Friday, June 14, 2024

The 25 Most Anticipated Films For The 2016 Awards Race

The 2016 Fall Awards Season is finally here. Pretty soon we will be knee-deep in some of the best films of the year all vying for Awards Attention in hopes of claiming the Oscar on February 26th. There are plenty of films that we are eagerly anticipating, but for our first blog post of the season myself, Will and Mike have decided to come together to bring you what we feel are the 25 Most Anticipated Films For The 2016 Awards Race. The following list of films have been sorted by release date as this is not a ranked list. There will be plenty of more discussion on these titles through our podcast, reviews and more blog articles. For now, come check out the films we are most excited for.



Based on David Harrower’s Tony nominated play Blackbird, “Una” tells the story of a woman (Roony Mara) who arrives at the workplace of an older man (Ben Mendelsohn) much to his surprise. What followed on stage was a relentless tête-à-tête between two characters struggling with reliving the past, and moving on with the future. While director Benedict Andrews looks to be opening up the story to fit a more cinematic setting, here’s hoping the power of the material and very talented cast is enough to match what stunned critics and audiences alike on Broadway last year. “Una” will likely premiere at the Telluride Film Festival before moving on to Toronto, and is currently without a US release date. However, it seems likely to be a late 2016 release. – Mike

“The Birth Of A Nation”

The Birth Of A Nation

Ripe with controversy due to actor/producer/director/writer Nate Parker’s 1999 rape scandal, the once presumed frontrunner now faces an uphill battle heading into awards season, the likes of which no other film in history has probably had to face before. Fox Searchlight picked up the Sundance winner for a record amount and has put all of their focus behind the slave drama, but it may not be enough. Even the president of the Academy in Cheryl Boone Isaacs  has joined the conversation saying, “I know just by the conversation that has gone on at Sundance that it’s clearly a movie that filmgoers should go and see.” With all of that said, initial buzz coming out of Sundance before the controversy broke was very strong and the trailers certainly look impressive. It may not be the juggernaut it once was, but still look for “The Birth Of A Nation” to be a part of the conversation regardless. – Matt

“The Girl On The Train”

The Girl On The Train

A little over a year after Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl On The Train” set the literary scene on fire, comes the highly anticipated film adaptation with many questions attached. Emily Blunt stars as a young divorcee who sees something shocking on the train one morning, and subsequently finds herself involved within a mystery that not only changes her life, but that of everyone involved. “The Help” helmer Tate Taylor directs, while Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Édgar Ramírez, Allison Janney, and Lisa Kudrow co-star. This film has the potential to be either the next “Gone Girl,” or another “Fifty Shades Of Grey” in terms of critical success. The Universal Pictures release seems to be skipping Fall festivals and is set to release nationwide on October 7, aiming for more commercial appeal. Regardless of quality, it will be very interesting to see how this adaptation turns out. – Mike

“20th Century Women”

20th Century Women

Director Mike Mills has made quite a reputation for himself on the indie circuit after only two films- 2005’s “Thumbsucker” and 2011’s “Beginners” (for which Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). His next film, “20th Century Women,” features a stellar cast and is said to feature a standout performance from the always wonderful Annette Bening. While plot details are vague, this is said to be a 1970’s tale of love and freedom. Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig co-star. “20th Century Women” will play as the centerpiece title at this year’s New York Film Festival. The film opens in limited release on December 21. – Mike



Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” tells the story of young Chiron’s struggle to find himself and define his sexual identity across three defining chapters of his life. A year after Hollywood found itself in the doghouse for lacking diverse roles, here comes a film that not only stars a primarily African American cast, but also deals with LGBTQ characters. It is a welcome change of pace from the usual multiplex stories we’ve been seeing lately. With a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and an October 21 release from A24, “Moonlight” could be set to become the sleeper hit of Fall 2016. – Mike

“American Pastoral”

American Pastoral

It’s a big year for Phillip Roth novels. After years of unsatisfying adaptations, he’s had two novels hit the big screen in one year, with one of them (“Indignation”) already having premiered to strong reviews. In the case of this second film, the source material (depicting a father’s life torn apart as his daughter becomes a political radical) is considered by many to be Roth’s masterpiece; a book the New York Times once called ‘remarkable,’ and one that won him a Pulitzer. Ewan McGregor has long been an underrated presence in front of the camera, providing excellent turns in “Beginners,” “Transpotting” and “The Impossible.”

