Remembering a Decade…2005

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This is probably our most inaccurate list of this series so far. With so many titles in 2005 that were on the cusp of being legendary, it really watered down the list of potentials. With movies like Brick, Good Night and Good Luck, Match Point and Batman Begins to contend with, it’s hard to put together a consensus top five list. Especially considering there were quite a few under-seen gems that popped up from 2005 over the past few years (Squid and the Whale, Lady Vengeance, Tristram Shandy). Once all of the staples of the year grace one’s list, it’s hard to fill in the blanks with a common consensus with so many great titles flying around. But anyway, if nothing else 2005 is a year that delivers weeks of quality film watching and more than a few week’s worth of discussion and debate. So here’s RowThree remembering 2005…

How we came up with these lists is pretty simple. The same way in which we always do our annual top ten list, each of the admins here took our top five (plus two honorable mentions) of the assigned year and relegated a point system (with a bit of arbitrary) and came up with a consensus list of our top five favorite films for that year.

Before getting started, a few honorable mentions (besides the titles already mentioned above) that barely missed the cut, but on any other day could well have worked their way to #1:
Grizzly Man, Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Caché, Paradise Now, Pride & Prejudice

5) The Proposition
– A hard core, visually stunning but brutal Aussie western… covered in flies. This is a rough and tumble world captured perfectly by the camera to put the viewer as far from ease as possible. No discernible good guys and not even really anti-heroes. The viewer is plunged into a dark world and forced to sink or swim. With terrific performances by all involved, the movie examines contemporary emotions set against the early settlement history of Australia and the violence that ensued directly because of western civilization’s emergence. Written and scored by Nick Cave and directed beautifully by John Hillcoat, this is a film that took audiences by brutal surprise in 2005.
– – “Australia. What fresh hell is this?”

4) A History of Violence
– What makes A History of Violence so interesting is what it gives its audience as opposed to what the audience expects. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of small town drama melded with the typical machismo actioner. Which is real? One is merely an illusion and one is the underlying truth of a particular American family. The most explicit and rawest sex scenes of the year (with very little, if any, nudity) exemplify this sentiment in their two variations at the start of the film and nearer the end. Evil on the outside brings about the evil that has always existed on the inside. Actually a pretty fascinating film that manages to entertain as much as preach.
– – “This isn’t a completely dead eye, it still works a bit. The problem is, the only thing I can see with it is Joey Cusack, and it can see right through him.”

3) Brokeback Mountain
– A movie that at the time not only broke some obvious boundaries, but the title itself actually became the definition of anything remotely “gay.” The film itself transcended American society and became the film to talk about around the water cooler. “I wish I knew how to quit you” became the new “show me the money” and that alone says a lot about what the film accomplished. Raking in huge box office success and becoming a critical darling, everyone was beyond shocked (and even angry) when it lost the Oscar for best picture. Though a slow burn of a film, it executes everything a film should do perfectly both technically and thematically. Ledger’s performance underscores his brilliance while director Ang Lee couldn’t have realised this material any better, capturing with perfect balance the silences and the words, the darkness and the light and the comedy and tragedy. It is a mood piece that will haunt you for days.
– – “You ever get the feelin’… I don’t know, er… when you’re in town and someone looks at you all suspicious, like he knows? And then you go out on the pavement and everyone looks like they know too?”

2) The New World
– Poetry on screen. A visually stunning film with a wonderful, almost ambient score to back it up, The New World showcases a very realistic vision of what life must have been like to early settlers in what eventually became known as America. With little dialogue (especially for a 150 minute running time), the film speaks directly to one’s senses, as every great film should do. Malick’s brilliant sense of time and place makes the environment the most important character in the entire film. The green of the vegetation, the brown of the soil, the sound of the birds, etc.; these things communicate the kind of complex language that no amount of words could convey. Bale and Farrel might’ve been the initial draw for American audiences, but it is newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher, who at age 15 is tremendous in her role as Pocohontas. A strikingly beautiful young woman, her non-verbal acting is truly something to behold. Not the film one would just pop in a whim, but prepared for Malckean goodness, one could argue that this is one of the most superbly crafted films of the decade.
– – “I thought it was dream… what we knew in the forest. It’s the only truth.”

1) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
– The fact that this made #1 on this list pretty much invalidates the list right off the bat. Clearly not even close to being the best film of 2005, yet somehow it really resonates with everyone. It was a surprise sleeper with quality performances, a manipulative, yet unique, method of storytelling and editing. And most of all it is funny as hell. So while not the most amazing experience of the year, it managed to eek on to everyone’s final list and somehow managed to work its way to the top.
– – “Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who’s angry in a movie in the 1950’s.”

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with our picks for 2006.


Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Also games and guitar. I dig music.


  1. I'd say KK,BB is a better film than New World. Which is fine but seem formulaic next to Thin Red Line. Some other great ones of that year Squid and the Whale and Mysterious Skin and Five Obstructions.

    I don't think Lady Vengence is nearly in the same league as Old Boy.

    And I recently saw BrokeBack for the first time and was suprised by how much I loved it.

    If Proposition counts as a 2005 (I saw it in a theater in 2006) then it's probably my pick for best of the year.

  2. 2005 was a banner year. I find it a shame to find three maybe four movies on this list which are highly dubious representives of such a good year.

    Not sure on which criteria you base your list, but did anybody watch Man Push Cart, Adam's Apples, Gronholm Method, L'Enfant, Le Temps Qui Reste, Manderlay, SPL, Thank You for Smoking, Walk the Line…those were some fine examples that are truly worthy, pick any of 'em.

  3. Great year for cinema! In addition to HOV and Brokeback (the top two on my personal list), I really enjoyed Canadian films C.R.A.Z.Y., A Simple Curve, Lie With Me, along with Transamerica and Happy Endings, and even though they didn't fare as well with critics, I loved the adaptations of the plays Proof and Heights. And for guilty pleasures, Fever Pitch is a great baseball flick.

  4. Squid and the Whale is amazing, it would be one of my favourites. Five Obstructions is great too.

    I recently rewatched Star Wars 3 and I liked it quite a bit. It would maybe push its way on a list of mine (it was 2005 right?), but I don't really know what else came out. But it's a good one.

  5. "The most explicit and rawest sex scenes of the year" (AHoV)

    I disagree strongly with this. I think those were in Squid and the Whale. I thought the sex scenes of AHoV were ridiculously staged (fucking on a staircase) and fake.

  6. @ Ashley, agreed- Missing some of the Canadian stuff!

    Why not Haneke's Cache? Easily one of my top picks-

    Lot of crap to put up with that year- Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Amityville Horror and Dukes of Hazard, Cheaper Dozen 2

  7. @fg:

    Yessir, when I was doing the KBT screening series out of my basement, I actually screened SPL, Adams Apples and Gronholm Method (now retitled El Metodo, or simply The Method).

    Didn't think much of the Ozon of that year, but Manderlay and Thank You For Smoking were solid cinema. Reitman's new one, UP IN THE AIR is a big step up from Smoking!

    @Henrik, what exactly is wrong with 'ridiculously staged' Is not the miracle of artifice, miracle enough (as per R. Coover)? Some times there is more truth to be gleaned from the artificial than the actual events. (See also this years Haneke, THE WHITE RIBBON)

  8. "I’d say KK,BB is a better film than New World."


    "Some other great ones of that year Squid and the Whale and Mysterious Skin"


    "And I recently saw BrokeBack for the first time and was suprised by how much I loved it."


    "If Proposition counts as a 2005 (I saw it in a theater in 2006) then it’s probably my pick for best of the year."


  9. Really, as much as I enjoyed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it is hardly 'great cinema' -> It is most definitely entertaining, but still kinda lumpy and shallow too. I don't think it was on my voting list.

    I still have yet to catch THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS and SQUID AND THE WHALE. That is highly likely to happen before christmas though. Hopefully!

  10. …..Whereas CACHE, THE NEW WORLD, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, LADY VENGEANCE and THE PROPOSITION are all 'great cinema' In my opinion anyway…

  11. ugh. you sound like Rot. I don't know what lumpy means but it's not shallow it's pulpy. The characters are too well drawn and the screenplay too well constructed to be written off as "shallow". Shannyn Sossaman's death is a great scene, how can you call that shallow?

