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December 19 2004

Roger Ebert Lists "The Grudge" As 2004's Sixth Worst Film. At the end of his Best of the Year article, Roger Ebert has a small list of what he considers the ten worst releases of 2004 (without comment). The Grudge makes the cut (so to speak).

I haven't seen this film yet. Any comment? Is the appraisal accurate?

Ebert's a good reviewer & he knows crap when he sees it.
I agree that Ebert's a good reviewer. I think he's one of the best - he combines a chatty, personal style with a depth of film knowledge and an ability to communicate his views and back them up with examples. However, he'll be the first to admit that his opinion isn't truth - it's opinion, and he'll frequently write on the subject of reviewer subjectivity and even admit to certain prejudices that might affect his review (take his 2.5 star review for the first Spider-man, where he admits that this just isn't his Spider-man).

Ebert and I have disagreed on a number of subjects - he has a crazy love for the Harry Potter films that I just can't understand, and he's rarely kind to the horror genre (except when it's really superlative and then he's a gusher). I'm just wondering if anybody else found his opinion to hold with their own.
Sorry but I just cannot accept a list that puts The Grudge as worse than White Chicks!
Well, here's
Ebert's original review
of The Grudge.

No doubt he writes with a certain flourish and has a clear reviewing mind. But, as TheJoyofZeppo suggests, he is as subjective as they come. This is not necessarily a bad quality, mind you, in a reviewer, just so long as you know where you stand with him or her. Personally, I find very little I agree with in his reviews. I almost want to say that if I had not already seen The Grudge (and enjoyed it), I would be tempted to check it out after reading the piece. It (the movie) wasn't a masterpiece, it wasn't in the Top 10 list this year, but it was tidy, scary, effective, and shot with style.

And I really don't see how the plot was that hard to follow. If this film didn't add up for Roger, how did he fare with "Last Year in Marienbad," or "Last Tango in Paris"?
I certainly wouldn't agree with the contention that 'The Grudge' is one of the worst films of the year, but that's just my opinion. An opinion is really only of worth to the person making it. Everyone else should make up their own minds.

For myself, 'The Grudge' is one of my favourite films of the year, but Roger Ebert is not alone in his point of view. The film received plenty of bad reviews and criticism. Of course, there are people out there who would tell us that 'BtVS' and 'Angel' are rubbish, and no doubt 'Serenity' will get some bad reviews when it comes out. It's all very subjective.

I find myself getting upset when people criticise things I think are good. The final season of 'BtVS' is a prime example of this for me. I don't know why I get upset. It doesn't actually make any difference. As to this particular case in point, I think Ebert is wrong, but each to their own.
Totally agree with SNT. I've seen The Grudge and enjoyed it. Wasn't the best film ever but it was a great horror film. Ebert is one of the only reviewers that said good things about Gigli, which most people everywhere agreed sucked beyond belief. There was another movie that I can't remember what it was called, but again all reviewers everywhere were talking about how horrible it was but because he still found it entertaining even though the plot sucked, the acting was bad etc, which he agreed that it was, he still gave it a thumbs up because it kept his attention.

And as for his appraisal, no I don't agree. If you go back and read the thread for the opening night of The Grudge you'll see that most of us who saw it, really enjoyed the movie. No one said it was Oscar worthy but that it was really entertaining and scary. Which is what I think a horror movie is supposed to be.

I don't dislike Roger Ebert at all, but I don't think people should be reviewing movies they clearly have no desire or interest in to begin with. Like, I'm a 40 year old woman and I have no interest in Hilary Duff and am clearly not in her target audience so for me to go to a movie of hers to review it and then turn around and tear it apart because it's childish and juvenile wouldn't be fair. Roger Ebert was not the targeted audience for The Grudge.
> ...Roger Ebert was not the targeted audience for The Grudge.

Critics have a job to do, it's not quite just about "being the target".

(I have no personal opinion as regards this film, since I don't watch horror movies)

[ edited by Zamm on 2004-12-20 02:27 ]
I thought it was pretty bad, at least compared to the original. But I did go in thinking I would hate it beforehand, so perhaps I'm biased. It really annoys me when foreign movies are given Hollywood remakes to make it more accessible to American audiences. American movies aren't remade for abroad, and they do well regardless.

