagellations and cross-hangings on Lent -- does that count? (Which kind of explains why I don't want to see PoTC).

That blog has the right idea, but its ambitions are too limited. Why not reach for the stars and propose Left Behind for the National Book Award?

Why not reach for the stars and propose Left Behind for the National Book Award?

Nobel, even.

Left Behind really freaks the crap out of me. (no, not because I think it's an accurate prophecy).


Frankly, it still defies my imagination how many otherwise decent Christians, whom I grant the benefit of the doubt of understanding both Jesus' teachings and a little human nature, can imagine that PotC could possibly do anything but turn people off to Christianity. I mean, it's basically a few hours spent glorifying some of the most brutal and ugly parts of Scripture. They couldn't do much worse for a Hollywood emissary, unless perhaps they did a graphic film on the Old Testament's Greatest Hits.

The Life of Brian--now that's funny, providing a Christian can laugh at religion jokes. Prince of Egypt--I don't even like Christianity, and I like that movie. Last Temptation--art. But Passion? It's a two-hour snuff film.

Left Behind really freaks the crap out of me. (no, not because I think it's an accurate prophecy).

Because it illustrates the barely repressed bloodlust of many among the Shepherd's flock?

"can imagine that PotC could possibly do anything but turn people off to Christianity."

I'm living proof of that. (More of a catalyst than anything else, and I was moving in that direction anyway. However.)

Edward, yeah, more or less. The idea that a not-insignificant # of my fellow citizens not only believe that I, my husband, my sisters, my in-laws, and many of my best friendse will burn in hell for eternity, but they're psyched about it and are hoping to hasten the day's coming.

I realize that not everyone who bought the books think that, that "The Celestine Prophecy" was a bestseller too, etc. However.

"Most important picture in decades"?!

What a bunch of insecure lintheads, to need their vision of an S&B Jesus validated by an Oscar nomination. You'd think those yahoos would use some of that faith they're always yammering about and *pray* for a Best Picture nod.

I didn't see POTC, but what I've heard about it confirms the notion that the fundies regard Jesus primarily as a "get out of jail free" card. I wonder how the poor fellow would feel if he heard that the only thing about him that really matters to these people was how he died. Yes, they did say that; they said exactly that: The movie didn't have to show what Jesus said, taught, or believed, because only his martyrdom matters.

That also explains why fundie Xtianity is so peculiarly Jesus-free. Nothing in there about peace, justice, love and mercy; it's all Old Testament-style Judgment Day, revenge and triumph over the ungodly.

It is very difficult to welcome adherents to an absolutist and aggressively proselytizing faith within a subjective, pluralist point of view. The only thing that a secular, pluralist perspective has to offer anyone is a seat at the table. The philosophy of the fundamentalists is that they deserve all the seats, and everyone else at the table not willing to immediately surrender their seat is an immoral cancer who hates god. This may help to explain why they are not offered a lot of seats at the table in secular institutions. It's just a structural mismatch.

Oh, and catsy; there is plenty of that stuff in modern conservative christianity if you know where to look:
Peace - When everyone is like us loving Jesus there will be no more reason for war.
Justice - If you don't love Jesus you are committing a sin, punishing sinners is justice.
Love - I love Jesus. Nobody else. Just Jesus. You love him too, right? I don't think you love him enough.
Mercy - Jesus will show mercy. I cannot be expected to do the same, imperfect sinner that I am.

God, I hate thinking in this snarky, anti-religious way, but the smug victimology evinced by these people just drives me crazy. Like the Pennsylvania school board member who, after banning a book for teaching too much "Darwinism," cried that same lonesome victim song: "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?" and claiming that "Nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state." Aggh.

I'm sorry. This stuff truly does bring out the worst in me.

Since hilzoy brought it up re: The Left Behind Series. 40M books sold! Major (rapturous?) undercurrent among fundies. Now, am I the only one who thinks it's no coincidence (code?) that Bush's education program is called No Child "Left Behind"? Is it about educating kids or saving them? Just askin'.

"even though it is an incredibly weak year for American films, one of the worst in ages but indicative of where the industry is heading."

Glad to see an expert agrees. I read David Ansen's top 10 in Newsweek and couldn't believe it.