    I'd argue that New World is more shallow. Malik is so much on the same aesthetic kick as on TTRL that it's practically a sequel. A forced, uninspired retread of a sequel.

    I know I sound like a Malik hater. But that's not the case. I liked New World enough and I love Thin Red Line. It's just that the techniques that seemed fresh and revelatory in TTRL seemed canned and redundant in New World. Half the film's run time is made of frolicing in meddows. It's like a song with a really oppressive and over used chorus.

    And talk about shallow, the characters are just place holders. The movie swaps out colin farrel with christian bale but the film doesn't even change. It doesn't even matter.

    Pretentions and poetry aside KK,BB is great cinema. New World is a director playing it safe.

  12. I just watched A History of Violence again today. It' still one of my favourite movies from 2005. What makes it work for me is just that juxtaposition of small town America with ultraviolence. Not quite what one expects!

  13. "Henrik, what exactly is wrong with ‘ridiculously staged’"

    There is a time and a place. If I am supposed to buy these people as actual people, they have to do things that would be done in the actual world. AHoV isn't taking place in some Dr. Strangelove-esque world of broad artistic statements, it's supposed to be a realistic small town with realistic people, one of which has a twist. That's there the intent and the content clashes and creates a film that is impossible to get on board with as a viewer. I liked Eastern Promises quite a bit better – I would compare the two films to Batman Begins (AHoV) and The Dark Knight (EP), in that the first one doesn't know which universe it is supposed to take place in and therefore constantly feels either fake or dull, and the second one is much more comfortable in its universe and is able to tell the story without creating problems.

  14. The New World is a transporting experience. It plays like a melancholic dream of a forgotten time.

    Kiss, Kiss Bang Bang is a laugh, and very solid entertainment, but is hardly a lasting impression.

    But yea, comparing these films is so far apples and oranges that is kinda ridiculous.

  15. To respond to Henrik I'd just dust off something I've said dozens of times before. In a lot of movies the world that the characters are in is a world the director is creating, so if everyone is acting a bit more stagey or ridiculous or cartoonish or whatever, if it fits the world being created, then I can buy into it as 'realistic' relative to that world/tone. There's no general rule when something like this happens, its a case by case basis.

    I don't remember much about History of Violence other than I liked it.

    • I don't which of these films is "better" than any of the other films on the list. I think starting with our list of 2006 I'll try to make it even more clear that I'm pretty sure none of the staff here would argue that these are necessarily the top five of the year. Rather a list of five films to help remember that year. It's just that we did it by a committee voting process which doesn't always work out for top 5 lists. Everyone pretty much loves KKBB and they mentioned it, therefore it worked its way to the top of this "list."

      If I had my way, Squid and the Whale would definitely be on a top 5 from 2005 – as would Good Night and Good Luck, and Match Point.

  16. @ The New World is a transporting experience.

    Yeah, but all films are a "transporting experience". How well they transport us is a measure of how good we think they are. So I say KK,BB transported me to a more vividly realized world, where adventure and sexy Michelle Monahan await every schmo dumb enough to stumble into it.

    By what reasoning is KK,BB superficial but Pontypool and Limits of Control deep?

  17. @Rusty there is an impasse here we continually hit. I will not speak for what Kurt means, but this is what I always mean:

    we have our own individual tastes and it helps to process how 'deep' a film is, the film in relation to your threshold experiences, your familiarity with narrative techniques, your psychological affinities with the subject matter, etc. The depth of a film is individually determined by the experience it affords; no amount of testimonial outcries to the contrary can change this fact. In the same way a 33 year old version of me cannot discredit the experience of depth in Star Wars when I was 13 year old, it is a complete misunderstanding of how things are valued to assume such a possibility of corrective instruction.

    I will reuse the analogy because it works, your grocery list of the musical notes of The New World is utterly meaningless if its intent is to persuade Kurt or I of what is felt in the music it makes. Our admiration of the film is not confined to its clever use of narrative techniques, its perhaps repetitious or naive nature of conveying its subject (most art films could be done away with using this reductive logic) it has to do with what these machinations aspire towards in a higher level expression and whether they ring true for the individual in tune with it.