But I didn't think it was that bad.
I have not seen The Grudge and I don't have any interest in it, despite SMG's appearance in it. But I have seldom placed any value in Ebert's reviews, despite his experience, his knowledge, etc. I just have different tastes. When Gene Siskel was alive, I would watch their program, and if both guys gave "thumbs up," I would go see the film. If they split their vote, and Ebert was the one giving a thumb up, I would avoid the film. On those occasions when I violated my rule, I was always sorry. As a professional critic, Ebert undoubtedly must review films that are outside his interests. But I think he also has a responsibility to say that he is not a fan of a particular genre, so the reader factors that information into the opinion. And I think he owes readers a justification for listing a film as a "worst" choice.

Thanks, SNT, for the link to his original review.
palehorse, I agree that he owes it to people to justify his "worst" reasoning.

I know how he got the gig, but I don't think he deserves to be one of the best-known (and undoubtedly best paid) critics in the country. Sometimes it feels like he just doesn't like something because everyone else does. Stubborn.

That said, I do find his opinion interesting at times, but I like Leonard Maltin better. Maltin has a real sense of whimsy that I enjoy, and that Ebert lacks.
"I really don't see how the plot was that hard to follow"

I agree. If I hadn't understood how the opening scene connected with the rest of the movie, I wouldn't boast about it. I don't just disagree with the review, I think it's lazy. Don't go to a film that requires careful attention, not give that attention, and then blame the filmakers.
Ebert and I have disagreed on many occasions but on this topic I certainly agree... While many Americans have a hard time understanding the "art" of being a critic of any medium, be-it film or print, I have to give Ebert his props...And I have never heard Ebert give something a bad review just because everybody else liked it, he ALWAYS provides a valid point to "why" he gave a particular review...
Um, yes, us Americans are a thick-headed lot, aren't we? However, understanding "art" of any type isn't something that's difficult for me...

Free as you are, Simpleba, to state your opinion as always, I don't appreciate being condescended to.
I do agree with Simpleba that film criticism is a subtle and often misunderstood artform that, when done well, can be as evocative as any piece of journalism or non-fiction. Done at its worst, though, its self-centered tripe.

I don't agree with the cultural bias, though.
I've definately never seen Ebert as someone who likes films that other people don't just to be that way. In fact he seems like a very truthful subjective critic. He provides his reasons for liking and film he does like, and reasons for disliking any flicks he hates.

As for his top 10 worst listing, I definately agree on The Grudge. I Really liked the original, but this remake was lacking with bnoth acting and performance. It was often stylized and neat, but it was also muddled and dull.

Now about his dislike of horror, I seem to recall him giving very positive reviews to both 28 days later and Dawn of the Dead rather recently.

I'm curious about putting Troy as the #1 worst movie, I've never seen it, it seemed like fluff. Alexander however I did see and it was one of the few times I actually felt angry for wasting time from my life on a film.

And Simpleba, I partially agree with you. I think that a lot of people seem hostile to the critical community in general, but I think it's because they search more for the artistry behind the films than for the mainstream fun. That's not saying all of them actually, Spiderman 2 is on Ebert's list, he's a very subjective critic. But it's not uncommon to see negative reviews for the lastest box office hit action flick and incredible reviews for small art films which a lot of people seem to have some hostility towards.

Although I dissagree with the use of the word Americans, even in terms of an American Critic. I myself would use the word people there.

[ edited by rabid on 2004-12-20 04:27 ]
Especially the "art" of being a critic, Willowy...jeez....
I was quoting Simpleba there, Lizard.
Roger Ebert is supposed to be subjective; he's paid to give us his experienced opinion. I don't always agree with him but I do respect his ability to professionally review a movie. He pays attention, then he gives his opinion.

I get upset with reviewers when it seems like they barely watched the movie (or TV show) and their review reveals that they are reviewing from ignorance. I never get that feeling from Ebert.

But back to The Grudge: didn't see it. The premise just didn't grab me. I like SMG, but not enough to go see a movie I wouldn't otherwise see.
Ebert is a man who gave four stars to the Phantom Menance (!) I've taken everything he has said with a grain of salt since reading that review :) Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Tribune) is a far better reviewer, if you like review-as-essay criticism.
he gave it 3 1/2, but still high I'll give you that.

