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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Jesse Hawken and John Semley discuss, primarily, two Brian De Palma films on the latest episode of the podcast Junk Filter:
Spoilers abound during our discussion, please watch Femme Fatale before listening as there is a stunning twist you don’t want us to ruin for you. Femme Fatale is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. No need to watch Domino first, or even at all! For the first of likely several Junk Filter episodes about Brian De Palma, Toronto-based writer John Semley joins the program for a look at two films that bookend De Palma’s post-Hollywood exile in the land of European film financing, 2002’s Femme Fatale (a masterpiece) and 2019’s Domino (not a masterpiece). Along the way we talk about the director’s career-spanning obsessions, the concept of “Pure Cinema”, how Femme Fatale can be compared to Raising Cain and Mulholland Drive, and the plight of the aged auteur with nothing left to prove. Plus John and I try to process the attempted insurrection in Washington and Twitter suspending Trump’s account in the aftermath.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Monday, December 28, 2020

"From the archives," Tara Culp wrote in an Instagram post yesterday featuring the image above, which shows longtime friends Brian De Palma and Jared Martin together. "Thinking about how difficult it is for our young ones to get out there and meet important people who will guide them on their path," Culp continues. "Let’s keep connecting people with people, people! These two men positively impacted my life but boy did they make me work for it! Love you 💙"

Culp was assistant to Mr. De Palma on Snake Eyes (1998) and Mission To Mars (2000).

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 29, 2020 1:08 AM CST
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Thursday, December 24, 2020

To follow up with yesterday's post that briefly looked at the influence of John Frankenheimer's films on those of Brian De Palma, today we take a brief look at Frankenheimer's Black Sunday. In the 1977 suspense thriller, a Goodyear Blimp is turned into a terrorist threat as it flies over the Super Bowl game. The film was shot by John A. Alonzo, who had shot Brian De Palma's Get To Know Your Rabbit a few years earlier. In between, he was the cinematographer on a crazy little film called Chinatown.

When Alonzo teamed up with De Palma in 1983 to shoot a remake of Scarface, the idea of a large electronic advertisement slogan, "The world is yours," was already a key moment in the original 1932 Howard Hawks version. To ask Alonzo to shoot that same slogan on a blimp about six years after shooting an ominous blimp for Frankenheimer's film is an in-joke that pays off, even if you don't get the reference, as one of the most memorable moments in De Palma's Scarface.

It is worth noting that the score for Black Sunday was composed by John Williams. The following year, Williams provided the propulsively dark music for De Palma's The Fury.


Posted April 13 2004
It seemed logical that the split-screen sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, where Daryl Hannah dons a nurse's uniform and whistles a Bernard Herrmann melody while carrying a deadly syringe down a hospital corridor, was inspired in great part by a combination of Brian De Palma's Sisters and Dressed To Kill. On the new DVD release of the film, Tarantino even calls it his "little Brian De Palma scene." But the filmmaker tells Premiere that this particular split-screen sequence was inspired by the trailer for a John Frankenheimer film-- a scene in the trailer that was cut and scored differently than it was in Frankenheimer's film. Tarantino explains that he does not duplicate other directors' shots when he references their films in his work, but rather "a feeling in the shot or an aspect about the shot I liked." He then explains how he has a collection of 35mm trailers from movies, particularly from the '70s, and how these trailers are works of art in and of themselves in that they used techniques that Tarantino likens to the work of Godard. Having seen the films that these trailers promote, Tarantino claims that many of the scenes or sequences shown in the trailers are not in the actual films. "It's just in the trailer," he tells Premiere:

There's this one trailer for Black Sunday by John Frankenheimer that has a scene in it that's done differently than it is in the movie. It's amazing. There's a scene in the movie-- it's like, you know, killer terrorist shit-- where Marthe Keller is going to kill Robert Shaw, who works for the Israeli Army. He's in the hospital, so she dresses up like a nurse with a syringe full of lethal injection, and she's going to go into his hospital room and inject him. Well, in the movie it's an okay sequence, but not really that special. They don't really milk it that much. It's routine.

But in the trailer for the movie, when it gets to showing us that sequence, they do the whole thing in split screen. And where they just had natural sounds playing in the movie, they have John Williams's Black Sunday theme [humming the tune] pulsing through the whole trailer, so it's just ticking beats to the images. This is not in the movie anywhere. This is one of the best split-screen sequences I've ever seen.

So for Kill Bill, I say, "We're doing this when Elle Driver shows up at the hospital."