 In nearly every case though, he has been overshadowed by another cast member (recently, Naomi Watts and Christopher Plummer.) Here, he doubles up, not only taking the leading role, but also stepping in as director for the first time. He’ll certainly have his work cut out for him. This is a behemoth novel that IndieWire calls ‘unfilmable,’ and the film’s screenwriter, John Romano, is best known for adapting Michael Connelly’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” and Nicholas Sparks’ “Nights In Rodanthe.” Which is to say, he is still somewhat untested on adapting meaty material. The cast will likely be more than up for the challenge: Oscar Winner Jennifer Connelly joins McGregor, along with Dakota Fanning, David Strathairn, and Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Uduba, while the always reliable Alexandre Desplat has stepped in to score the film. If McGregor successfully pulls off the ambitious project, it would be an impressive enough feat to enter him and the film into Oscar consideration. And if not, he will likely at least provide a decent enough glimpse into a fascinating period in American History (the crumbling society of the 1920s). – Will

“A Monster Calls”

A Monster Calls

Based on the 2011 Patrick Ness novel, “A Monster Calls” may be the rare genre film to respond with critics in addition to fantasy fans. The film follows Conor, a young boy coping with bullies at school, and his mother’s terminal cancer at home. One evening, he encounters a monster in tree form, who comes to tell him stories that begin to fix his unhappy life. There is something very Spielbergian from the look of the synopsis, which suggests that the film may work as well as a heartfelt drama as it does fantasy adventure. After proving his horror background with 2007’s “The Orphanage,” and ability to create an emotional drama in 2012’s “The Impossible,” director J.A Bayona seems like the perfect fit for this material. A festival bow will take place in Toronto, with an originally planned October 21 release date pushed to December 23rd suggesting that LionsGate has confidence that the picture will do well in the coming awards season. Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Geraldine Chaplin, and newcomer Lewis MacDougall star. ​- Mike



With “Mud,” “Midnight Special,” and “Take Shelter,” Jeff Nichols has proven himself to be one of today’s most interesting directors. Having largely adhered to genre fiction thus far, seeing him tackle a historical drama will be intriguing. Boosted by an excellent cast (Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, and rising star, Ruth Nega), and a rich, timely true story involving the battle of interracial marriage in 1950s Virginia, the film seems slated to be the type that may make waves in Oscar season, especially in light of the #Oscarssowhite fiasco of the past two years. A well-reviewed film starring people of color, from a director who has slowly built good will with voters seems like a strong Oscar player on paper. And unlike many of the films on this list, it has already been screened. Responses at Cannes were admittedly muted, but positive. The film currently stands at a 71 on Metacritic, with the majority of reviews reading as more ‘respectful’ than glowing. But major Oscar players have done more with less over the years (“Inglorious Basterds” and “The Tree Of Life” both premiered to boos at Cannes before receiving Picture and Director nominations.) “Loving” looks to be a breath of innocent, emotional optimism in a world that has grown progressively more cynical; an unabashedly romantic love story. And for that, I am eagerly awaiting the film, even more so than for its excellent cast and director. – Will

“Bleed For This”