    To be honest, I have a deep affection for naiveté (but of course I am a Truther), which is given a bad rap by film geeks usually, their analytical brains grinding to a halt at first sign of something meandering and indifferent to the demands of intellect. I love the music of Arvo Part, Regina Spektor, The Beattles, and the films of Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, Gus Van Sant, the writings of Kerouac, Whitman, and Eggers. These works can hit me on a wavelength that stirs something in me that has a lasting impression, it may not have a use, I may not be able to use its effect to pay my mortgage or write my thesis, but it is no less valuable because it is unintelligible, so long as it, by virtue of subsistence, stays with me, populates my dreams, occupies my mind.

    When I think of love I sometimes think of the beauty of Pocahontas in The New World, and my ideas about civilization are at times skewed by the vision of modern society as a kind of Lost Eden, the holistic respect of nature somewhere lost in our pursuit to be profitable. The symphonic effects of the music, visuals, and poetic asides makes something painfully beautiful that any lack of original plot or action sequences do not in the least bother me.

    In one thread I kept reiterating the point that one should look at what a film aspires towards rather than what it is comprised of… my example was just because there are gangsters in a film it doesn't mean it is just a gangster film. Intelligible discussion of film can be had by trying to pin down what the film is trying to express about its subject, and there is room for debate on this point (a value judgment-free assessment of what the film aspires for). But the debate stops the second we enter the realm of what each other felt about it, because that is not up for debate ever.

    I would never say, Rusty, you cannot find depth in Inglorious Basterds, and your experience is false, what I would and did say is I don't think the film itself was aspiring towards anything lofty, but was aiming for entertainment. and we can disagree about that.

    There can be no doubt The New World is aspiring to move you into an experience beyond pure entertainment. It does not want to distract you for a couple of hours, it wants to lay siege to your heart. I would not say the same of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Just the opposite, I think it aspires for the immediate revelry of a good caper rather than wanting to be something of lasting impression, populating your imagination, infecting the way you think of the world. But of course, for someone, it may be just that.

    I am fine with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang being considered one of the best of the year, its not the way I would categorize it, but I realize other people, especially here, make no distinction about whether a film stirs something lasting in you or is just a very pleasurable experience with great rewatch value (turned on and off at will).

    I think it makes more sense to praise the things that most stay with you, rather than put your personal impact aside and try and codify the great films according to some external ideal (not dissimilar to this notion of an 'Academy worthy' film), but to each their own.

  18. Sometimes, you don't hear the music, and all that is visible are the broken instruments playing different tunes that never combine into anything other than noise.

  19. @ your grocery list of the musical notes of The New World is utterly meaningless

    my grocery list of musical notes?!??!!?!

    I tried… I swear, I tried.

    And I actually never called you a truther. I said you were backing a truther. Whatisname from Colapse is a Truther, no?

  20. rot, you must admit that something can be so inept that any sort of deeper meaning is lost on you, because how it is being conveyed is so grating to you that you can not get past it.

    If your grammatical errors were extreme, like writ….ing w0rd…z -.l,.i-.,ke this, I would say your writing sucked, no matter what it aspired towards.

  21. @Henrik

    "you must admit that something can be so inept that any sort of deeper meaning is lost on you, because how it is being conveyed is so grating to you that you can not get past it."

    sure, and in some cases there is common ground to say that most people will feel this same way (i.e. on R3 towards Transformers 2) but I would hold off saying EVERYONE will or ought to feel such and such a way. When I first watched Back to the Future it was the first time I encountered the notion of time travel, and so it was a profound experience, I would have said back then this film has depth, and for that situation I would have been right. Value is observer relative, but most of the time there is some kind of foundational understanding among a group that we can akcnowledge when something is clearly poorly made, like among cinephiles on this site, versus us talking with 10 year olds, we can expect certain changes in criteria of what is good, what is successful filmmaking, etc.

    Two different things: what the film aspires for and how well, technically, it achieves it. those are always up for debate because they can be by and large pointed to in the film itself, and this is what all reviews ought to do.