So considering the level of competition, i hope PoTC and F 9/11 both get nominated, in order to ensure some entertainment and suspense.

A weak year? Am I the only one who's seen Barney and Friends Go to Hollywood?

Ah, but xanax, did you ever see Leave It To Beaver, the movie? It includes the uniquely dreadful line, "Beav, have you ever heard of unconditional love?"

(I must be the only person in the world to have seen that movie on a date with someone who had no kids. He was a film critic; and getting involved with a film critic is a surefire way to ensure that you see a lot of really bad movies.)

Oh, hilzoy. Oh. Let me extend to you my deepest sympathies. In my world, there are few things more excruciating than /having/ to sit through a movie you hate. :)

Ah, but xanax, did you ever see Leave It To Beaver, the movie?

It was on my list. Damn!

Ah, but xanax, did you ever see Leave It To Beaver, the movie?

It was on my list. Damn!

I didn't see "The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre" either.

It may have been a weak year in Hollywood, but with Netflix, I've been working my way through Germany in the 70s, Japan in the 80s, and the career of Gregory Peck. Who needs the latest multiplex junk anyways?

I'll admit it, though, I liked King Arthur. Not theologically sound, I guess, but they made Pelagianism seem pretty attractive. (And, yes, the girl rocks).

I remember reading somewhere that the actor playing Jesus in the PotC was hit by lightening not once but twice while filming. Why might this be? One could go for the boring, naturalistic answers (ie he was the tallest thing around during the Sermon on the Mound scene or it's all an internet rumor), but why do that when there are so many more intriguing possibilities such as:
1. Christ didn't like the way he was being potrayed and asked his dad to blast the infidel.
2. Yahweh didn't like the way his chosen people were being potrayed and blasted the infidel.
3. Jupiter didn't like the way his followers were being potrayed and blasted the infidel.
4. Thor didn't like being left out and blasted the infidel.

even though it is an incredibly weak year for American films...

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

That is all.

I'll bet this XMas will see hundreds of thousands of copies of the PoTC DVD given and received as presents. And I'll guarantee most of those DVDs never see the inside of a DVD player.

Those who went to see PoTC didn't go to see a movie; the film's technical artistry and production was meaningless. Instead, the movie was an excuse for Xtian poseurs everywhere to congregate with their ilk in a mass demonstration/competition to see who could react with the most faux piousness and/or religious fervor.

Outside of a theater and away from the multitudes of preening zealots--the DVD will likely collect dust on people's bookshelves.

Still, using Tacitus for this ad campaign is inspired. One would be hard-pressed to find a site more amenable to promote religious extremism.

20 yards for mindreading.

Can I use hilzoy's Leave it to Beaver horror story to threadjack with another question?

What are the five or ten worst movies you have ever seen? Or, to bring it back on topic, which Hollywood movies have been so bad that you said to yourself, "there is no God."

Here is my contribution, from a Crooked Timber thread long ago:

1. Jack Frost. Michael Keaton dies in a car accident, but his son plays a wistful song on a magic harmonica (!) so he is reincarnated as a fun loving snowman (!!!). I only actually got through 15 minutes, but it was enough.

2. The Fifth Element. Probably the worst movie I have seen in a theater. My memory is kind of fuzzy; I do know that Bruce Willis and Milla and an incredibly annoying Chris Tucker had to save the earth from a giant ball of pure evil. There were flying cars, and Luke Perry, and the Fifth Element was Love. Argh. The weird thing is that about five of my good friends saw this in a theater too, independently.

3. City of Angels. One of the first in the long line of “what the hell was Nicolas Cage thinking?” and “Meg Ryan was once cute, but now she’s just really annoying” films. Nicolas Cage stops being an angel for the love of Dr. Meg Ryan, but then tragedy strikes a few days later. His angel buddy asks him if it was worth it. “One look in her eyes, one touch of her hair, would have been enough,” he says tearfully. “Instead I f*cked her brains out,” my sister leaned over and whispered to me.

4. Armageddon. People are probably somewhat familiar with this one. It makes the list mainly for its overall incoherence, but three lowlights were:
a) the Liv Tyler/Ben Affleck animal cracker romantic goodbye
b) one of the characters gets “space dementia”
c) another character instructs his crew to “drill this iron bitch.”