Bleed For This

Miles Teller has been on the verge of a real breakout Oscar worthy role for awhile now. There are many who felt he deserved more notice for “Whiplash” while his co-star J.K. Simmons reaped all of the awards that season. Well now, those wishful thinkers may finally get their wish with this true story boxing drama about Vinny Paz who endured a horrific spinal accident and fought with all of his might to get back in the ring and reclaim the title he never lost. Writer/Director Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”) has not been incredibly prolific in recent years but with the right tone and combo of winning performances (Aaron Eckhart has the typical boxing trainer role which tends to do well in the supporting category), this film could break through where wannabe imitators such as “Hands Of Stone” could not. – Matt



After delivering two excellent crime thrillers in the form of 2013’s Prisoners and 2015’s Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve turns his eyes to another genre: sci fi. The plot has been kept more or less under wraps, but we know so far that the film is an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s  1998 short story, Story of Your Life involving alien invasions and language translation. Paramount thus far has wisely given only glimpses of what the film will entail, but if the strong cast and promise of cerebral sci fi isn’t enough to intrigue you, the film’s other credentials should. Oscar Nominated composer, Johann Johansson (The Theory of Everything, Sicario) will be providing the score. And let’s not forget, he is a composer well-versed in ‘alien’ sounding scores. He provided the haunting music for the trailer for 2011’s Battle: Los Angeles, offering music so entrancing that it tricked viewers into thinking the film was actually worth seeing. Up and coming cinematographer, Bradford Young (Selma, A Most Violent Year) will be providing the film’s visuals, which from the looks of the trailer could lead him to be only the second black cinematographer in history of receive an Oscar nomination. Villeneuve’s previous films have fared well during Awards seasons, with Sicario most recently managing 3 Oscar nominations, as well as nominations from the Writers and Producers Guilds. With the film’s grounded, realistic style, and the pedigree involved, Arrival looks as though it could not only be an entertaining Sci Fi hit, but could also follow Mad Max: Fury Road and Gravity into being one of the first ever Sci Fi films to find awards success. The only holdup is, the film is written by Eric Heisserer, best known for 2011’s The Thing and Final Destination 5. But Villeneuve has made magic out of otherwise unimpressive screenplays before, and likely can do the same with Arrival. – Will

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

In what could very well be a “game changing” film for the cinema landscape as we know it, the extremely talented, diverse and masterful director Ang Lee returns to the big screen with a 120fps epic that is looking to be one of the biggest players of the year. Based on the award winning and critically well reviewed novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” tells the story of a veteran who returns home from a tour in Iraq and is hailed as a hero after an intense battle which left few survivors. He is sent on a “Victory Tour” by the government which includes a celebration during the Dallas Cowboys’s Halftime show on Thanksgiving. Flashbacks, encounters and revelations are had by the young Billy Lynn who is played by newcomer Joe Alwyn and he’s backed by an ensemble cast which includes Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund and a few others. For its technical advancements alone, this is one not to miss. – Matt

“Manchester By The Sea”

Manchester By The Sea

This year’s Sundance Film Fest resulted in the festival’s biggest sale in history with Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation. But arguably the best-reviewed film of the festival was Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea.  The film follows Casey Affleck as he returns to his hometown to deal with a family tragedy. It’s the kind of quiet, character driven drama that can sometimes make a surprising dent in Oscar season. And if its Sundance reviews are to be believed, it will. Variety calls it “a beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama.” It stands at a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an 8.2 average rating. And it stands at the potential comeback film for two former up-and-coming actors. Both Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams had been unstoppable for a few years and then faded away. Now, both have received raves, with Williams topping many Oscar pundits’ Supporting Actress predictions, and Affleck looking like someone who could take the lead in an uncertain Best Actor race. The film is being distributed by Amazon who remains relatively untested in the world of awards campaigning, but the film’s strong reviews may be enough to make it a major contender regardless. And the fact that Amazon had the film’s banners spread across IMDB within seconds of the trailer dropping suggests that the studio will spare no expense campaigning the film. Producer, Matt Damon, who stands to earn his fifth Oscar nomination for the film will likely campaign heavily as well. Reports of critics unable to leave their seats afterwards because the film was so emotionally devastating have bounced around. How can you not anticipate something that apparently is tailor made to emotionally gut you? – Will

