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21 Fun Activities Outside the San Diego Comic Con

As someone who lives in San Diego, I constantly hear how much it stinks to live in the city hosting Comic Con without actually getting to attend it. While I am sympathetic to the problem, I also know that most people are ignorant of how much Comic Con fun they can have without ever once stepping foot inside the convention.

1. Psych: The Musical Screening

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lisa Brettschneider

There's never much going on at Comic Con during preview night—most attendees are trying to save their energy for the long weekend ahead. But this year, Psych held a free screening of their musical episode (set to premiere in December). Fans had to RSVP online in advance and wait in line to get in on a first-come-first-served basis, but hey, it's pretty awesome to get to see a screening of a great show early and for free.

2. Gam3rCon

Image courtesy of Flickr user Heather Paul

Tired of competing to get into Comic Con when you're only interested in gaming anyway? Then skip SDCC and head to the nearby Gam3rCon, which lasted Thursday through Saturday and offered video game and board game demos along with live bands and more. From the pictures I could find, it looks like the event was pretty darn tiny, but hey, some people prefer their conventions that way.

3. Schick Hydro Shaves

Throughout the convention, Schick Hydro was offering anyone a free Schick Hydro razor if they boarded the Assassin's Creed pirate ship behind the convention center and got a shave from a pirate.

4. Regular Show Regular Zone

For the second year in a row, Cartoon Network partnered up with the San Diego Children's Museum to present a cool interactive experience with one of their shows. Last year focused on Adventure Time and this year, it was Regular Show. I heard great things about both, but there is constantly a wait of about two hours to get in, so I didn't get a chance to  go inside to check it out.

5. The Adult Swim Fun House

Similarly, Adult Swim had an attraction outside the convention as well. You had to line up to get tickets at four and then come back with your tickets at the designated hour to enter the Fun House. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was totally worth it.

The inflatable Fun House had all the weirdness you'd expect from Adult Swim, including a grown man in a diaper drinking a bottle, flashing blacklight responsive colors everywhere, and Robot Chicken's famous robot. And those are just the things we saw—since it was a maze, everyone had a different experience. 

There were a number of exits, including a slide and a jail that you could only leave after singing karaoke. No matter what exit you went through, you got a free t-shirt to take home.

If you think this sounds like fun, keep an eye out for listings in your area, because it is traveling throughout the U.S. right now and might just be stopping in a town near you soon.

6. Fox's Animation Domination Station

To promote their new Sunday night cartoon lineup, Fox put up a miniature golf course, a painting area where guests were given tiny figures from the shows to paint, a food truck offering free pizza, and photo opps with Axe Cops.

7. The Vikings Experience

Sure, you might not be a real viking, but at Comic Con, you could still test your rowing skills against competitors in miniature viking ships. The Vikings Experience also featured lovely shield maidens standing guard and a photo area so you could remember your short time as a viking.

8. Comixology's Tr!ckst3r

To help publicize their online software that has made self-publishing comic books easier than ever, Comixology organized an event called Tr!ckster, where they invited artists to come by every night of the convention to have a drink, listen to music and draw live models posing in a variety of comic-styled outfits and poses. It might not have been the most lively event (artists tend to be pretty quiet while they work), but it might have been one of the most appropriately comic-inspired evening events out there.

9. Elder Scrolls Food Truck

While there are plenty of food trucks, trailers with mini movie theaters for trailer premieres, and even a mobile Hello Kitty shop in the Petco Park parking lot by the convention center, none of these attractions were entertaining enough to keep you distracted for more than a few minutes. On the other hand, on Thursday afternoon, a food truck arrived to help promote the Elder Scrolls online and handed out free lunch (Pressed Eidarmelt sandwiches with your choice of Fire Petal Dip, Emperor's Garden Sauce or Tomato-Mammoth Sauce) and free ice cream (frozen sweet cream with Khajiiti sweetbites) to anyone willing to wait in line.

