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Domino is
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De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
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mix or the color
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final print."

Listen to
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Washington Post
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomorrow night, on Halloween, CJOB Radio in Winnipeg will broadcast a 90-minute Phantom Of The Paradise special from 10:30pm to midnight (central time). The special promises all-new exclusive interviews with Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, and "Juicy Fruits" Peter Elbling, Archie Hahn, and Jeffrey Comanor. The participants will discuss the film, as well as Phantompalooza I and II. What's that you say? You don't live in Winnipeg? Oh, that's okay-- you can listen live online at CJOB.com.

Meanwhile, Fangoria has been running its own interviews with Phantom collaborators of late. Last month's issue (#307) featured an interview with Harper, in which she revealed that when Brian De Palma took her out to dinner the night of her screen test in Los Angeles, they were joined by Martin Scorsese. She also mentioned that Steven Spielberg visited the Phantom "a few times." When asked by Fangoria's Chris Alexander how Phantom was pitched to her, Harper replied, "It was never pitched as a horror film; I understood it to be a spoof rock musical. Originally it was called Phantom Of The Fillmore, which spoke to me because I used to hang out at the Fillmore East all the time. But I never thought of it as a horror movie."

Despite that, Phantom Of The Paradise did make Fangoria's 300th issue earlier this year, in which the magazine presented its "Ultimate Horror Movie Guide." In that issue, Michael Koopmans wrote of Phantom, "De Palma plunges you headfirst into the musically excessive world of the 1970s with a film that's part horror, part satire, and complete rock opera."

The current issue of Fangoria (#308) includes an interview by Alexander with Paul Williams, who brought a certain scene from the film itself to mind as he discussed the audition he held in New York for the role of Phoenix:

"I had everyone at the New York audition, including Jessica, sing Leon Russell's Superstar. Jessica was singing it quietly to herself as she waited her turn. I stood behind her and listened-- beautiful. When she sang for Brian and I, she sang out like a Broadway actress reaching the back of the house. I told her to sing softly. It was magical. She killed it.

Williams also mentions to Alexander that he never consciously went for a Phil Spector-type energy in his performance as Swan, saying, "I tried to create what Brian gave me, and his vision was spot-on." At the end of the article, Alexander says to keep checking Fangoria.com "for news of a remarkable genre-related project Williams is part of."

Posted by Geoff at 6:41 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 30, 2011 6:42 PM CDT
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Friday, October 28, 2011
Luaine Lee has posted a Halloween "conversation with some of our greatest 'horrormeisters'", for which she interviewed Brian De Palma, Stephen King, Ryan Murphy, William Friedkin, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter. De Palma briefly discussed misperceived allusions to Hitchock in his work, contrasting them with actual allusions to Hitchcock in his films. He also addressed the old question about placing women in danger on screen:

For years DePalma has made thrillers like "Obsession," "Blow Out" and "Body Double." Often skewered by the critics for his Hitchcockian moments, he says, "I can only be who I am. I cannot change the perception of the reviewer. When Carrie gets into the bathtub and (they say) this is a scene from 'Psycho,' I can't help them. All the allusions they've made about Hitchcock in my movies, please. There are some very direct ones obviously."

A car sinks slowly in the murky waters of the swamp in "Raising Cain," that's a takeoff of "Psycho," explains De Palma. "That's very clear. But Carrie getting into the bathtub is not."

De Palma has also been blasted for constantly placing women in danger. "I've been asked that question for many years and my stock answer is that when you make a thriller I think it's more interesting to me to photograph women rather than men. But nobody ever accepted that. That's one of those things like smoking - it went out (of fashion).

"You can't do that anymore. Forget about it. Basically you cannot put women in jeopardy anymore. But I think it's more interesting to put a woman in jeopardy or certainly a child."