5. Attack of the Clones. George Lucas really needs an intervention.

What's worse is that I saw three of those in a theater. Fortunately none of those have been knocked out of the top five this year. Although "National Treasure" looks like it might have given them a run. But while I've seen plenty of good movies--Sideways, Eternal Sunshine, Control Room--nothing really knocked my socks off. Not many years when the best thing you watch is a miniseries. And I bet the next best thing will be the scenes added to Return of the King.

20 yards for mindreading.

Face it, PoTC is The Rocky Horror Motion Picture Show for the pseudo-Xtians. IOW, it's a fun film if you're with a crowd that's in on the joke and participates but it's not something you'd watch by yourself.

I haven't seen the Gibson film, yet, but plan to when the noise dies down. That's my habit with movies.

I've been using Netflix recently, too, to watch some old stuff, like Frank Capra movies (not a bad start for anyone who would like to articulate a Democratic Party message) plus William Holden, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart movies ... and Myrna Loy, whom I love. I wish she were my mother, my wife, and my sister, but don't tell my mother, my wife, or my sister.

I agree with much of what has been said here, in particular Katherine's "creeped outiness" about the Left Behind series. I don't get the idea that people spend time reading such crap, let alone believing it to be accurate prophecy, but I'm told I'm an elitist and a snob. It amazes me too that in discussions of great literary works, how often Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"
pops up, which belongs in a discussion of political or economic philosophy, but not alongside Dickens, Flaubert. Tolstoy, Bellow, etc. But then there goes snobby me again.

I want to say this. I'm creeped out by majority conservatives and Christians, whose religious institutions (yeah, I know there are plenty of religious liberals) flourish on every street corner and are given tax-free status, and who read the polls claiming that a great majority of Americans believe in the Christian God and the Resurrection, nevertheless believe they are victims of some kind and angrily demand positive recognition and no criticism.

Something is happening. Maybe its a virulent new kind of political correctness. But, I think its something worse and ultimately dangerous to the Republic and a pluralistic society.

Too many dead canaries are falling off their perches.

What are the five or ten worst movies you have ever seen?

1. The Hulk.
2. The cartoon version of The Lord of the Rings.
3. ...Actually, I have a hard time remembering the really bad movies.

"The Incredibles" knocked my socks off, really taking me back to that time in my life when movies were really special and fun and transporting. It was very well-written and raked in tons of money. I also really enjoyed "Hero" and "Sean of the Dead", but they were both from abroad, so they don't really count against wilfred's thesis. I haven't seen nearly enough films this year to comment, except to say that it seems that every year is declared by someone to be the worst year for American film in a long time.

For me, the badness of a movie must be measured against its initial promise and the extent to which it defiles what should be a very fruitful narrative avenue against any future exploration. In my book, "Mission to Mars" ranks way up there in terms of the chasm between what should have been delivered and what actually was. Obviously "Armageddon" is a far worse movie in absolute terms, but honestly, who doesn't expect such ridiculous, anti-intellectual schlock from Michael Bay? It would play extraordinarily well as a social satire, if there were the slightest indication that this is what any of the participants had in mind (see the better works of Paul Verhoeven for example).

And yeah, "Attack of the Clones" was a nadir in more ways than I can possibly count, at least until Chewbacca makes his appearance in "Revenge of the Sith" next year. Then we will see just how deep a pit the beloved Star Wars franchise will ultimately be buried in.

On The Passion of the Christ: What's popcorn in Aramaic?

On Left Behind: Excruciatingly detailed commentary from Slactivist.

20 yards for mindreading.
I realize it's been a while (I still can't figure out this St. Louis Rams thing) but are there 20 yard penalties now?

3. City of Angels

I think that remakes of films, especially when they are remade foreign films of very recent origin, should be consigned to their own category of (derivative) putridness. It really undercuts the effort that a bad filmmaker invests in making a really crappy film with no reference to other films. Taking someone else's idea and screwing it up is not like thinking of your own idea and then proceeding to prove it is garbage. I think we should also think of an intermediate category for films in a series that have descended into crapitude. In this regard, the Alien versus Predator should be taken as an incredible example.

What are the five or ten worst movies you have ever seen?