“Nocturnal Animals”

Nocturnal Animals

In 2009, Tom Ford set the film world on fire with his debut film, A Single Man (as both Writer and Director). Now, after a seven year hiatus, he returns with his follow up, a thriller with a star-studded cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, and Michael Shannon. While the film’s description, positioning it as a psychological revenge thriller makes it sound as though the film may not be an Oscar contender, neither was A Single Man (aside from Firth), and it still proved to be one of the year’s strongest films. The film boasts an impressive crew, including two-time Oscar nominated Cinematographer, Seamus  McGarvy (Atonement), two-time Oscar nominated Costume Designer, Arianne Phillips (Walk the Line), Oscar Winning Sound Designer, Lon Bender (Braveheart, The Revenant) and two-time Golden Globe nominated composer, Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man). The film has the added intrigue of being one of two films this year that could land Amy Adams yet another Oscar nomination, and potentially lead to her first win. It is one of the few contenders this year we have yet to see any footage from, but it is also one of the most intriguing. – Will



After the massive success of films such as “Wreck It Ralph,” “Frozen,” and “Zootopia,” it seems as if Disney Animation Studios is on quite a roll lately with titles not just commercially appealing, but original and well made too. The formula for success seems to be in place once again with “Moana,” an original musical adventure set in the South Pacific. While searching for a fabled island, young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets up with Maui (Dwayne Johnson), her hero and legendary demi-god. With stunning scenery, vibrant vocal performances, and a soundtrack featuring songs by “Hamilton” and “In The Heights” scribe Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Moana” looks to have all the makings of another animated Disney classic. The film opens on November 23, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. ​- Mike



Hailed as one of the best un-produced scripts to circle around the market in quite some time, “Allied” is penned by Steven Knight and based on a true story of two assassins who fall in love during a mission to kill a German official during World War II. The script must be as good as everyone says it is if it attracted the likes of skilled director Robert Zemeckis and actors Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The teaser trailer has so far been released and hints at all of the below the line technical merits of the film being on point for a period film so we might as well check off all of the boxes in costumes, art direction, both sound categories and more. This will most likely be an old-fashioned epic in the same vein as other Oscar winning films such as “Out Of Africa” & “The English Patient.” Will it have the same luck as those other films did? “Allied” is being released on November 23rd. We’ll have to wait until then to find out. – Matt



Fresh off of teaming with Jane Campion on the Emmy nominated (With one win for cinematography) Sundance miniseries “Top Of Lake,” Garth Davis makes his feature film directorial debut with the adaptation of “A Long Way Home” in “Lion.” The story is about a five year old Indian boy who gets separated from his family and is eventually adopted by Australian parents until he comes of age and decides to set off to find his original family. With a leading performance from Dev Patel (Aka. “That guy from Slumdog Millionaire.”) who has not yet been nominated for an Oscar and a strong supporting cast which includes Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Denham, “Lion” looks to be The Weinstein Company’s only real shot at Oscar glory this year. If reviews are strong, expect Harvey and his crew to throw everything they have behind it. It will certainly be making the festival rounds hoping to gain some traction early on starting with the Toronto Film Festival and continuing towards the Zurich and London Film Festivals before its eventual release on November 25th. – Matt

“La La Land”