    But the problem is when we quantify our emotional attachment to the film and make that an issue of debate in the same way… its not. Rusty's claim of lack of depth to New World does not disprove my claim of depth, all he can do is describe his relationship to the film, and I, likewise. They exist parallel, not intersecting.

    I swear 90% of all our bickering would stop on here if this distinction was recognized.

  22. I should clarify maybe that when I say The New World has depth, for me its emotional not narratively (there appears to be this line of attack that depth only equals narrative complexity)

  23. @rot: "I swear 90% of all our bickering would stop on here if this distinction was recognized"

    Isn't the bickering the articulation of opinion? It is the meeting of points of view, one is not more right, necessarily, but certainly the dialogue allows for people to have a chance to see a film from a different perspective.

    Maybe I'm stating the obvious. When things get hot about certain films it is not necessarily someone trying 'to win' but rather people being very passionate in their viewpoints.

  24. "When things get hot about certain films it is not necessarily someone trying ‘to win’ but rather people being very passionate in their viewpoints."

    in some cases, sure, but not unlike what happens in politics, you need to look closer at the terminology, the positioning of the argument, it can hide beneath the umbrella of 'its just my opinion man' but there is underlying a very real vying for power in some debates on this site, as most all movie blogs I suspect.

    You are painting a pretty idyllic scenario Kurt, at some point opinion goes off the rails and become an objective fact that people are ridiculed for not accepting. If it was just passionate opinion then where are all the cordial handshakes at the end of it?

  25. Also I rarely read passionate opinions about one's love of a film going on for more than one or two comments, the passion aspect is almost always in trying to win an argument by discrediting another person's opinion.

    I would love to read a series of comments that each give different takes on films without it being so territorial.

  26. Last time I commented on one of these Best of 200x posts, I did it early and killed the comments at a paltry 6. I figure you've gone on long enough at this point, so if I kill the comments again it's OK…

    "Lady Vengeance" is by far my fave film of 2005. I think it's brilliant from all sides and contains a pretty terrific central performance. Easily my favousite of the Vengeance trilogy too.

    And I like A History Of Violence, but I just don't get the love for it. I understand all the analysis, I just don't see it as being that amazing.

    A few that haven't been mentioned yet:

    – Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (Yeah, I'm a parent and this got to me…I'm also totally biased towards Zhang Yimou)

    – Linda Linda Linda (One of the best coming of age flicks out there. Director Yamashita uses lots of long takes to really spend time with his characters. And it has a kickass ending.)

    – Funky Forest (I know most people first started seeing this in 2006, but IMDB says it's a 2005, so there.)

    – Pusher III (The final chapter of Nicolas Winding Refn's trilogy and the most insane: follow Milo, the Eastern European drug lord through one helluva day – he's cooking for his daughter's big birthday party, he's trying to stay off booze and drugs and his shipment of heroin ended up being ecstasy pills.)

    – And a ton of great documentaries:

    – 49 Up

    – Street Fight

    – The Aristocrats

    – Mad Hot Ballroom

    – Anytown U.S.A.

    – Heart Of The Game

    – Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

    – Murderball

    – The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill

    – Grizzly Man

    Oh, and Seijun Suzuki's "Princess Raccoon", but I may be the only person who likes it…

    • Oo I forgot all about "Riding Alone…Miles" – that's a good call.

      I've seen most of the docs you mentioned and none of em really do it for me. I didn't see the Telegraph Hill one or Anytown USA, but the rest I don't get the love for. MurderBall was pretty fucking boring in my opinion. Aristocrats was hilarious, but the novelty started to really wear thin for the last half hour or so. And it wasn't nearly as funny on a second viewing.

      I don't know, I'm just not a doc guy. I know I take heat for making such broad statements, but in my experience they (almost) never grab me.