A few days ago, I posted about Murphy's American Horror Story on FX. I mentioned the participation of Jennifer Salt, but I forgot to mention that the series features Lily Rabe, daughter of David Rabe and the late Jill Clayburgh, in a key role. In the "horrormeisters" article, Murphy discusses how his show, which he crated with Brad Falchuk, taps into the current economic zeitgeist:

Murphy says their creepy creation reflects the nation's rickety economy and the apprehension that people are feeling. "I mean, even in the past week economically how difficult that is for so many people. And it makes you feel paranoid and suspenseful and worried. And I think that zeitgeist is definitely reflected in the show. I mean, in the show, it talks about all kinds of American horror stories that we are sort of being bombarded with on a day-to-day basis. So I do think that it's a show that's definitely of its time."

Posted by Geoff at 11:56 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011 11:57 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The A. V. Club's Keith Phipps called upon Edgar Wright to provide this year's 24-hour horror film marathon. The site encourages readers to rent the movies and watch the marathon at home. Wright's fest would begin at 6pm with David Cronenberg's The Brood, and by 1am, viewers would be watching Brian De Palma's Carrie. Wright explains to the A. V. Club the idea for his fest:

I had this crazy idea, which mostly works, and then there’s one film that completely doesn’t work, and I sort of just lobbed it in. I was trying to think, “Wouldn’t it be good to do a 24-hour marathon that was based on the seven ages of man?” [Laughs.] So I thought “That’s pretty much 15 films in 24 hours, that leaves about two per age, and then you’ve a bonus round at the end.” That’s my idea. So the seven ages of man, as laid out by Shakespeare in As You Like It: the infant, the whining schoolboy, the lover (or teenager), the soldier (and I’m going to interpret that as soldier/young professional), the justice (or the man/adult), the age shifts (becoming old), and the end of this strange eventful history (death). And then I’m going to add eternal life as the bonus at the end.

So in Wright's fest, Carrie falls into the age of the lover:

AVC: Are we on to a new stage of man?

EW: We are. We’re now in the lovers stage, and my favorite horror movie of all time: Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie. The reason I love Carrie so dearly is because I feel like it’s a horror film that absolutely anybody can watch and enjoy. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word, but I think everybody can relate to it. You sympathize with the main character so much, which is unusual for horror, which frequently has no characters to truly care about. Another great thing about Carrie is that it almost plays like horror’s Grease, in that everybody can watch Carrie and say, “Oh, I was that person,” or “I was that person.” You were either the bullied, the bullier, the person who stood by and did nothing, or the person who tried to help. It’s an amazing movie. I only recently read the book, and it gave me more appreciation for the adaptation by Lawrence Cohen, because in the book, they have a lot more of the city-wide rampage. Basically, the second half of the book is Carrie blowing the town to smithereens. But because of budget, the film wisely climaxes at the prom. My favorite moment in Carrie is the lead-up to the bucket of blood falling, where it totally becomes opera.

Brian De Palma is at his best when he becomes almost like a silent filmmaker, where the plot mechanics are all in action, and it can just play out like a horrible dance of death. And the section setting up the geography of the prom, and where the bucket of blood is, and where the rope is, and who’s holding it, and P.J. Soles swapping the ballots, and Tommy Ross and Carrie White walking up to the stage is glorious. All set to that Pino Donaggio cue called “Bucket Of Blood.” I love it. It’s just amazing. One of my favorite sequences in cinema. So brilliantly conceived and edited. The score is perfect. I love this movie. If I had made something like Carrie, I’d probably retire. It’s just absolute pop perfection.

AVC: The only scene that ever sticks out to me as not working 100 percent is—

EW: Is where it’s sped up when they’re trying on tuxedos? When I look at that now, he’d obviously done stuff like that before in Greetings, the New Wave one. It almost looks like there was a line he didn’t like, and he just sped through it. I totally agree, it stands out from the rest of the movie. And it’s really short, but I’m thinking—and maybe someone can confirm this—that whatever the line is that gets sped through, Brian De Palma said, “All right, I like the start of this shot, and I like the end of it, but I fucking hate this bit in the middle. Let’s just speed it up.”