For the record though Phantom Menace has a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it seems quite a few critics liked it...
Simpleba, opinions are fine, vast generalizations aimed at a particular culture are not.
And still it seems like I was the only person that liked The Whole Ten Yards, it wasn't as good as the first one (which is probably my favorite film for some reason), but I still thought it was pretty good.
Ghost Spike, pardon me, but what? What does that have to do with anything?
I am an American.... But I believe that it is a generalization that holds some water... I didn’t mean to offend anyone...Besides, it was said with a little "tongue-in-cheek" anyway!

[ edited by Simpleba on 2004-12-20 07:08 ]

[ edited by Simpleba on 2004-12-20 07:12 ]
deamlogic - If I hadn't understood how the opening scene connected with the rest of the movie, I wouldn't boast about it

I can only agree with that. It really wasn't that complicated a plot device. Any person who makes his/her living reviewing movies who couldn't understand that needs to retire or go back to school and get retraining in his craft! Maybe us sophisticated Whedonesque-ers just *get* subtle stuff like that!

Edited to add: I liked The Grudge - he didn't. What he had to say about it wouldn't sway me one way or the other (nor any other reviewer for that matter).

Too many reviewers here (in Australia) are too closely associated with newspapers that also own movie production companies so their 'neutrality'has to be questioned. Because I don't know Ebert from Joe Bloggs (sorry to drag you into this again, JB!), I assume a vested interest until proven otherwise.

[ edited by catalyst2 on 2004-12-20 06:43 ]
I am a huge fan of SMG and think that she is a fine actress. That being said, I have to agree with Ebert. The Grudge was truly one of the worst films of 2004. Scenes that were supposed to be terrifying ended up being funny (and not in a good way). The only thing I found scary about the Grudge was SMG's judgment in selecting such a terrible film to follow up the equally horrible Scooby Doo 2. At the end of the movie, some people actually demanded a refund because they hated it so much.
In his original review of The Grudge, Ebert said two of the funniest lines I have ever read in any review (and which I wholeheartedly agree with...not a Grudge fan!), one of which was sort of a compliment to SMG:

This woman's hair, which sometimes looks like seaweed, appears in many scenes, hanging down into the frame as if it dreams of becoming a boom mike.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, the nominal star, has been in her share of horror movies, and all by herself could have written and directed a better one than this.

I don't always agree with Ebert, but I think he is an enormously intelligent and witty man, so I find myself reading and respecting his reviews, whether my opinion jibes with his or not. He is also quite well-known for going against the grain when it comes to praising films that many other critics did not get, some examples that come to mind being Dark City, which he gave 4 stars, Moulin Rouge, which he gave 3 1/2, and more recently The Polar Express, which he gave 4, as well. And any reviewer who lists Kill Bill Volume 2 and Spider-Man 2 on the Year's 10 Best List is all right by me.
catalyst2, I don't thing Ebert's too close associations are with newspaper and movie companies (except to the extent that they've all become marketing), but with the movie industry as a, uh, I guess "community". He was a screenwriter once, and I think his heart (and professional and social calender) are still too much part of that mindset for him to take seriously anything they don't.
Americans don't get the art of criticizing?? Oh please, I've lived in Europe most of my life and if anyone thinks it's better there you're fooling yourself. There's crap critics everwhere and it always depends on what you bring with you to the theater.

As for Ebert, he's far from the worse I've ever seen but I remain utterly baffled as to why he's America's foremost movie-judge. And I'm not talking about disagreeing with him, mind you. Opinion has nothing to do with quality of a review by itself. I sometimes agree with him, sometimes not. The fact that he praised Phantom Mencace is something to take into consideration for me next time he gives his opinion because it is a way of measuring his experience as opposed to mine. I was very dissappointed with the PM so next time I know to see an Ebert review in perspective compared to my own tastes.

That's fine, since it's ALL subjective anyway in how much you enjoy something and it has no bearing really on him as a reviewer. But he has said certain things as arguments for liking/not liking things that baffle me. His saying that he found it odd Wolverine was the more or less the lead character in X-Men, while Storm was far more powerful. The mere suggestion that the amount of power would signify who the lead of a story should be is so ludicrous to me that I've had a hard time taking him all that seriously afterwards.