10. Comedy Central Comedy-Con

Ever wanted to party with Comedy Central stars like Key and Peele, the guys from Workaholics? Well, this Thursday afternoon party was your chance, as it was totally open to the public. I wish I could have reported on this one in person, but we couldn't even get to the convention and find parking before it started.

11. 30 Minute Musicals Jurassic Park

This Thursday evening event was one of my favorite activities outside the convention, although it received very little promotion and had a very small audience. This LA theater troupe headed down to San Diego to perform their 30-minute-long musical extravaganza based on the events of Jurassic Park. If that sounds stupid, well, that's kind of the point.

The musical was utterly hilarious, recasting the T. rex as a misunderstood, slightly psychotic diva who desperately wants to make friends. In the end, she's the tragic hero who is left alone on the island after finally getting to show the humans that she only wanted their friendship.

If you're interested, 30 Minute Musicals is constantly performing new shows in Los Angeles, so if you happen to be in the area at some point, look them up and stop by for a show. Hey, even if you hate it, you only wasted 30 minutes of your time, right?

12. The Aquabats

Image (not from this Comic Con show) courtesy of Flickr user Aaron Silvers.

Always showing the world a nerdy good time, the Aquabats were out celebrating the second season of their TV show with a live performance at the House of Blues on Thursday.

13. The World's End Party

To be fair, this event wasn't technically open to the public. That being said, it was possible for fans to win tickets to the event by attending the World's End Pub Crawl that took place earlier in the day. Since I wasn't able to get a plus one to cover this party, I immediately sat down at the table with the friendliest-looking people and as it turns out, they were all the winners of the pub crawl who became super close friends through the span of the afternoon while trying to win tickets to the event. I didn't stay at the party long, but I couldn't be happier to get to meet the winners of that contest.

14. The Chuck Jones Gallery

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bonnie Dean

After leaving The World's End Party, I headed over to the Chuck Jones gallery. While the event always features works by Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones and Dr. Suess, during Comic Con they always feature comic-inspired art as well. As if that weren't enough, while I stopped by, they were also hosting a trivia night with free shots of tequila.

There are plenty of other art galleries in Downtown San Diego and many of them have special comic-themed art during the convention—it's just that the Chuck Jones Gallery is one of the most famous and most central to the convention.

15. The Walking Dead Escape

Image courtesy of Flickr user Edward Headington

Curious if you could survive a zombie apocalypse, or just want to attack people while pretending to be a zombie? Then be sure to check out the yearly Walking Dead Escape that allows survivors and zombies the chance to pair off against one another. If you're ready to take on the challenge, be ready to shell out some dough first—being a survivor costs $90, being a Walker will run you up to $149, and just sitting on the sidelines to watch the mayhem will take $15.

16. The Zombie Walk

If paying money to pretend to be a zombie just seems silly to you, there's a free zombie walk outside the convention every year. Just dress up in your favorite zombie gear, meet outside the convention and start shuffling down the street with the rest of the reanimated masses. This group wasn't technically part of the zombie walk, but I have a hard time resisting zombies coming from a luau with Jell-o brains.

17. Petco's Star Wars Yappy Hour

To celebrate the launch of their new Star Wars line of pet products, Petco hosted a "Yappy Hour" cocktail party. Dogs and their owners were invited to take photos with R2D2, get caricatures of themselves by Princess Leia and hang out with costumed characters from Star Wars. In fact, that's my friend's French bulldog with Darth Vader.

Humans were invited to enjoy cocktails, while pooches were provided with water, tennis balls, and dog treats. Those without a pooch to call their own were encouraged to adopt one of the pups on site courtesy of the Humane Society.

While the event was open to all animals, only one cat was actually brave enough to drop in with his owner. Somehow I feel like his sweet Batman shirt helped him cope.

18. Nerd-A-Thon

If you dig hot girls and cool tunes, the Nerd-A-Thon was the ultimate destination for music-loving geeks this year. On Friday night, fans could enjoy the girls of the Devil's Playground Burlesque performing in comic-inspired ensembles beside nerdy rock groups like Nerf Herder, Kirby Krackle, and H2Awesome. While we didn't make it to the Friday show, here's one of the Devil's Burlesque girls performing at a similar event back in December.