  27. You must Kurt, you must…But be prepared – "Pistol Opera" looks like a straight-line narrative in comparison.

    Yeah, I guess docs just don't do it for some people – usually not overly cinematic (though sometimes they can be), but an engaging story is an engaging story if told well. I love The Aristocrats not just for the humour, but for the way it analyzes the joke and the different approaches to humour. And "Street Fight" is an amazing tale – I'm surprised that one didn't grab ya Andrew. But hey, if you've been to the well numerous times…

    "Five Obstructions" is a good example of a doc you might like. It's not your run of the mill documentary – Von Trier is pulling the strings after all – but it might get glossed over by people who don't usually like them.

    • I liked some of Five Obstructions. I liked seeing the final products he came up with to beat the obstruction and I liked watching the challenge be presented. But the parts where he actually worked on the short films were boring (to me).

      Docs I like, I REALLY like. Everything else is blah to me. Love it or hate it kind of thing.
      Docs I love:
      Fog of War
      Paradise Now
      Dear Zachary
      Bowling for Columbine
      No Direction Home
      In the Shadow of the Moon
      Anvil! The Story of Anvil

      Maybe one day I'll really REALLY challenge myself and do the biggest movie/doc marathon of all time and get through all of these:

  28. Not to suddenly turn this into a Recommended Documentaries thread, but I'll just throw out a couple of quick ones you might like (from the last decade or so):

    – Spellbound (I know, a spelling bee? And yet, it's really entertaining and the people are interesting.)

    – Dogtown and Z-Boys (The skateboarding doc – you've probably seen it…Riding Giants is very good too with stunning footage.)

    – Deadline (Fascinating account of an outgoing governor looking into the possibly of death row inmates being innocent.)

    – Wordplay (Crossword puzzle championships can be nail-biters too you know…)

    – Lots of music docs – Calle 54, Scratch, Dig!, Soul Power

    – Lots of film docs – Schlock: The Secret History Of American Cinema, Visons Of Light, Decade Under The Influence, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, Best Worst Movie

    – Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (Tracking a lunatic killer)

    OK, I was just testing you on that last one…B-)

    • -Not a huge fan of Spellbound; for some reason I liked Wordplay a little bit better. I guess I liked the sense of urgency.
      -Dogtown was alright, but not a topic I'm really big on, so just okay.
      Haven't seen Dig!, but have heard it's great.
      – Most of those other ones I've not heard of.

      Another couple I like that I thought of:
      Not Quite Hollywood
      This Movie is Not Yet Rated

  29. forget 2005, this is the year of the documentary:

    Dear Zachary

    English Surgeon

    We Live in Public

    The Cove

    Rip! A Remix Manifesto

    L'Enfer (if it comes out)



    and I am assuming

    Capitalism: A Love Story

  30. The Cove would’ve been a lot more captivating if Gamble didn’t tell me every single detail of the entire film before hand.

    So now its my fault that you and Kurt had to be such stubborn douche bags that I had to hard sell you?

  31. Nope, I was very much aware (both with Matt and a MacLean's feature) of what the film was, and it still was awesome.

    Suprise can only go so far, quality is quality. Just like when you watch a film you love a 2nd or 3rd time, etc. etc.

  32. Really? You think "The Cove" is a movie that is worth rewatching 3 or 4 times? I got the idea. I think I would be pretty bored upon further viewings.

    It's not the film is not good, it's just that I knew all the information being thrown at me in advance. And I don't mean generals, I mean specific details. And I also don't mean the podcast. I'm talking about the hour afterwards in which Matt told me scene by scene what goes on and all of the details and information that lie therein.

  33. @ Suprise can only go so far, quality is quality. Just like when you watch a film you love a 2nd or 3rd time, etc. etc.

    Yeah but that first viewing is pretty special and you can never get it back. I like to go in fresh.

    I thought it was pretty annoying and inconsiderate in the cinecast when Gamble and Kurt ignored Andrew's objections to talk about Inglorious Basterds.

  34. Yes, the week before it opened. Andrew said no and you held him down and did it anyways.

    At least thats how I imagined it. I immeadiatly turned the episode off once it was clear you were determned to talk about. The episode was contaminated at that point.

  35. "I’m talking about the hour afterwards in which Matt told me scene by scene what goes on and all of the details and information that lie therein."

    I'm picturing Matt reenacting the Cove for Andrew with hand puppets… and it's glorious. 5 stars.


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