And yes there are quite a few more examples but I don't want this to turn into an 'Ebert-bashing post'. I have nothing against the man, I sometimes agree with him as well. In his lists I agree with a couple, and strongly disagree with others. (I thought Troy was a pleasant surprise, especially the way the script juggled with the historical feel while not betraying the mythological elements)
I just don't see why he's so revered. A James Bernardinelli or a Mary Ann Johanson run circles around him if you ask me but to each their own. And I agree he should give at least a bit of a comment with the 'worst' list.

As for the Grudge, it is not a masterpiece, and neither was the original. Both are Ring/Ringu knock-offs (as japan had a slew of after those became so succesful) and unlike them, the 'Grudges' have pretty much no real plot to speak of. However I did enjoy them both. Because they are among the creepiest films I've ever seen. I enjoy the Japanese style of horror and the atmosphere.

As for which is better, Ju-On or The Grudge, I find myself in the middle. I know there's a tendency to either refuse to watch all foreign movies or to simply consider everything foreign automatically superior to american remakes, but to me it really depends on the project. I thought The Ring actually was a huge improvement over Ringu (especially in plot) except for some details. (Lets just say the 'eye' was scarier than the 'face')

But with the grudge and ju-on I'd say both have their strengths and weaknesses towards each other. If you blend their best parts you'd get a better movie;-) The CGI in the Grudge was crap. CGI can be cool, it can be impressive, but I've yet to see it ever be scary. Then again Ju-On let the camera linger way too long on the ghosts in certain scenes and you could tell far better that they were really people with makeup on. Cut away a little sooner. And the 'crawl' (you know what I mean) was far creepier in Ju-On than the Grudge, but then what comes AFTER the crawl in Ju-On was extremely anti-climatic to me.....Then again The Grudge was chock-full of cheap 'boo's with the entire orchestra making noise, and Ju-On relied more on the slower's really a toss up for me.

But 'worst of the year'? Not in my book by far....
All I can say is...Well said EdDantes!
Yes, well said. I've also got nothing against Roger Ebert. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't. This was just a horror movie that did what it was supposed to do. Scare the Hell out of you. It wasn't presented as some great work of art, it was what it was. I went into the theater expecting what I got and I had a good time.

I haven't seen Ju-on yet, but now I want to after all EdDantes has said about it, just as a neat comparison.

The movie was a box office success and a movie doesn't become that if it sucked. It can have big numbers the first week but then the word of mouth thing happens. If it's good, people will tell other people and they'll go and see it, if it isn't, it usually fizzles out quick. The Grudge did well for weeks, so it's an obvious success. Enough people liked it to make it a successful film.
I know it's shallow, and I'm aware of his 'interesting' screenwriting career, but everything I need to know about Ebert I learned here, in his review of what constitutes (in my mind) the worst excrescence ever to appear on celluloid.

Sometimes reviewers are too tied in to what makes a 'good movie' and forget what makes a 'good horror' or a 'good comedy'. I think he may have strayed too far into into the land of personal opinion.
giles (yes, etc) - When we walked out of the movie theatre after Garfield, even my seven-year old son said 'That was boring and stupid!' and Ebert gave it three stars! I think that sums up this entire critic as (respected?) 'expert' versus critic as 'just another subjective opinion' issue for me.
You see, the wonderful thing about critics is that while I never entirely trust when they rave about a movie, it's a pretty solid bet to trust when they utterly trash a movie.

... and I wouldn't say that financial box office success is an indicator of obvious quality. I think that might be the overriding motto of Hollywood as an artistic community: it doesn't have to be good to sell.
Willowy, Ten Yards was also in his list of ten worst films of the year, which was why I mentioned it. Another one on his list was Girl Next Door which I really don't agree with, but again, I dont think he was the target audience for that film.
This is far too late, and I'm sure no one cares anymore, but Jonathan Rosenbaum is the critic for the Chicago Reader. And he's darn good! I also like Michael Wilmington quite a bit, who is the main critic for the Tribune.

Minus the jab at 'Americans', I largely agree that criticism is an art form unto itself. The barrier to creating it is pretty low, all you need is an opinion. But expressing yourself well, and intelligently in 500-700 word chunks week after week, year after year is another game altogether. The bottom line is, I enjoy reading Ebert's reviews and essays. I don't have to agree or disagree; indeed, I almost like it more when I disagree because it becomes a challenge to express what I found worthwhile (or not) when he comes to a different conclusion.

