Finally Watching [Old Movies]

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

Postby Merciel » Sun Apr 17, 2016 11:01 pm

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

I'm several movies behind on this thing (and haven't been watching that many lately because, uh, need to do actual work right now), but I do want to note for posterity that Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? gets to go down in history as being the only movie I have attempted for either the Action Movies! or Old Movies! project where I just could not make it through to the end.

This is absolutely the stupidest movie I have seen in ages. It is stupider than Bloodsport. It is less fun than Bloodsport. Bloodsport, I finished. This steaming pile of shit, I could not.

1/10, I think I might have laughed at something about "filthy children" in the beginning. I'll give it a point for that.
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Postby Merciel » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:12 am

It Happened One Night (1934)

Not one of my all-time favorites, but not half bad, this is a pleasantly middling little rom-com that might pass for a screwball with half its teeth pulled. It was funny to me that Claudette Colbert hated the movie and the studio thought it was going to be a flop; I don't think it deserved that kind of a reaction any more than it deserved to sweep the major Oscars. It's hard for me to imagine this lightweight little movie provoking that strong an opinion either way.

It was pretty funny to me that Claudette Colbert flashed her leg to get a driver to stop when they were hitchhiking, and then it turned out that the guy was a "road thief" who'd been looking for hitchhikers to fleece anyway, so presumably he would have stopped for Clark Gable's thumb too.

Colbert's lingerie was pretty good. It looks like bras were definitely not a thing in the '30s, which I guess isn't that surprising in light of the cuts and styles we've been seeing, but it's weird to think about in light of their ubiquity now.

I also appreciated that Gable got undressed to an equal/greater degree. Not that this is a particularly great movie with regard to gender relations (there's a bit too much LOL Domestic Violence! for my taste), but even so, it's way way way better than the shitshow that the '50s would turn into.

I liked how they didn't really bother establishing why King Westley was a shitty dude. All his actual on-screen lines and actions are inoffensive. They just cast a cartoon villain for the role and gave him a cartoon villain name and hey that's good enough, clearly that guy has got to go.

Well, that and he apparently stole his wedding transportation from a Bond villain.

7/10
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Postby No Good Advice » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:30 am

It's pleasant, but it's such a big name movie, one of the first that will be mentioned in the genre, easily available, one of the few old screwball comedies subbed in Norwegian on itunes/netflix/etc (which is a concern to me when I'm inevitably assigned the job of picking out 'something to watch' visiting my parents) - and for that reputation it is sort of just 'pleasant'.
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Postby number none » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:49 am

The reason it's so revered is because it was first. It's not as pure an example (I think Twentieth Century, which came out later the same year, is probably the first "true" screwball) as later entries in the genre but it definitely paved the way
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Postby Merciel » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:15 am

Dinner at Eight (1933)

Two things I don't understand about Dinner at Eight: how Jean Harlow was ever considered a super-gorgeous sex symbol and how SVC got snookered into thinking this film was a comedy.

I told him last night that I wanted to watch a funny movie because it's been a kind of shitgarbage week and I was not in the mood for anything heavy, so he picked out Dinner at Eight and it turns out this is a "comedy" that actually spends three or four minutes showing you a character committing suicide on screen after his increasingly pitiful life falls apart over the course of several excruciating scenes.

COOL

It's not that this is a bad movie (although I didn't think it was great either), but it definitely is no lighthearted romp through fields of beautiful bon mots. Most of the characters are dead, dying, or on an unbroken trajectory toward misery at the end (the doctor isn't going to stop cheating on his wife, his wife isn't going to stop suffering through it, the shipping magnate isn't magically going to get advanced heart surgery in 1933, the aging diva isn't going to get younger or less ridiculous and she'll probably burn through her stock money pretty quickly with no prospects for getting more), and the one character who has some reasonable prospect at future happiness and success (Oliver's daughter) is somehow still not into her rich, handsome, and smitten fiance.

And like even that stuff could be played for laughs (Always Sunny has done worse), but it isn't here. So yeah, whatever this movie is, it definitely is not a comedy. Wikipedia calls it a "dramedy" but I think even that is overselling the amount of humor here.

Other thoughts:

-- Mrs. Oliver has the most grating voice. I really hate that swoopy-fluty affectation. One of the few things in these Old Movies that I'm glad to see died out.