On Saturday night, the girls were in Star Wars clothing and the music acts were Nerdcore hip hop artists (think M.C. Front A Lot). While the L.A.-based burlesque troupe only had two performers at the show, they were both fantastic.

Plus, I couldn't be happier with the music acts, El Gun Legro, Wordburglar, Dual Core, MegaRan, and Danimal Cannon (although the last performer wasn't nerdcore, but a metal guitarist who played over sweet Gameboy tracks, he was still amazing).

19. Pretty Poison's Nerdy & Nice

The Nerd-A-Thon wasn't the only place where you could find music and burlesque on Saturday night. Pretty Poison Burlesque also had a show that night, and theirs featured the musical stylings of Ghost of the Robot, a band that features James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

20. Heroes Brew Festival

Is Comic Con lacking too much in the hops department, in your opinion? Then you would have enjoyed the comic-themed craft brew festival that occurred right next door and featured live bands and all the beer you could handle.

21. Adult Swim Party Featuring Eric Andre

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mandee Johnson

Also on Saturday night, Adult Swim threw a party at the House of Blues featuring comedian Eric Andre and musical guest Yacht. This one sounded a lot of fun—but the burlesque show lasted all night and the party had a line forming when we left to go get dinner at 5. Considering the doors didn't even open for a few hours, I can't imagine the line to get in.

While the events change every year, these are a good sampling of the kinds of fun things that are available each year, even for non-attendees. So, if you live in the area, or if you're already planning on traveling to San Diego that time of year, but aren't sure you'll get a Comic Con pass, be sure to hit the Downtown area during the convention for all kinds of fun events.

It's worth noting that I originally intended to go to as many outside-the-convention events as possible, but that soon proved to be utterly impossible. In fact, I only made it to about half of the events that I planned to attend because there is just so much stuff going on. As long as this article is, I didn't even include every single event outside the convention that people could attend, and, of course, if you attended the convention and found other fun stuff to do outside the convention, please tell us about them in the comments.

On a final note, if you're one of the many people who absolutely loves to see all the great cosplay from the convention, don't miss my gallery featuring over 200 costumes.

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15 Wonderfully Wise Quotes From Judy Blume
Evan Agostini, Getty Images
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Judy Blume was the queen of the YA novel before the concept even existed, inspiring generations of passionate fans—and a fair share of dissenters—in her nearly 50-year career. Here are just a few of our favorite thoughts about books, writing, and life from the iconic author, who turns 80 years old today.

1. ON BEING ONE OF THE MOST BANNED AUTHORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

“I’ll tell you what I make of that—that censors, those who want to censor, they don’t come after books until they know that kids really like them, and once kids like a book, it’s like, ‘There must be something wrong with this book, because why do the kids like it.’ You look at the banned books and you’ll see that they’re popular books with kids.”

— From a 2012 interview with PBS

2. ON THE EFFECTS OF CENSORSHIP

“But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— From Blume's official website

3. WHY SHE WORRIES ABOUT KIDS THESE DAYS

“Yes, I was a great daydreamer. You know what I worry about? I worry that kids today don't have enough time to just sit and daydream. I was a great pretender, always making up stories inside my head. Stories and stories and stories, but I never told anyone.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

4. ON BEING A WRITER

"Everybody who writes fiction draws from their own life, but if it ended there, it would be very boring. When I talk to kids and they say, 'How do you become a writer?', well, I don't know that you become a writer: you just are. I always had stories, they were always there inside my head."

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

5. ON WRITING

"Writing saved my life. It saved me, it gave me everything, it took away all my illnesses.”

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

6. ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS

“I don't understand the creative process. For years I would say one thing when kids would ask where I got my ideas. Because I was forced to think up something even though I don't really know. And now I'm just saying to people, 'I don't know. I don't understand how it works. How do I know?'”