[ edited by nemo on 2004-12-20 11:50 ]
The Grudge was indeed terrible. It's The Ring without scares or story. But what intrigues me more is the Troy/Alexander tie for first. Both were two-star movies to him, and yet they rank worse than Christmas With the Kranks?
I think he thinks of it in terms of wasted potential. Both Wolfgang Petersen and Oliver Stone are talented directors, have done good work in the past, and were given in excess of $100 mill each to make a sweaty, historical epic, and came back, respectively, with Troy and Alexander.
Will be interesting to see his comments on Serenity when it is released.
From what I can tell, Ebert seems to enjoy space stories that are engaging and/or well-written. With the exception of Attack of the Clones, he's loved each of the Star Wars films.
The Grudge was indeed terrible.

Or not. Maybe it really is a terrible film. I like it a lot, but I like 'Caddyshack', and some people I know think that constitutes proof that I need urgent help!

I am biased in favour of 'The Grudge' because I really like the original (the better of the two films, I think) and I like Sarah Michelle Gellar. Any review is going to be subjective, even if the reviewer sets out to be as objective as possible.

Reviews can be very interesting and they are all well and good. However, I like lots of things that others would contend are of absolutely no worth. I also like lots of things that are universally acknowledged as being of great artistic merit. What does any of this mean? Not a lot, really.
“I am curious about putting Troy as the no 1 worst movie”

rabit – I have seen Troy and it definitely is my worst film of 2004 (so far).

It was a huge disappointment for me, as I used to love reading Greek and Roman sagas when I was a child. This film took some of the greatest stories ever told, stories that take you to wonderful places emotionally while being entertaining at the same time, and turned them into what can only charitably be described as an effects driven movie when it should have been a character driven movie (I wish Joss had gotten his hands on this one). I could go on, but I don’t even want to think about the movie any more, I just hated it so much.

I have no doubt other people will enjoy it as a piece of fluff and enjoy the effects, but if you have the slightest regard for good writing this will drive you nuts. Homer shafted by Hollywood basically. (And no, not the Simpson one.)
Critics have their place. Just really not in my book. I will see a movie if I want to see it. Very little can persuade me one way or another.

I liked The Grudge. I jumped, a lot. I didn't fall asleep without the TV on for a week... (don't tell anyone that!!) Some of my favorite movies were never meant to be Oscar contenders, and I wouldn't want them to be!
"Caddyshack," eh, dashboardp? Well my list of bad films that give me pleasure would include many of the offerings of our BtVS alums ("Bring It On," which I think is both a scream and a perceptive take on the subject, "Cruel Intentions," just for its sheer chutzpah, and "American Pie" and "Eurotrip" as discussed elsewhere).

As others have mentioned, good film criticism is both art and literature. I have several collections of Pauline Kael's essays, which I find both enlightening as to the subject matter and wonderful reading in themselves because her passion for movie-making shines through. Even though I disagree with her conclusions quite often, I appreciate her methods. No modern-day reviewer gets close, IMO.

And, like dashboardp, I admit to finding redeeming value in movies that feature people I like. I'm also ill-disposed towards movies that feature actors I consider overrated and annoying. Some people claim that this demonstrates my petty prejudices. I say to them . . . well, I don't say anything to them because I kill them. Well, kill in the sense of "get all huffy and stop talking for a while."
I think that Ebert was never the great critic he was hailed to be. I watch Ebert & Roeper every week, but i watch to see what Roeper has to say. I think that i disagree with Ebert basically all the time. He gives many bad movies higher grades because they held his attention, but he gives not-so-bad movies lower grades because they didn't hold his attention. I will never forget his comments about how Gigli was not that bad. I saw the movie on HBO (or Showtime, one of those movie channels) recently and it was a really bad movie. Me and my friend enjoyed ourselves because we spent the entire movie ridiculing it (much like MST3000), but that would not make me give it a higher rating. The movie itself was pure crap.
I much prefer Roeper, he seems to actually have a brain.
I enjoyed the Grudge, but what do I know? Wait! I know what I like! Good horror movies are hard to find. The Grudge wasn't my all time favorite, but time watching it was time well spent.
Okay, so just to put all my cards on the table, I'm a movie critic myself, some of the time. First of all, I know that some people will never, ever, get this, but a critic being good or bad at his or her job HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW MUCH THEY AGREE WITH YOUR OWN OPINIONS!