[A La Mod Editor's note: I've always thought this entire sequence from the start was intended to be sped up as a stylistic choice by De Palma.] Even the slight imperfections in Carrie are things about it that make me love it even more. This isn’t necessarily an imperfection, but I do love, not to give away the ending, the final scene, where Amy Irving is walking along the street to visit the grave, and when it cuts to the headstone, it goes from a sunny day to pitch-black night. And then the soundstage that she’s on is full black behind her. Normally, you would see that as a continuity error, but even that just totally works with the fucked-up dream-logic of the film.

I think there was something, just before they started making Carrie, there was a writers’ strike, and it gave Brian De Palma a full three months to just storyboard the movie. I think it shows, it’s just so perfectly paced. It’s like a Swiss watch, everything totally works. It’s my favorite film of his. I like a lot of his other films, but I think Carrie is the best Stephen King adaptation, favorite horror movie of mine, love it. It’s the perfect date movie as well.

AVC: In what way?

EW: I don’t want to sound sexist. I was going to say it is the horror film that most girls would enjoy, but I think that’s true. The great thing about the movie is that a lot of horror films are about a monster trying to destroy everybody. Here, you have a very sympathetic human being who really doesn’t want to hurt anybody. And although you want to see her reap revenge, you don’t want it to end as badly as it does. It’s my Titanic, in a way, in that every time I watch it, I want Tommy Ross and Carrie White just to have a nice night. I don’t want anything bad to happen. [Laughs.] Every time I watch it, I naïvely think, “Oh, maybe it’ll be okay this time.” You don’t think about those things if you don’t care about the characters. So as much as I enjoy the Grand Guignol climax, it’s a tragic end for her, and she’s an incredibly sweet character, you’re with her all the way. It’s unusual to be on the side of the character who has a destructive power in horror movies. In Carrie, there’s a person who has the ability to kill everybody in town, you’re completely on her side, and yet you don’t want her to exercise that power. It’s amazing.

AVC: Did you ever see the sequel?

EW: The Rage: Carrie 2? I never did. I never saw the remake TV movie, either.

AVC: I never saw the remake, but the sequel, surprisingly, for a movie that did not have to be made in any way, is surprisingly interesting. It’s worth checking out.

EW: I didn’t see that. I’ve seen a lot of the Carrie rip-offs. I remember—probably before I saw Carrie, I saw a film called Jennifer, which is almost shot-for-shot Carrie, where, if memory serves me correctly, she turns into a snake. 1978 horror film. “She’s got the power, and they haven’t got a prayer.” Two years after Carrie. And besides her also having telekinetic and psychic powers, there’s definitely a giant snake in it.

Posted by Geoff at 6:35 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

If you haven't been watching FX Network's American Horror Story or Showtime's Homeland, you should start. American Horror Story, pictured above, is the creepy new series from Ryan Murphy, who created FX's Nip/Tuck and FOX's Glee. Murphy got the series off to a whopper of a start by co-writing and directing the pilot episode, which you can watch on Hulu until October 31st (right now, you can also watch it and the second episode at the FX site). The third episode is the latest, and was written by Jennifer Salt, who is also acting as an executive producer of the series (Salt has been working with Murphy on TV and film projects since Nip/Tuck). American Horror Story has been thrilling to watch from week-to-week, and I highly recommend it. This haunted house story is fast-paced (with jump cuts used to amp up the creepiness), funny, scary, and just when you think it's gone about as far as it can go, it shows itself to have limitless imagination (at least, thus far).