-- When Larry Renault took off his cufflinks to sell for booze money, I was like "wait is he wearing snap links in 1933?" because I'm pretty sure he snapped those links off instead of unthreading them, and if you were wearing snap links in 1933 then they almost certainly wouldn't have been worth very much (at that point, snap links would have been a moderately successful white-collar guy's everyday workwear set, not special occasion jewelry; at best they'd have been gilt or silverplated, but not solid precious metal and not expensively designed), and then when the bellboy came back saying that he couldn't get any money for them, I was duly gratified that I'd guessed right and also that the movie went to the trouble of telegraphing Renault's poverty in that small way.

-- I'm pretty sure Jean Harlow's big white foxfur mantle is not real fur, which would make it one of the few times I've seen a distinguishable fakie in one of these films. I could be wrong about that, but yeah, I think that one's a fake.

7/10
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Postby mystery meat » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:32 pm

it's like a proto-Rules of the Game and was David O Selznick's attempt to get the lightning of Grand Hotel to strike twice. i like it.

John Barrymore is so good in it.
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Postby Merciel » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:42 pm

Yeah John Barrymore has just been great in everything (well, all two movies) we've seen him in.
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Postby Julius Sumner Miller » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:40 pm

Merciel wrote:Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)


One of the best movies. 10/10.
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Postby Merciel » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:24 am

Remember the Night (1940)

Old crime movies really have a thing about glamorizing criminals and then waxing melodramatically righteous about their moral conversions about 15 minutes before the end. This is a recurring theme in a bunch of the movies we just watched and it gets pretty weird after you see it a bunch of times in a row.

So this movie is about Fred MacMurray as an ADA falling in love with a thief he's supposed to be prosecuting, which makes sense when the thief is Barbara Stanwyck but, I have to think, would still have gotten his ass fired in no time flat in 1940. The movie does about as good a job of excusing its premise as anybody could reasonably expect, but it took me a while to get past that beginning.

The court scenes are reasonably well done though (other than Stanwyck's dramatic guilty plea at the last second, which: looooooolll, but I guess you can take some consolation in knowing that she probably didn't serve more than six months before the whole thing got tossed on appeal), and the trial strategy discussions were pretty on target for how they'd play out today, too.

I enjoyed the cow interlude. Mostly I just like how Stanwyck is always getting her hats destroyed by livestock.

I also enjoyed how the downhome Indiana interlude was simultaneously lolwat (like Fred MacMurray giving a transparent negligee to his 50-something spinster aunt as a Christmas present, and "Hour of Ecstasy" perfume to his mom) and kind of charming even though all the Indiana characters dressed like it was 1865 (and this specifically gets called out in the corset-lacing scene, where the aunt mimicks the famous Gone With the Wind scene and even says she had a 19-inch waist, exactly the same as Scarlett O'Hara's). And then at the end of their visit, Stanwyck goes home in another ultra fashionable '30s NYC ensemble and it's like, wait, where the hell did she buy that hat in small town Indiana.

8/10
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Postby Merciel » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:31 am

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

I was really not expecting this to be a movie about a guy trying to get a bunch of hoodlum kids to join his after-school basketball rec league to turn them away from Lives of Crime.

Incidentally the basketball scene is far and away the best thing about this movie and one of the best things we've seen during this whole entire project. After the characters had been playing basketball for three minutes or so, SVC marveled "I don't think I've seen a single legal basketball move yet." I think a guy dribbled a ball for a couple of steps one time after SVC made that observation, but that's about the only actual move I recall seeing.

It is a thing of beauty, that scene.

I don't really get why this was an all-time career great performance for Cagney, but that's probably because I've seen a million other gangster pictures after this, and the proto-Scarface ending shootout isn't that bonkers after you've already seen the actual Scarface ending shootout.

The death chamber scene was pretty good though. I wonder how those scenes are going to look once we finally get rid of the death penalty in another 20 years or so.

7.5/10
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Postby Merciel » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:50 am

High Sierra (1941)

This is a good movie that I don't really have a lot to say about, except

(a) it's a little weird (though interesting, and I think a solid storytelling choice) that Bogart doesn't hook up with his love interest until after his somewhat starry-eyed crush on the farmer's granddaughter gets shot down hard. You don't usually have a romantic pairing in a melodrama where both parties are the other person's second choice (or arguably third, since Marie isn't especially into Roy Earle until both of her other boyfriends go down in a car fire);

(b) I felt very bad for Willie Best, the black actor who played Algernon, who was clearly a talented guy forced into a really demeaning role (footnote here: early in his career, Willie Best wasn't even credited with his actual name, but only as "Sleep N' Eat"; later his career was ended by a suspicious drug arrest and he died of cancer a few years later, aged only 45);

(c) SVC wondered whether male movie stars have gotten better-looking over the decades, in part because Humphrey Bogart is a fairly funny-looking dude, albeit one with tons of charisma and a very distinct screen presence. I guess there might be something to that, but I can think of tons of counterexamples on both sides of the equation.