La La Land

After exploding out of Sundance in 2014, and winning 3 Oscars for Whiplash, anything Damien Chazelle chose to direct would be worth paying attention to. But though Chazelle has remained in the world of music, and returned with his Oscar winning Sound and Editing teams, as well as his Oscar winning collaborator, JK Simmons, he has taken a drastically different direction from the adrenaline-pumping cynicism of Whiplash, opting instead for a Singin’ in the Rain style musical romance. Lions Gate’s two teaser trailers for the film, featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s impressive musical talents and cinematographer, Linus Sandgren (American Hustle)’s stunning visuals turned heads, and positive word from within Lions Gate, as well as an Awards-friendly December release date suggests the studio has high hopes about the film’s Oscar potential. Stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling already proved that they have remarkable chemistry in 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love, and AMPAS has a long history of adoring musicals, and pairing that with Chazelle’s distinctive, energetic style makes for a promising product. There have been a few tepid test screening reactions, but the film’s many promising components make it seem like a clear one to look out for. ​- Will

“Miss Sloane”

Miss Sloane

In 1993, Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia” became one of the hallmarks in terms of American “issue films”. This means that it was one of the first titles to tackle a semi taboo subject, and treat it with accessibility for a mainstream audience. Now, 23 years later comes along “Miss Sloane,” another painstakingly “of the moment” title that tackles the subject of gun violence in America. Jessica Chastain stars as the titular Elizabeth Sloane, a powerful lobbyist who pushes for gun control measures to pass in the wake of senseless mass shootings across the country. Quality aside, this seems poised to be one of the most timely films of 2016. After a Congressional sit in, and many other efforts to pass background checks/limit the use of assault rifles, this may very well be the first mainstream film to have an honest discussion with American audiences regarding the absolute necessity for gun reform. John Madden directs, while Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Sthulbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow, and Sam Waterston co-star. Miss Sloane is not currently set to premiere at any Fall festivals, but will open in limited release on December 9. – Mike

“The Founder”

The Founder

Originally slated for a summer release on August 5th, the true story drama of how a hack salesman took the McDonald brother’s idea for a hamburger restaurant with speedy service and transformed it into one of the biggest franchises and brands in the world. The film has since been moved to an awards friendly December 16th date with one clear intention in mind: Get Michael Keaton nominated and win that Best Actor Oscar. Will it happen? Early test screenings have been divisive to say the least, but after starring in two back to back Best Picture winners and many feeling he was owed a win for anchoring both films (“Spotlight” less so due to its true ensemble work), The Weinstein Company is going to do everything they can to make sure star Michael Keaton is front and center throughout the campaign. Director John Lee Hancock is not a name that is completely synonymous with “Oscar” but after managing a surprise Best Picture nomination and Best Actress win for Sandra Bullock with “The Blind Side” and coming close to a few nominations with “Saving Mr. Banks” he might just be on the verge of a really successful film with the Academy. – Matt



After igniting the stage in a 2010 Broadway revival of the August Wilson’s “Fences,” Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reunite for this highly anticipated film adaption. Washington (who also directs) stars as an African American father coming to terms with his family and racial prejudice in the 1950’s. Both leads won Tony Awards for their powerful performances, and are expected to repeat their awards success come Oscar season. “Fences” opens on December 16 in limited release, and expands on Christmas Day. – Mike

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Arguably the most anticipated film of the year, and how could it not be? It’s a “Star Wars” film!!! Now, while “Star Wars” has not had success in above the line categories at the Oscars since 1977 with the release of “A New Hope” the series has always traditionally performed well in the technical categories with last year’s film “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” earning five nominations including Best Original Score and Best Film Editing. With legendary John Williams not returning (Replaced for this entry by previous winner Alexandre Desplat) and this being the first film in the franchise not tied directly to any of the other film’s in the Skywalker Saga (This is in fact a prequel to “A New Hope” taking place after “Revenge Of The Sith’), there is an opportunity to present something new that audiences are not quite expecting with this film, Being touted as a war film more so than anything “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will be released December 16th and features a diverse cast with some notable names including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen & Forest Whitaker, all under the direction of Gareth Edwards who proved he could handle a film of this size with his previous effort “Godzilla.” That film managed to get zero Oscar nominations. Will this film do the same? – Matt

“Patriot’s Day”