And then I have another, like, weird movie reference in there because I have Daryl Hannah whistling-- she learned how to whistle Bernard Herrmann's theme to this movie called Twisted Nerve. And the thing is, when she leaves the frame, the Bernard Herrmann score kicks in, you hear the same theme done in this lush Bernard Herrmann melody, and then it goes into split screen and it looks like I'm doing an homage to Dressed To Kill-era De Palma.

Bernard Herrmann scored two De Palma films: Sisters (1973) and Obsession (1976). Daryl Hannah made her film debut in De Palma's The Fury (1978), which was scored by John Williams. One character, Bobbi, steals a nurse's uniform to wear in De Palma's Dressed To Kill (1980). Sisters and Dressed To Kill each feature memorable split-screen sequences.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, December 25, 2020 12:48 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

There's a hint of John Frankenheimer's Manchurian Candidate within the assassination finale of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, and an unproduced screenplay De Palma wrote with Jay Cocks in the mid-1990s called Ambrose Chapel is a sort of Manchurian Candidate by way of Alfred Hitchcock's Man Who Knew Too Much (and also a touch of Luc Besson's Nikita). Frankenheimer's is a cinema of visual virtuosity, and is obviously one that lingers in the De Palma subconcscious. Around the time of Ambrose Chapel, De Palma worked with David Koepp to concoct Snake Eyes. An article in The Irish Times from around the time of that film's 1998 release links De Palma to Frankenheimer and Arthur Penn as filmmakers "who emerged in the 1960s" and "much of whose best work is indelibly marked by their disillusionment and cynicism in the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination."

There is no author currently listed at that link of the Irish Times article, but it also delves into things that have been posted here at De Palma a la Mod recently, regarding how De Palma felt at that time, eight years removed, about The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Julie Salamon's book, and how "reviewers basically seem to review things with a herd mentality that flows through the press junket and what's in the press kit." Have a look:

The shrill, incessant whine of the fire alarm started at about four in the morning, and the evacuation of the Toronto hotel got underway. Moving briskly down the snaking fire escape from the sixth floor to the lobby, I recognised the grey-haired guest who was ahead of me - the American film-maker, Brian De Palma. We had met for an interview in New York just the week before.

As we reached the ground floor and made our exit out into the chilly morning air, De Palma explained that he was in Toronto on a private visit, solely to watch movies at the city's annual film festival. Every year, he says, he goes to Toronto, and to the Montreal Film Festival which immediately precedes it, for his annual fix of international cinema, to catch all the many movies from around the world which fail to acquire cinema distribution, even in cosmopolitan New York where De Palma lives.

The great majority of film-makers attend festivals only when they have a new movie to screen, and even then, they whizz in and out, making the obligatory appearance at the premiere of their own movie and putting in a day or two of media interviews. The only other time I can recall a filmmaker spending any length of time watching other people's movies at a festival was the year Quentin Tarantino arrived in Cannes 10 days early for the world premiere of Pulp Fiction and spent all his time watching and talking about movies.

However, De Palma didn't even have a movie showing at Toronto; his latest film, Snake Eyes, was already playing in cinemas across he city. But then, De Palma is a cineaste - as is demonstrated by the cinematic references which abound in his work, some of which is like a shrine to Alfred Hitchcock, whose films he idolises.

Despite the market-driven, assembly-line philosophy which permeates the film industry, De Palma believes there is still a place for film as art today. "There are some very moving and artistic films being made," he said, "but they're certainly very much in the minority compared to what's in the mainstream."

Flashback to our New York interview a week earlier, and De Palma is in less positive humour, making no attempt to disguise his irritation at some of the reviews for his new film, Snake Eyes. The reviews have been "pretty mixed", he says. "But that's been happening to me since the beginning of my career," he adds. "People don't really seem to watch what's going on in front of the screen, and the reviewers basically seem to review things with a herd mentality that flows through the press junket and what's in the press kit."

"The European critics tend to be somewhat different. They're more likely to see what's there on the screen and review that. They seem to have more trained eyes in terms of what visually they respond to, and they're not caught up in the cliches of the media. I guess it's not a great era of great critics, but then again, it's not a great era of great cinema, either."

Nevertheless, the most negative reviews for Snake Eyes positively pale in comparison to the vitriolic response to De Palma's 1991 film of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, a project which attracted an extraordinarily intense level of media scrutiny before, during and after production.