— From an interview with January Magazine

7. ON DEALING WITH REJECTION

"It's all about your determination, I think, as much as anything. There are a lot of people with talent, but it's that determination. I mean, you know, I would cry when the rejections came in—the first couple of times, anyway—and I would go to sleep feeling down, but I would wake up in the morning optimistic and saying, 'Well, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see what I'm going to do next.' And I think you just have to keep going."

— From a 2011 interview with NPR

8. ON YA AUTHORS AND BOOKS

“[My husband] George and I listened … to the first Hunger Games and we loved it. And we couldn’t wait to get my car and come home. And when we came home, I’m not sure if we’d quite finished, and we sat in the car until we finished. I did not read any of the others. I had no interest in Twilight. But I did see the first movie.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCRW

9. ON THE PROS AND CONS OF TWITTER

“I like it. It’s a tremendous—I don’t want to say waste of time, but it also … what can I say? I enjoy reading the people I follow and discovering new people. It’s a lot of fun. I get a lot of laughs from it. And it connects you; it’s nice.”

— From a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair

10. ON GETTING KIDS TO READ

“Whatever gets them excited about reading is good! If you want them to read my books don't tell them so. Maybe just leave around a paperback with a new cover and say, 'I'm not sure you're ready for that.'"

— From a 2013 Reddit AMA

11. ON HER LITERARY INSPIRATIONS

“I was so inspired by Beverly Cleary's funny and wonderful books. And also, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy. And E. L. Konigsberg's first book, Jennifer Hecate. And my favorite books from when I was young, the Betsy-Tacy books.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

12. ON "MARGARET" AND TEENAGED JUDY

“Margaret is fiction, but based on the kind of twelve year old I was. Growing up, we did have a club like The PTKs. And Margaret's interests and concerns were similar to mine. I was small and thin when thin wasn't in. I was a late developer and was anxious to grow like my friends. Margaret was right from my own sixth grade experience. I wanted to tell the truth as I knew it.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

13. ON HOW BOOKS HELP US COMMUNICATE

“I’ve never really thought in terms of taboos. I think that books can really help parents and kids talk together about difficult subjects. I’ve always felt that way. The parent reads the book. The kid reads the book and then they can talk about the characters instead of talking about themselves. You know there’s a connection even if you don’t talk about it when you read the same books.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCR

14. ON THREE THINGS THAT WOULD SURPRISE US ABOUT HER

“I’m phobic about thunderstorms. Writing is incredibly hard for me. I’m not the world’s best mother, though kids always assume I must be. And I love a good cupcake. (I know, that makes four things, but I’m hungry and wishing I had that cupcake.)”

— From a 2012 interview with Smithsonian Magazine

15. ON REVISITING OLD CHARACTERS

"I don't want to rewrite anything. My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret go through menopause. And it's like, 'Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That's who she is.' No, I don't want to rewrite any of them."

— From a 2018 interview with NPR

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10 Surprising Facts About Burt Reynolds
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Universal Pictures

If your first memory of Burton Leon Reynolds is from the 1993 film Cop and a Half, then you’re probably too young to remember—or even realize—that Burt Reynolds was once Hollywood's biggest movie star. To put it in perspective: Every year from 1973 to 1984, Reynolds was listed as one of Quigley’s “Top 10 Money Makers,” and held the top spot on the annual poll from 1978 to 1982 (the only other person to boast a record five consecutive years at the top of the list is Bing Crosby, back in the 1940s).

After a serious knee injury and subsequent car accident ended a promising football career at Florida State University, Reynolds found his way into acting. He got his start in a series of television roles, including a regular gig on the western series Riverboat, then hit the big screen big time with his breakout role in John Boorman’s 1972 backwoods classic, Deliverance.

Reynolds followed Deliverance up with such hits as Smokey and The Bandit (a film Playboy called “the Gone with the Wind of good-ol’-boy movies”), Semi-Tough, The Cannonball Run, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Though he hit a bit of a rough patch for a few years, all of that changed when Reynolds agreed to star in Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 ode to pornography, which earned the actor a Golden Globe award, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and one of the biggest comebacks of the decade. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the mustachioed Hollywood icon, who turns 82 today.