Patriots Day

Paul Greengrass’s United 93 drew controversy for being released ‘too soon’ after 9/11 when it premiered in 2006, just 5 years after the tragedy. Now, Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day comes just three years after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. Greengrass came out of the controversy with a Best Director nomination, and CBS Films likely hopes Berg does the same. Featuring an impressive ensemble cast and a timely subject matter, Patriot’s Day reads on paper like a potential Oscar contender. Director Peter Berg has been hit or miss, however, having helmed 2004’s Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor, but also 2008’s Hancock and 2012’s box office disaster, Battleship. With two potentially large films this year however (he’s also directing LionsGate’s $160 million oil spill blockbuster, Deepwater Horizon) Berg could end up with a similar year to Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 one-two punch of Erin Brockovich and Traffic. The film’s screenplay comes from a team of pedigreed writers: Oscar Nominees Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies) and Paul Tamsey & Eric Johnson (The Fighter), and will likely feature sound design from 7-time Oscar Nominee Wylie Stateman. CBS is aiming for that American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Lone Survivor January wide release that nearly always results in Oscar nominations. The film is reportedly currently VERY long, Peter Berg is not someone I would have pegged as the man to be behind two potential Oscar contenders, but then again, I would have said the same about Adam McKay two years ago. And I’ll happily support any project that reads as though it could potentially snag John Goodman a long overdue nomination. – Will



Is it going to come out this year? The release schedule shows December 21st for now and this is why we are including it in this list but early word has been shaky on this upcoming film making its 2016 release date. After directing “The Imitation Game” to 8 Oscar nominations and a win for Best Adapted Screenplay, Morten Tyldum’s anticipated followup pits two of the hottest young leading actors in Hollywood against one another in this science fiction drama. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star as two astronauts who are prematurely awoken from their sleeping pods on a 120 year voyage to a distant planet and have to cope with one another on the rest of their 90 year journey in space. With a screenplay from Jon Spaihts (“Prometheus” & “Doctor Strange”) and supporting performances from Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishbone, this could be either a big commercial play or a critical darling. Why not both? Depends on if it can make that release date. – Matt

“Hidden Figures”

Hidden Figures

Fox recently moved Hidden Figures up to receive a 2016 awards-qualifying release, apparently after the film received strong test screening responses (some of which compared it to The Help, and who singled out Taraji P. Henson as an Oscar contender). Its pedigree doesn’t necessarily scream Awards contender. However, it comes from the writers of St. Vincent and Mean Girls 2, and it will premiere in a crowded time of the year. That being said, like Loving, it is a timely film, focusing on the first ever African American female NASA scientists. It boasts and excellent cast, including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst. And even if the film itself doesn’t become a major Oscar player, producer Pharell Williams has promised to provide several original songs for the film, which could in fact become major contenders in that category. – Will



Any time Martin Scorsese comes out with a new film, one must always stand up and take notice. “Silence” is a passion project of his that has had a troubled time finding its way to the big screen but that reality is getting close and closer every day. With a rumored runtime of over 3 hours, and an Oscar-less cast with high potential including Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, this is one of the highest profile releases of the year. Due to the subject matter of two Jesuit Portuguese Catholic priests who travel to Japan and face persecution when trying to spread the teachings of Christianity, it may suffer the same fate as another Socrsese religious passion project: “Kundun.” That film managed 4 Oscar nominations in below the line categories with no wins and perhaps “Silence” will suffer the same fate. However, Scorsese has been on a hot streak lately as far as Oscars are concerned with “Hugo” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street” managing 11 and 5 nominations each and “Silence” could be a big player in all categories cracking the double digits field if its a huge hit with both critics and audiences alike. While no official release date has been set, Paramount has confirmed that the film will be ready for this year’s Oscar season with an end of year release date. – Matt

Click on the respective names to follow MattWill and Mike on Twitter for more of their thoughts on the 2017 Oscar Race and more!

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Matt Neglia
Matt Neglia
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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