Eight years on, De Palma shrugs dismissively at the memories of it all. "Again it's an example of people not seeing what's on the screen," he says. "They bring these preconceptions of what they think the movie should be and then criticise it harshly because of that. In Europe the film was better received because not so many people there had read the book. It was very much a book of its time. That happens. Some things tend to be very fashionable for a time, but they don't have the quality that makes them endure over the decades."

Now that he has more or less put all that flak behind him, De Palma says he has no regrets about allowing his friend, the then Wall Street Journal critic, Julie Salamon, such a breadth of access to observe and chronicle the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities in her book, The Devil's Candy, one of the most perceptive and illuminating books ever written on the film-making process and all its many problems engendered by corporate power, interference and compromise.

It is also a remarkably revealing book in terms of Brian De Palma himself, particularly in the chapter on his upbringing. "Perhaps it was inevitable," Salamon states, "that De Palma would end up in a high-profile, nasty competitive business like film-making, where one's accomplishments were judged publicly and often harshly - and a regular cycle of rejection and acceptance was an immutable fact of life."

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Philadelphia, the third son of an orthopaedic surgeon and his wife. "Brian was a mistake," his mother, Vivienne, frankly tells Salamon in the book. "Brian was a surprise. I didn't really want to have another child. He was a premature baby. He weighed 4 lbs when he was born. I was in labour for three days, too. He just didn't want to be born. He would scream and scream. When he couldn't talk, he would scream. I think he had to do it. It was his way of asking for attention."

Long before he entered the highly competitive world of filmmaking, the young Brian De Palma was constantly competing with his older brothers, Bruce and Bart, for the attention of parents who never properly acknowledged his achievements. "His father attributed Bruce's achievements to his `brilliant mind'," Salamon states, while Brian succeeded, in his father's view, because he was "a contending individual".

Aspects of Brian's teenage life unavoidably re-surfaced in his work as a film-maker. At 17, suspecting his father of having an affair, he set about diligently taping all his father's telephone calls; in De Palma's riveting 1981 movie, Blow Out, John Travolta played a sound recordist who may or may not have witnessed a murder. And then there were the times when Brian's father would bring him along to watch him at work in the operating theatre - which goes some way towards explaining the almost casually blood-splattered nature of some of Brian De Palma's movies, especially his masterpiece, Carrie, in which blood is the unrelenting motif from startling start to shocking finish.

His new film, Snake Eyes, belongs with De Palma's cycle of cynical, paranoid thrillers which have included Blow Out and the 1968 Greetings. Snake Eyes takes place almost entirely within an Atlantic City gambling emporium and boxing arena where the US secretary of defence is shot during a prize fight.

Nicolas Cage plays the tainted local detective on the case, with Gary Sinise as his old friend, a navy commander now highly placed in the department of defence. Snake Eyes evokes Kurosawa's classic, Rashomon, in its viewing of the assassination from multiple perspectives - on a grand scale in this case, given that there are 14,000 witnesses and the complex is dotted with surveillance cameras.

Brian De Palma is one of those film-makers who emerged in the 1960s, along with Arthur Penn and John Frankenheimer, much of whose best work is indelibly marked by their disillusionment and cynicism in the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination. De Palma was going on his first date with Jill Claybrugh, who co-starred with Robert De Niro in Greetings, on that fateful day in November 1963, when they saw television footage of the Kennedy assassination in a store window.

"The Kennedy assassination was probably the most investigated murder case in history," he says. "But the more you investigate the more murk you come up with." He cites the amateur footage shot by Abraham Zapruder in Dallas on the day. "The more you blow it up looking for hidden details, the harder it is to make out the picture."

The cynicism of Snake Eyes extends to the point where virtually every significant character in the movie is corrupt on one level or another. "That's the way people are these days," De Palma says matter-of-factly. So he believes that just about anyone can be bought these days? "Possibly," he says. "There doesn't seem to be anything morally wrong with it either. You just seem stupid if you don't take the money!"

He continues: "Having been brought up on the Jersey shore, I've watched Atlantic City evolve from a classy resort town to a casino world, which is a very unusual environment. There are no clocks or windows in the casinos. They represent a completely false reality. You walk into this place and all these lights and people smiling and handing you drinks. It looks like paradise. But in reality you're being robbed blind."

As one has come to expect from a Brian De Palma movie, technical virtuosity and visual style abound in Snake Eyes, most exhilaratingly in the opening 12 minute sequence which consists of one dazzling, apparently continuous steadicam shot following Nic Cage's nervy progress through the bustling boxing arena. "Well, it is cinema," De Palma says drily. "Catch the eye of the viewer and show them something on that big wide screen that uses the elements that are given to us to create these stories.