1. HE TURNED DOWN SOME MAJOR ROLES.

Over the course of a near-60-year career, one is bound to pass on some prime roles. And Reynolds has turned down a lot, including (by his own admission in the video above) Han Solo in Star Wars, R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman, and John McClane in Die Hard. Although he doesn't regret that final one: “I don’t regret turning down anything Bruce Willis did,” Reynolds told Piers Morgan.

More notably, and perhaps more regrettably, Reynolds turned down a chance to play James Bond in 1969. As Reynolds explains it: “In my infinite wisdom, I said to [producer] Cubby Broccoli, ‘An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.’ And they really tried to talk me into it. It was a 10-minute discussion. Finally they left. Every night, I wake up in a cold sweat.”

The role Reynolds laments turning down the most, however, is a role that was written specifically with him in mind. When director James L. Brooks approached him about playing Garrett Breedlove in 1983’s Terms of Endearment, Reynolds balked, instead taking a role in Hal Needham’s Stroker Ace. “When it came time to choose between Terms and Stroker, I chose the latter because I felt I owed Hal more than I did Jim,” Reynolds explained (Needham also directed Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, and The Cannonball Run). “Nobody told me I could have probably done Terms and Universal would have waited until I was finished before making Stroker.” The role went to Jack Nicholson, who took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1984.

2. HE POSED NUDE IN A 1972 ISSUE OF COSMOPOLITAN.

It may be common knowledge that Burt Reynolds posed naked in Cosmopolitan. What may be less known is that he regrets that decision. “I’m very embarrassed by it,” Reynolds told Piers Morgan. Editor Helen Gurley Brown asked Reynolds to do the photo shoot after the two appeared together on The Tonight Show. “I thought it would be a kick,” Reynolds said. The issue came out only a short time before Deliverance was released in theaters and all 1.6 million copies of the magazine sold out.

Despite the popularity of the spread, Reynolds now believes that it may have distracted from the critical reception of Deliverance. “I thought it cost some actors in Deliverance an Academy Award,” Reynolds told Morgan. “I think it cost Jon [Voight]. I think it cost Ned Beatty, who certainly deserved an Oscar nomination. I think it hurt me, too.”

3. HE TURNED DOWN HIS OSCAR-NOMINATED ROLE IN BOOGIE NIGHTS. SEVEN TIMES.

Burt reynolds in 'Boogie Nights'
New Line Cinema

Paul Thomas Anderson was adamant that Burt Reynolds play iconoclastic porn producer Jack Horner in his 1997 masterpiece, Boogie Nights, despite Reynolds’s aversion to the material. Anderson asked seven times, and got seven passes from Reynolds. “One night—the eighth time—[Anderson] came to my hotel room,” Reynolds recalled. “And I said, ‘Look, you don’t get it.’ And I went a little berserk. And at the end of the tirade, he said, ‘If you can do that in the movie, you’ll get nominated for an Academy Award.’ And he was right.”

4. AN ON-SET STUNT CAUSED HIM A LIFE OF PAIN.

The 1980s weren’t always kind to Reynolds. "I can't believe I did all those bad films in a row until I looked at the list," he said. During the filming of 1984’s City Heat, Reynolds was struck in the face by a metal chair and shattered his jaw. He developed TMJ as a result of the injury and ended up losing 40 pounds due to his inability to eat solid food. The shocking weight loss fueled speculation that Reynolds had contracted AIDS, a rumor he spent years refuting. He also developed a severe drug dependency as a result of the chronic and debilitating pain he suffered from TMJ; at one point Reynolds was taking up to 50 Halcion sleeping pills a day.

Reynolds eventually kicked the pill addiction, but was not so lucky with the pain. He still suffers daily from the more than 30-year-old injury.