Another series worth watching is Showtime's Homeland, which hooked me from the start, and also continues to move into surprising places about four episodes in. Homeland stars Claire Danes as a CIA operative who has the nagging intuition that an American Marine, who had been held captive by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan for eight years before being rescued and returned to America, has turned, and may somehow be involved in a potential sleeper cell operation. With the help of a close confidant and his brother, she takes it upon herself to illegally place cameras and microphones in the Marine's home, and spends nights on the couch watching him sleep, looking for any sign of suspicious activity. The viewer is privy to certain things going on in the Marine's mind, but with enough ambiguity to keep on the fence about whether or not he is part of any such plot. I hadn't thought of any specific De Palma influence while watching, but The New Yorker's Nancy Franklin feels that the series evokes Antonioni's Blow-Up, De Palma's Blow Out, and Coppola's The Conversation.

Posted by Geoff at 10:29 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Baltimore Rock Opera Society will present Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise in 6D, or six dimensions, over Halloween weekend. The show will be presented on Friday October 28, and Saturday October 29 at the Autograph Playhouse. For these two shows, the film, which "has been modified to blow your mind," will be projected from six projectors. In addition, there will be a live band with costumed singers, "AND," states the website decription, "it’s a costume party–-come dressed in the best rock freakiness you’ve got!" The descriptions at the website also tout security cameras and "custom video editing." Showtimes are at 8pm each night. Tickets are $10 each. Sounds like a steal, Winslow!

Posted by Geoff at 4:14 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 30, 2011 6:07 PM CDT
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Friday, October 14, 2011

We've seen anniversary tributes this year to Carrie and Obsession, but one film in the De Palma canon that doesn't usually get much respect is celebrating its anniversary in style this weekend. That's right: Brian De Palma's Wise Guys turns 25 this year, and will play this Sunday night at the Screening Room on the 13th floor of Resorts Atlantic City Casino Hotel, where much of the film was shot. Joe Piscopo, who this past July opened Club Piscopo in the Starlight Room on the second floor at Resorts, will be on hand to introduce Wise Guys, and will also conduct a Q&A after the screening, which begins at 4:45pm (the event is scheduled to go until 7pm). Admission is free. The screening is the closing event (just prior to the Awards ceremony) at this weekend's Atlantic City Cinefest, an annual series of events presented by the Downbeach Film Festival.

Posted by Geoff at 10:35 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 9, 2011
No, That's not Brian De Palma pictured at left, but Ralph Fiennes, who, as Malene Arpe notes, "kinda looks like Brian De Palma." Fiennes was at the Toronto International Film Festival with his directorial debut, Coriolanus, which sets the play by William Shakespeare in contemporary Europe.

We don't know whether or not De Palma had a chance to catch that film while he was at the festival, but, thanks to various tweets and other posts online, we're aware of about a handful of screenings the director was spotted at last month. According to indieWIRE's Meredith Brody, De Palma attended a screening of Bruno Dumont’s Outside Satan on the first day of the festival (September 8th). Brody writes that the film, which she likes, is classic Dumont: "simple rural people in pastoral landscapes, interesting compositions, brutal sex, brutal violence, brutal religion." At the screening, Brody met up with Atom Egoyan and his wife, Arsinée Khanjian, and they all ran into De Palma outside the theater. Brody told De Palma that she was looking forward to seeing A Separation, but De Palma had to be at the Talent Lab later that night at the time of that screening.

Later into the festival, De Palma was spotted with his friend, filmmaker Noah Baumbach (who interviewed De Palma for Criterion’s recent Blow Out package) at a screening of Whit Stillman’s Damsels In Distress. On another day, De Palma was spotted at a screening of ”an Egyptian doc” that was most likely Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and the Politician, a three part documentary that looks at the recent uprising in Egypt from the points of view of three Cairo-based filmmakers.

In his entry on Fandor’s TIFF wrap-up, Slant’s Simon Abrams wrote about seeing De Palma twice:

Seeing Brian De Palma (twice!) at the festival was frankly more thrilling than several of the films I saw at the festival. Seeing him seated just across the aisle from me at Dark Horse, Todd Solondz’s newest and maybe best film, was a delight. Mostly because I identify with Solondz’s latest to a freakish degree and think its a potent and deeply unnerving film. But also because I could look straight ahead and freak out one way and then look to my right and freak out another. Diversity rules.