Also, the two secondary robbers who die in the car fire are very conventionally attractive guys, so clearly there wasn't any prohibition against casting prettyboys in the '40s. They just didn't necessarily get the lead roles, which I think is still more or less how it works today.

(Women, of course, have to be gorgeous. True in the '30s and still true now. You get maybe two exceptions per generation and that's it.)

9/10
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Postby number none » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:57 am

SVC wondered whether male movie stars have gotten better-looking over the decades, in part because Humphrey Bogart is a fairly funny-looking dude, albeit one with tons of charisma and a very distinct screen presence. I guess there might be something to that, but I can think of tons of counterexamples on both sides of the equation.


Yeah, Bogart was never a conventionally good looking leading man, which is why he spent the early part of his career mostly playing villains (and only broke out relatively late in life)
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Postby Merciel » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:04 am

Grand Hotel (1932)

At first I wasn't too sure about the structure of this movie, which is really episodic and doesn't fit together quite the way you expect it should (although it's very neat in the end, it folds out in some unexpected directions and finishes in an unexpected shape), but on balance I think I like it. The plot is pretty weird though, not only because it's such a revolving door of ensemble subplots but because it's so nakedly about money.

All the characters need money, all the characters compromise themselves profoundly to get money (or, in Kringelein's case, have done so in the past and have only stopped because they think they're dying), and in the end there's only one sort-of happy resolution among the crowd, but you're not even sure whether that's really a happy ending because there's a good chance that Joan Crawford is just prostituting herself to a guy she pities instead of a guy she actually loathes. And the guy knows she's doing it (I think?) but doesn't really care, which means at least nobody is fooling themselves too much, but that's not exactly a rosy glow of heartwarming cheer there.

Luxe resorts are no haven from desperate scrabbling and vicious exploitation. I wasn't expecting an Old Movie to be that cold about the message, but I liked that it was.

8/10
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:08 am

I was... surprised... to see that Joan Leslie was only 15 in High Sierra.

John Barrymore continues to be the best thing about every movie he's in. "I happened to be hiding in your room."
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:23 am

I don't think I like Garbo all that much. Maybe we've discussed this before. There are so many shots in Grand Hotel where she looks like Steve Martin doing a Greta Garbo impression.
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Postby No Good Advice » Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:42 am

Remember the Night might be my favourite movie. The plot takes silly turns but the character moments are so sweet and human and Barbara with MacMurray's family gets to me everytime and the script always takes conversations a couple of lines further under the skin of things than other movies would.
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Postby No Good Advice » Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:46 am

The theatrical lawyer actor was at one time and actual lawyer
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Postby Merciel » Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:23 pm

Spoilt Victorian Child wrote:I don't think I like Garbo all that much. Maybe we've discussed this before. There are so many shots in Grand Hotel where she looks like Steve Martin doing a Greta Garbo impression.


That reminds me, the cuts between takes are extremely distacting in Grand Hotel. Like there'll be a character delivering a monologue and between paragraphs there's a cut and now you're clearly watching a different take of the actor delivering the monologue because the intonations and cadences don't match up at all.

I don't know why they did it that way. It's a baffling choice.
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Postby Merciel » Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:08 am

Gilda (1946)

God damn, Rita Hayworth.

This is a hell of a movie. It's not quite a noir and not quite a romance and not quite a melodrama, but it sure is something. Rita Hayworth is incandescent and Glenn Ford is distressingly convincing as a guy whose tortured obsession (maybe love? if you want to call it that?) drives him to be unbelievably cruel and abusive to her. George Macready is pretty great too and I never did figure out whether he was supposed to be insane from the beginning or driven insane by Gilda's behavior (and disregard of/fear for him; it's clear that there never was too much affection on her end, although there sure were a lot of pathologies).

The whole thing is a great portrayal of people who are extremely bad at relationships, which is maybe not the most uplifting possible theme for a movie, but does at least manage to save itself (mostly) by being very clear that Ford is a giant self-deluding abusive dick and his behavior is Bad. A lot of old movies can get uncomfortably fuzzy about stuff like the hero "justifiably" smacking his love interest, but Gilda doesn't fall into that particular trap.