5. HE HAD AN IMPROMPTU PIE FIGHT WITH DOUBLE DARE HOST MARC SUMMERS ON THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Burt Reynolds had just finished up his segment as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1994 and had shifted over to make way for the next guest, TV show host Marc Summers (Double Dare, Unwrapped). Reynolds became visibly irritated with Summers for, ostensibly, turning his back on him while he was speaking to Leno. Summers then made the comment to Reynolds, “I’m still married, by the way.” This jab precipitated a water fight between the two combatants: Reynolds dumped his mug on Summers’s lap, Summers retaliated, so on and so forth. The donnybrook culminated in a rather violent pie fight followed by a very awkward hug.

“This was not a bit,” Summers explained. “I didn’t know what to expect. He was going through a divorce with Loni Anderson at the time and he was angry ... He hugged me and said, ‘I only did that because I really like you.’ You wait to get on The Tonight Show your whole life. You’re sitting next to Burt Reynolds. He drops water on your crotch, then you get into a pie fight!”

6. HE PISSED OFF ELMORE LEONARD.

Reynolds was a longtime admirer of writer Elmore Leonard. After reading Leonard’s novel, Stick, Reynolds decided that he wanted to direct and star in the film version. Things did not go well.

After watching Reynolds’s first cut of the film, the studio pushed back its release date and forced him to re-shoot the second half of the movie, much to the actor/director’s dismay. “I turned in my cut of the picture and truly thought I had made a good film,” Reynolds told the Los Angeles Times. “Word got back to me quickly that the [studio] wanted a few changes … I gave up on the film. I didn't fight them. I let them get the best of me.”

The biggest blow came from Elmore Leonard. "Leonard saw the film the day he was interviewed for a Newsweek cover and told them he hated it,” Reynolds shared. “After his comment, every critic attacked the film and he wouldn't talk to me. When I re-shot the film, I was just going through the motions. I'm not proud of what I did, but I take responsibility for my actions. All I can say—and this is not in way of a defense—is if you liked the first part of Stick, that's what I was trying to achieve throughout.”

7. HE DABBLED IN THE NIGHTCLUB BUSINESS.

Burt Reynolds’s foray into the booming 1970s nightclub business was a short-lived one. He opened Burt’s Place in the late 1970s at the Omni International Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The club’s most notable feature was a stained glass dance floor that featured a rendering of Burt’s face and the words, “Burt’s Joint”—which was odd, considering that wasn’t even the name of the establishment. Burt’s Place/Joint closed after a year.

8. MARLON BRANDO WAS NOT A FAN OF REYNOLDS.

Coming up in the movie business, Burt Reynolds was a huge Marlon Brando fan. Brando did not share the sentiment. When Reynolds was being considered for the role of Michael Corleone in 1972’s The Godfather, Brando adamantly declared that if Reynolds was given the role, he would remove himself from the project. The rest is history.

Brando later said about Reynolds, “He is the epitome of something that makes me want to throw up … He is the epitome of everything that is disgusting about the thespian … He worships at the temple of his own narcissism.” Ouch! To be fair, in the same conversation, Brando admits that he had never even met Reynolds.

9. HE RELEASED AN ALBUM. 


Mercury/Phonogram

Hot off his success in Deliverance and his nude spread in Cosmo, a solo album seemed like the next, most Hollywood-appropriate course of action.

Reynolds released his debut record, “Ask Me What I Am,” in 1973 and somehow this gem seems to have evaded critics and fans alike. We do know that the album came with a double-sized poster of Reynolds in a blue jumpsuit and cowboy hat. You can listen to a track on YouTube, but if you must hear it in its entirety, it’s available on Amazon.

10. HE DOESN’T THINK DELIVERANCE COULD BE RE-MADE TODAY.

“They keep talking about a remake, but I don’t think you could find four actors crazy enough to do it,” Reynolds said. “Not by any stretch of the imagination were we white water experts. We’d quit for the day and come back and practice. We got to the point where we were more proficient, or at least we didn’t get tipped over all the time. I have to admit that, in spite of the danger, or maybe because of the danger, it was the most fun I ever had.”

Reynolds has often said that Deliverance is the finest of all of his films.

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