"I wanted to show the space it all happens in, to have the audience experience that blurred quick vision of what happens during the assassination. So much happens so fast that you have to propel it with a tremendous amount of energy so that they can't take everything in at first. And then you want the audience very much to want to go back to those various points of view to find out what they missed."

He pauses. "I don't take the easy way out."

Posted by Geoff at 11:52 PM CST
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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

"This is not a book about Hitchcock." That is the first sentence of a new book by Bruce Isaacs titled The Art of Pure Cinema: Hitchcock and His Imitators. The book, which leads up to a concluding chapter on Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale, examines "the historical foundations and stylistic mechanics of pure cinema," according to the publisher's description.

In a podcast interview with Joel Tscherne at New Books Network, Isaacs explains that the basis of the argument he makes in the book is that Hitchcock "comes up with this notion of pure cinema, which he appropriates himself from the avant garde in Europe. De Palma appropriates that mode of pure cinema, but my argument is that he takes it further than Hitchcock, in more successfully intensified visual form. Visual form in De Palma, in my opinion, is more intricate than it is in Hitchcock, montage is more intricate, and I absolutely believe that if you look at the way that De Palma works with sound, there are very few filmmakers that are that attuned to the capacity of the score."

Regarding De Palma's cinematic relationship with Hitchcock, Isaacs stresses, "Of course it's a relationship, but we need to understand the relationship from a critical point of view, and not simply take the stand that so many critics have taken, which is, 'He's just replicating what has come before.' And that's been so unfortunate, I think, in the reception of De Palma."

In the podcast interview, Isaacs mentions that in the book, he examines the mall scene in Body Double. When the discussion turns to Mission: Impossible, Isaacs enthuses, "If I'd had space in the book, I would have done a very close examination simply of movement patterns in the Prague sequence of Mission: Impossible. Because it's just so masterful."

When asked why Femme Fatale is such a key film for his book, Isaacs tells Tscherne, "I actually think [De Palma]'s making a philosophical argument about pure cinema through Femme Fatale itself. So, motifs of photography, and visual form, underpin the entire story. The lead character is a photographer. And he's going to photograph several things that are going to explain the intersection of all the plot lines, all the character lines, and the way these worlds connect with each other in the story. But to be honest, why I think Femme Fatale is so important is it's simply the most elaborate, complex, and intricate of these pure cinema works."

It's a terrific hour-long discussion. Check it out.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 17, 2020 12:59 AM CST
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Sunday, December 6, 2020

In late November, the podcast Stuff We've Seen with Jim and Teal began a series of weekly episodes in which the hosts delve into the films of Brian De Palma. Here's the description from the first episode, "Brian De Palma: Jim and Teal Get Obsessed" --
Fake outs. Doubles. Doppelgangers. Twists and surprises. Dreams, and dreams within a dream. Dutch angles and split diopters. Overhead angles and split screens. Bizarre sexual fantasies, and stalkers, peepers, and observers. It’s all part of the Brian De Palma mystique, and this week Jim and Teal launch the first of several episodes devoted to the film work of Brian De Palma.

Brian De Palma isn’t Jim or Teal’s favorite director. In fact, as far as movie-going experiences go, they both have a lot of issues with him. But, when The Criterion Channel added Dressed to Kill to their site in November, Jim’s curiosity to rewatch this movie after 30+ years led him down a rabbit hole that he dragged a willing Teal into. Several weeks and more than a dozen watches and rewatches later, our two podcast hosts are a little bit more than obsessed.

“Getting a chance to watch so many of De Palma’s films, back-to-back, allows me the opportunity to appreciate him in a whole new way,” Jim said. “There is so much continuity to his themes and camerawork that I didn’t necessarily pick up on when watching his work spread apart.”

And Jim and Teal won’t just be covering the favorites and well-known work of De Palma’s like Scarface, Mission: Impossible, Carrie, and The Untouchables. They both went deep into his filmography to watch little-known work like 1976’s Obsession, and 2018’s Domino. Throughout this assignment Jim added a good seven De Palma films to his watch list, and rewatched a bunch more.