De Palma was later spotted at a screening of Terence DaviesThe Deep Blue Sea. John R. Kennedy noted that “Fans outside Intercontinental on Front don't recognize iconic director Brian De Palma as he strolls past them.” Jesse Hawkin said it made his day when he got to “directly assist Brian De Palma.” Hawkin added, “Resisted the urge to thank him for all his great films.” And finally, the win for best tweet from the festival goes to Erik Childress, who wrote, “Earlier today saw Brian DePalma enter men's washroom and then exit immediately. Assume he saw no lesbians making out & just left.”

Posted by Geoff at 10:05 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 15, 2011 12:00 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 2, 2011
Monday night at 8pm eastern, TCM premieres The Horrors Of Stephen King, the third special in its Dreamworks-produced series, A Night At The Movies. The documentary consists of an hour-long interview with King, and was directed by Laurent Bouzereau, who also made the first two specials in the series, The Suspensful World Of Thrillers, and The Gigantic World Of Epics, each of which aired in 2009. The Stephen King edition will air several times throughout October, and each Monday of the month, TCM will feature a night of classic horror films.

Dread Central posted a few of King's quotes from the upcoming special, including this one regarding the Brian De Palma adaptation of King's novel, Carrie:

Carrie was a terrific piece of work. At the end of the movie comes, when Amy Irving kneels down to put the flowers on Carrie’s grave, a hand comes up through the grave and seizes her by the arm. The audience went to the roof, totally to the roof. It was just the most amazing reaction. And I thought, ‘We have a monster hit on our hands. Brian De Palma has done something new. He’s actually created a shock ending that shocks an audience that was ready for a horror film.’ And there were several people who did it after that.

Scott Holleran provides a rundown of some of the things King discusses on the program, including this bit about Carrie: "Discussing Brian De Palma’s 1976 version of his novel Carrie, King says he wasn’t even invited to attend a screening and, when he did see it, it was a double feature with Norman, Is That You?, a black-themed film, and he was surprised that the predominantly black audience responded to Carrie."

Meanwhile, our old friend John Demetry finds plenty of room for criticism of King's description of De Palma's film as a "terrific piece of work." Demetry writes, "King repeats variations on that term—'piece of work'—throughout, as if horror films were only reaction-making machines, thus limiting the value of all horror films to the level of product. This might explain King’s own prolific output. However, De Palma transformed King’s 'piece of work' into a work of art." Demetry then elaborates:

King’s voice-over lands on a still from John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977): “Even psychologists who’ve studied the genre don’t understand what works and what doesn’t work.” Boorman takes film audiences way beyond King’s conception of how horror “works.” The freedom afforded by the horror genre allows Boorman to realize astonishment: primal imagery (tapping the collective unconscious) and mystical social metaphor (the wings of Pazuzu). This visionary (corrective) sequel to William Friedkin’s 1973 film contradicts King’s thesis. Transcending the realm of “psychologists,” the engaged spectator discovers the full terror of The Heretic: Evil exists. But so does Good. It represents a total metaphysical statement. The achievements of De Palma and Boorman suggest an alternative (auteurist) history of horror to the one presented in The Horrors of Stephen King. Carrie and Exorcist II represent high points in film history where the genre market provided the possibility for an artist’s personal expression to reach a mass audience.

For his own part, King went into detail about the differences between his novel and De Palma's film in his 1981 book, Danse Macabre, in which King states, "De Palma's approach to the material was lighter and more deft than my own—and a good deal more artistic."