Sometimes, truly terrible movies are awfully fun. I'd place films like Crippled KungFu Masters or C.H.U.D. in this category. You don't go in expecting much--if anything--and have a good time revelling in the badness of it all.

I tend to rate "worst" movies in the context of bad movies which received critical or popular acclaim. With that explanation:

1. The English Patient
2. Titanic
3. Most anything with Tom Cruise in it.
4. Chicago or why Richard Gere shouldn't appear in musicals.
5. Godfather III or how nepotism can annihilate a perfectly good film.

That Guardian link is pretty funny. Though that sure doesn't look like any Aramaic transliteration I've ever seen. (Part of the reason I refused to see that movie is that I didn't want the sound of Aramaic associated with graphic, extended torture in my mind--the Kaddish, which is recited/sung several times at most Jewish services as well as at funerals, is in Aramaic.)

The New Yorker review of the Passion is truly one of the harshest things I have ever read, especially the last line.

I'm not sure I can name the five worst movies I've ever seen, but I'm very clear on the two worst, neither of which I saw while dating the film critic.

(1) Endless Love. Brooke Shields and some guy are teenagers obsessed with one another. Their parents order them to stop seeing each other. He then burns her house down -- out of love, you understand -- and then seduces her mother and causes the death of her father. At the end, Brooke, knowing all this, says wistfully to her mother (!): But Mom, no one will ever love me like that again... I thought: lucky you; you only have one parent left. But that was not the way she meant it. Ugh, ugh, ugh. And I haven't even mentioned the "acting".

(2) Iron Eagle. Teenage kid's pilot father is shot down over a Middle Eastern country. Annoying State Department people, obsessed with 'process' and 'diplomacy', do nothing. Kid and helpful pilot pal steal F-16s, shoot their way into enemy territory, recover father, and return home, at which point they are not thrown in jail but, completely improbably, given medals, and the silly State Department types get their comeuppance because everyone, including the President, realizes that youthful impetuosity is, in fact, better than prudence. In addition to utter implausibility, dreadful "acting", and a particularly nasty version of the "thinking makes people into hateful morons; vigilante-ism and breaking the rules are the only ways to go" message that I hate in movies (I mean, why no movies in which the people who warn vigilantes that their conduct will lead to disaster are right?), this movie had one more loathsome feature: Arabs being portrayed according to every hateful stereotype there is. (Rulers who combine utter decadence with utter thuggishness, etc., etc. The permissible substitute for shiftless blacks or grasping Jews.) It was so striking to me that I stayed afterwards to see who had played all the Arabs in the movie, and guess what? They were (if their names are any guide) Israeli. -- God, that was a bad movie.

Osterman Weekend. Maybe not an all-timer, but I saw it recently, and man is it bad. I saw Ken Russell's "The Devils" nearly 30 years ago, and still haven't recovered. I can't decide if it's really good or really bad. I'd feel the same about North Fork, except for the weather and landscape, which beat the actors, writing, and plot put together. (I'm a complete sucker for movies shot in Montana, from the Shining [I was climbing in Glacier when they shot the opening credits scene -- I'm back there, although you can't see me], to What Dreams May Come, to Hidalgo. "Dreams" propounds the notion that death is just like taking a load of acid and going to Glacier National Park, a theology one doesn't often see).

The problem with seeing bad movies in the theater is that I usually leave within 30 minutes. Also, I tend to blot them out of my consciousness, for reasons of phsychological health :)

That being said, here goes:

Dune: The Movie. When I first heard that someone had actually succeeded in wrestling the book into filmable form, I was excited. When I heard that someone was Dino DiLaurentis, I sank into despair. But I wound up seeing it anyway, as part of a special premier/benefit in Miami for a local theater company (Jose Ferrer, who portrayed the Emperor, happened to be the theater's artistic director, or some such thing.) I also dragged about 11 of my friends to it. We paid $25/ticket. Yes, you may laugh.