Sorry to shout, but that's really a pet peeve of mine. We're all just people. If we like something you don't like, or if we love something you hate, that just the game we're playing. It's all ultimately just someone's opinion. We can try to be objective on certain factual matters (I'm the "wrong" demographic for this movie; everyone else in the theater seemed to be having a great ol' time, etc.), but the rest is all us. Judge us for how we write, how we express ourselves, whether we're being fair and open-minded in our approach and have something interesting to say. Did you learn about the film by reading the review? If not, then we're bad.

Roger Ebert is by far my all time favorite critic, mainly because I think he is the best writer. Also, he sincerely loves movies without being what he himself calls a "benevelant blurbster" and, on the other hand, is not trying to show -- like so many Pauline Kael wannabes who write for indie weeklies -- that he's so much more intelligent than the typical filmmaker and us stupid readers.

To those who've only seen him on TV, I don't think you're really get the full picture. Read the reviews--particularly the movies he either really loves or loathes (the bad ones are usually pretty funny -- but he can also make affectionate fun of a movie he likes).

BTW -- He also does a realy great, informative, commentary on the "Citizen Kane" DVD....

I should add I disagree with him a lot. Yeah, liking the Phantom Menace is a bit weird in my book. But it's even weirder when you look at his muted, sort of grudgingly respectful, attitude towards Peter Jackson's LOTR, which I think is probably one of the top 10 or 20 major cinematic achievements ever. But that's me.

And, yeah, I can't wait to see how he reviews "Serenity." Keep them fingers crossed...and upward.
I haven´t seen yet The Grudege, but i think it`s not that bad.
Seeing his list of best and worst, i have no respect for his cinematographic taste.

PD: The Village, and (i can´t believe this next one) Dogville in worst?
People surprise you. Sometimes Ebert pisses me the #*$! off and sometimes he makes me remember why I have at times thought of him as being a critic truly worth respecting. I'll have dismissed him after reading something that makes him seem like a snobby (in his own way) idiot, and then come across something that causes me to remember that it is never as simple as that. That is, nobody is ever, in my experience, simple enough that it is possible to absolutely reject or accept them (at least not in fairness).
I agree with you Rob, it is hard not to have at least a little respect for him when you can see how he truly loves the Kill Bill movies. And I also agree with whoever said it, it's hard not to wonder at him for falling over backwards over the Harry Potter movies (the 1st one came out before I had read any of the books and I had very little interest in seeing it. But Ebert absolutely raved about it thus convincing that maybe it was worth checking out. I left the theatre scratching my head. It was somewhat entertaining, but what was he so jazzed about? ...Sorry to anyone else who did love that movie).

I know I've read very worthy pieces of writing of Ebert's, things that I not only agree with, but I felt were really works of art in themselves. I tried to find one of these on his site, but couldn't think of one off the top of my head and got impatient with just browsing so nevermind about that. But, as it's relevant to the discussion at hand, I did come across this interesting (or not) reflection of Ebert's on the work he does: essay
I think everything that needs to be said has been said, but I have been thinking about Roger Ebert's choice of 'best' and 'worst' films of year. I don't particularly agree with his choices. However, they are choices.

If Ebert thinks 'The Grudge' is one of the worst ten films he has seen in 2004 then that is exactly what it is. Whether his decision is influenced by any preconceptions, whether it be a subjective or entirely objective choice, it doesn't matter. It is his opinion. Some of us might not agree, but it doesn't mean he isn't right (as far as he is concerned).

Reviews are invariably going to be informed by preconceptions, or at least be somewhat subjective. I believe if you are able to make an entirely objective decision about something like this it probably means you have no real interest in the subject. Ebert is clearly passionate about films. Good for him. I will celebrate the fact that he doesn't like 'The Grudge' and I will continue to watch and enjoy it.
bobster – I can’t wait to see how you review Serenity :-)
Yeah, that one will be way unbiased as I love, love, love "Firefly" (dare I say it was...better than "Buffy"...) and drive everyone I know crazy with my constant references....I think either full disclosure or recusal are the only ethical solutions!

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