Meanwhile, last month, Fangoria #306 included an interview by Lee Gambin with Sissy Spacek, who discussed what she brought to the movie that was different from King's novel:

I read the book before I knew the film was being made, but then I reread it the day before auditioning. The thing about the novel that really stood out for me was that this girl was so pathetic, she was such a loser, and I believe that what I added when it came time to shoot the movie was to give the character a little bit of hope. I felt, "Here's this girl who has all these special powers, but she doesn't care about that; she just wants to be normal and fit in and have friends, a boyfriend, go to the prom." She was an artist, she wrote poetry in secret up in her room; she had this freak of a mother who destroyed her life, and Carrie just wanted to be happy, and for a moment, she gets to experience happiness—just for a moment.

Asked by Gambin how she channeled the dynamic energy required for the role, Spacek responded:

The script by Lawrence D. Cohen was so good and I was so into the story, and during production I really kept myself away from the rest of the cast. I felt very sorry for myself and isolated and different, just like Carrie did. And I really believe Brian did such a beautiful job directing it; he knew exactly what he wanted, his shots were so planned out. One of the main reasons I love him as a director is that he'd say, "OK, I want you there and then there and I need you to do this, this and this," and anything else you wanted to do, as long as it fit within his framework of the overall piece, you had the freedom to do, and that was great.

Fangoria included Carrie in its special 300th issue earlier this year, in which Ginger Snaps actress Emily Perkins stated that as an actress and a woman, she loves Carrie, "the best horror movie ever." Also in that issue, director Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) called Carrie "a perfect picture," and "the best horror movie." "Beautifully constructed and beautifully photographed," Warren told Fangoria, "the film captured me right from the opening scenes."

Posted by Geoff at 8:59 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Edgar Wright has provided his list of his top ten Criterion DVDs, and Brian De Palma's Blow Out is at the top. "I have heard people call themselves Brian De Palma apologists," states Wright. "I am proud to say that I am a huge fan without any caveats." Here is the rest of Wright's entry regarding Blow Out:

There’s a reason that, back in the seventies, fellow movie brats Spielberg, Lucas, and Scorsese would defer to De Palma as “the filmmaker.” When on form, his work is something to behold. Even the lesser works of De Palma contain flashes of genius, while the best of his movies rank as pure cinema. Blow Out is certainly one of De Palma’s finest. There’s not a wasted shot, not even a wasted corner of frame. In the telling of this audiovisual thriller, De Palma uses Steadicam work, split screens, split diopter shots, and complex optical effects to utterly exciting but never overly flashy effect. Some directors are great storytellers without their presence being felt, but De Palma, much like his cinematic hero Alfred Hitchcock, is a master manipulator of both his medium and his audience. He plays us like an instrument, maneuvers us like puppets, and frequently makes us look where we’d rather not. Blow Out begins with De Palma turning the camera on himself and criticisms against him, then ends with one of the crueller, blacker chapters in cinema.

The interview on the disc with De Palma and Noah Baumbach is a must-see too; great to hear him talk about Hitchcock, Antonioni, and Coppola and their influence on this film. Filmmakers and film students will be also fascinated to know that Brian thinks coverage is a dirty word. This is a tremendous piece of work that I am very glad Criterion has given the royal treatment.

(Thanks to Jon!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CDT
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hervé Attia enjoys visiting movie filming locations, but he takes the practice a step or two farther than that: he films approximations of the angles used in the old movies and then edits them side-by-side (often in split-screen) with the original scenes, even inserting himself in the picture, mimicking the actors for good measure. For Brian De Palma's The Fury, Attia visited the Chicago area locations used in the film, adding a coda at the end in which Attia appears to receive a power transfer from a statue that looms over the slow motion escape scene. This final idea was suggested by Jean-François Doppagne, who helped Attia film the video above. At the end of the video, there is a preview for Attia's coming attraction, for which he plans to revisit the Chicago locations used in De Palma's The Untouchables, but he is not stopping there-- he also plans to go to Great Falls, Montana, to cover the film's battle on the Hardy Bridge as best he can. Attia plans to have his Untouchables video completed in 2012.

Posted by Geoff at 12:02 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, September 24, 2011 12:04 PM CDT
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