These episodes are going to be a lot of fun. This first episode is just a taste of De Palma, and Jim and Teal have a lot more to bring you. A second (possibly spit into two) is on its way, and they want to watch a few more of his films to round out his filmography. They hope you enjoy these episodes, and they will get you to consider seeking out more De Palma films you may not have seen, or even known about.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2020 12:49 AM CST
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Thursday, November 19, 2020

In November of 1975, as Sam Irvin tells it, Brian De Palma was busy in post-production on the film that was still titled Deja Vu (released the following year as Obsession), and also casting Carrie during joint sessions with George Lucas, who was casting his new film, Star Wars. In the midst of all of this, as a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, Irvin managed to compel De Palma to attend a festival of De Palma films that Irvin put together on campus. Irvin posted the above photos today on Facebook, with the following description:
TBT: November 1975. The day I met my future boss Brian De Palma. As a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, at age of 19, I organized a festival of De Palma films (SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, GREETINGS and HI, MOM!) at a movie theater on campus.

In THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, I found a phone number for the casting office for CARRIE and managed to get De Palma on the phone and I invited him to come to Columbia, South Carolina, to appear at the festival.

I took De Palma to be a guest at a film class I was taking, taught by Professor Bernie Dunlap (in the center of these two photos) where De Palma drew storyboards in chalk on the blackboard and played cues on a cassette tape player of Bernard Herrmann’s newly recorded score for OBSESSION, De Palma’s latest film which was still in post-production (called DEJA VU at that time).

My friend Lee Tsiantis snapped these two photos of me (left), Bernie Dunlap (center) and De Palma (right).

In the summer of 1977, between my junior and senior year of college, I got my first professional job in the movie industry working as a production assistant, extra, and on-set journalist (for CINEFANTASTIQUE magazine) on Brian De Palma’s THE FURY starring Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes.

Then, upon graduation in 1978, De Palma hired me to Associate Produce and Production Manage HOME MOVIES, a comedy he directed that summer, starring Kirk Douglas, Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon.

After that, De Palma hired me as his full-time assistant on DRESSED TO KILL starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon.

I owe my entire career to De Palma and everything I learned under his mentorship.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, November 20, 2020 12:05 AM CST
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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

"Brian De Palma is hands down my favorite director," states Greg Srisavasdi in the description for the latest episode of his Find You Film podcast, "and thankfully Eric Holmes and Bruce Purkey are here to provide even handed insight into the Brian De Palma films Femme Fatale and Raising Cain!" Srisavasdi menions that they plan to do more De Palma episodes "as this is just the beginning!"

On the podcast's Instagram page, the episode is promoted with the image above, which shows a hand-painted Raising Cain glass credited to Pour Decisions by Carol.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Monday, October 5, 2020

"'Can we have a chat on Zoom, now, Jay?'" Jay Glennie captioned the image above with that quote today on Instagram, adding, "When Brian De Palma (so many great films: Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables, Carrie, Scarface, Mission: Impossible, Blow Out) emails to chat about Raging Bull you drop everything!"

Glennie interviewed Martin Scorsese last month via Zoom for the book, a "Making of Raging Bull" from Coattail Publications, in collaboration with Robert De Niro. If you register your interest in the book at the bottom of the Raging Bull page, you'll get on their email list and can then recieve a 10% discount when the book is released.

In an American Cinematographer review of the 2009 Blu-ray release of Raging Bull, Kenneth Sweeney quotes Scorsese from one of the disc's extra features: "When I was preparing for the picture, Walter Bernstein took me, with Jay Cocks and Brian De Palma, to the fights at Madison Square Garden for the first time. We sat all the way up in the seats, way up. Walter was sort of talking me through the fights — what was happening and such, and it was very hard to tell what was happening. Then I realized…I don’t know how to shoot two guys in a boxing ring! I just don’t know how to shoot it. De Palma looked over at me at one point and said, 'Good luck.'"

Posted by Geoff at 8:35 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Collider's Drew Taylor posted an exclusive look today at an upcoming children's book from the creators of Cinephile: A Card Game. Titled A is for Auteur, the book is writen by Cory Everett and illustrated by Steve Isaacs.

"A is for Auteur is officially described as a 'beautifully-crafted alphabet book to inspire the next generation of cinephiles,'" Taylor writes in the post. "It features 'references to more than 200 films from Alfred Hitchcock to Agnès Varda,' told in the style you’ve come to know and love from the card game. I’ve read the book and it’s incredibly fun and charming, with gorgeous illustrations and told in a sing-song-y nursery rhyme style that is perfect for leaving an impression on your budding movie lover."

Taylor then adds, "Along those lines we are also thrilled to debut an exclusive page from the book devoted to living legend Brian De Palma, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. I mean, is that awesome or what?"

Posted by Geoff at 8:31 PM CDT
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