I knew we were in trouble by the opening scene - at least, I think it was the opening scene - where Paul fights a training duel with Gurney Halleck, and the fight was choreographed so badly, so very very terribly badly, you had to wonder if Gurney was a Harkonnen agent sent to make sure Paul couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag. Then there was the Guild Navigator, who (although Guildsmen are clearly described as "human" in the book, though with nonspecific mutations) looked like a giant fleshy eel-cum-fish and spoke out of a mouth that looked amazingly like a vulva. (No, I am NOT kidding: those fluttering labia majorae are permanently seared into my brain.) Then there was the affectless acting, the out-of-character acting, the over-the-top acting: sometimes all by the same character. Oh, and Sting in a silver lame codpiece. With wings. (The codpiece, not Sting.)

And, after all the outrages and truncated scenes and scenes left out that forwarded the plot while less important scenes were left in for their lurid value, and line recitals that would shame a high school thespian class, and things happening that made no sense whatever if you hadn't read the book, and other things that made no sense even if (or especially if) you had read the book, and hilariously bad special effects and more really bad fight choreography....after trudging through all that we get to the end of the movie, where Paul stands on a mountain, makes a long expository speech, turns on his Magic Messiah Powers, and makes it rain. (If you've read the book, you know what a violation this was of its entire plot, backstory, and character development).

This special premier was shown in a multiplex. Terminator was showing down the hall. How bad was Dune? Throughout the movie, people kept sneaking out to go down the hall and see Terminator. I think about 25% of the audience snuck out. That included ALL of my friends. I think the only reason the rest of us stayed was out of courtesy, because Ferrer was there. (Though courtesy didn't keep us from breaking out in inappropriate giggle fits throughout the screening.)

I believe _The Devils_ was heavily edited for "moral" reasons - maybe the original was even better or worse.

Anarch, I agree with you about Eternal Sunshine, one of the few terrific American films this year along with Sideways.

I happen to be a fan of Monica Bellucci aside from her stunning beauty, I also think that she is a good actress. This is certainly not a comment against her, but if the religious right is tooting the horns of everyone involved with the POTC, my only suggestion to them is that they should also see Irréversible. I had to stop watching it.

My contribution to the worst list:

1.) Titanic - arguably the worst written film to win Best Picture. This beat out L A Confidential?!?

2.) Eyes Wide Shut - a sad end to an otherwise brilliant career.

3.) Magnolia & Boogie Nights - someone tell Paul Thomas Anderson that making a movie more than two hours doesn't make it good.

4.) One Sings the Other Doesn't. Truly bad feminist agitprop. My favorite scene: Pomme's (yes that's her name) husband, Darius asks her to prepare a meal for him, he says, "I know I didn't marry a cook, but . . ." The next shot Pomme is hacking away angrily at a cucumber. As subtle as a brick wall.

5.) Coming Home - God where do I begin. Arguably the worst Vietnam War film. Here's a sample: When Jane and Fonda and Bruce Dern are having sex, Hey Jude is playing on the soundtrack; when Jon Voight and Jane Fonda are having sex, the soundtrack features Strawberry Fields Forever. When Bruce Dern discovers their affair and is there with his M-16 confronting Fonda and Voight, Voight says to Dern "I'm a brother." At that moment I turned to my date and said "Give me the gun Bruce. I'll take care of him and the writer."

6.) Liquid Sky - East Village, Punkrock pretentious claptrap. Back when I worked for a film distributor, I watched it as a possible acquisition. I returned to the office and said "Any film with the female lead saying 'I'm killing people with my c$#%!' is probably not worth it."

Randy, will disagree about Irreversible. I thought it was brilliant and the rape scene is what rape really is. The gross thing about it is I saw it in a cinema full of men watching by themselves which made that scene even more powerful. It was like they were there to watch their rape fantasies come to life and got alot more than they bargained for. It shows the act to be beyond repellent and watching the film happen in reverse time was a heartbreaking way to tell the story. Too bad you didn't get to the end to complete the whole experience.


My point was that the Bible-thumpers would probably think a little differently about Ms. Bellucci if they saw it. I did eventually borrow the DVD and fast-forwarded through the worst of the rape scene. It is exceedingly grim and not for the faint of heart.

I agree it is not for the faint of heart, but that indeed is not the purpose of art.

That's really cool that you rented the DVD and went beyond what anyone else might think. I don't mean that nastily, it's just that i was raised around horses and I refuse to limit myself by what people who go through life with blinders on might think. I want my reactions to be genuine so that i might live a more authentic life.

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