Also the movie does some interesting things with heavy shadows and lighting. I don't think I've seen a movie that cast its stars' faces into full or near-full shadow so often.

I cannot believe this movie starred Rita Hayworth and put her in multiple dance scenes and never once had her really cut loose with a dance performance.

10/10
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Postby Merciel » Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:34 am

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

It's weird to be reminded that back in the '40s, girls would just wear suits as their everyday going-about-town attire even if they didn't have jobs, and that was totally normal.

It explains a couple of things about '40s women's suit construction, though, like why the skirts are hardly ever lined. A lined suit skirt holds its shape independently of the wearer's movement, so it presents a more structured and professional image -- it's literally stiffer. An unlined skirt tends to sway and cling more readily (not to mention is often partially translucent near the hem), so it comes off as more girlish and less professional.

This neat historical factoid is why I can pretty much only wear vintage suits to work when I'm not scheduled for argument. They're fine for the office or sitting in the back of a courtroom, but an unlined skirt presents a very slightly less serious image in person, which is not really what I'm going for in court. I suspect most people wouldn't consciously realize why that suit structure creates that impression, but they'd almost certainly get the impression itself.

One of these days I'll probably reach the point of just rocking my weirdo affectations all the time though. SOMEDAY.

Anyway. This movie was pretty good but I was predictably annoyed with the heroine's unwillingness to just burn her murderer uncle to the ground immediately. Who cares if it makes your family sad, just torch the fucker. Look what happens when you don't!

9.5/10 (half a point off because they never explained what the fuck was up with the detective boyfriend being mysteriously unreachable just when the heroine finally decided to ask for some help)
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:59 am

Yeah, five stars for Gilda. What more can a movie give you? It's outstanding across the board, and Hayworth still dominates it in a way that I may never have seen a person dominate a movie.

Shadow of a Doubt is also very good, though I don't think I'd put it in my top... seven Hitchcock movies. Cotten is great, as is Hume Cronyn. Santa Rosa looks like a fantastic place to live, although I guess it's supposed to be destroyed by an earthquake any day now. I really loved the depressed waitress — I love it pretty much any time Hitchcock tries to be funny. Ultimately though I think it's too sloppily put together for a movie of its kind. The other guy walked into a propeller, so he must have been the murderer — quoi? If someone were trying to murder me, I might first try to contact my detective boyfriend, but if he failed to answer I think I would eventually get around to trying 9-1-1. At the very least I would try to avoid sleeping in the room next to said murderer's. I think a thriller should be a little tighter than that.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:01 am

It is sick that it's a movie about a murderous Charles Oakley though.
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Postby Milk » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:50 am

I miss TCM so bad as of late (cancelled cable last year) and this thread being dug up isnt helping... Especially in the dead of winter, nothing i liked more than have TCM on all day. They need to have it on roku. Some free Roku channels have old movies but they're limited in quantity and quality.

Just watched A Night in Casablanca on one of those anyway, one of the few of the marx films i hadnt seen. Nothing much to say about it, it's not in their top tier for a reason i guess.
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Postby OKterrific » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:50 am

Julius Sumner Miller wrote:
Merciel wrote:Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)


One of the best movies. 10/10.


yeah. Mansfield one of the greatest comedic performances of all time.
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Postby Merciel » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:53 am

man, you guys are nuts

Rock Hunter is a garbage movie enforcing garbage stereotypes and it deserves nothing but absolute derision and scorn
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Postby Merciel » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:10 am

Beau Geste (1939)

Occasionally, watching foreign movies during our Action Movies! project, I would be struck by the alienness of their deeply ingrained cultural norms and how ideals of courage and masculinity were filtered through this entirely different and unfamiliar rubric that left me able to appreciate the movie's aims on an abstract level, but completely unable to connect on a visceral emotional level.

That's how I felt about Beau Geste. The language that this movie is speaking is not my own. The virtues that it takes for granted are foreign to me.

Personally I don't understand why it's so noble for a guy to lie to cover his aunt's selling off an inherited jewel to pay for her wards' upkeep, especially when that same guy has no compunction about tormenting the primary beneficiary of that inheritance for their entire childhoods. Beau Geste is a shameless bully to the nerd kid, but because he's chivalrous to the spinster aunt we're... supposed to root for him? Even though that winds up getting both him and one of his brothers killed, and could easily have killed off the third brother too?

yeah okay

Also the whole structure of this movie is weird, but weird in a very specific old-timey boys' novel way, by which I mean that the entire plot is not driven by the characters' actions or even really in response to them. It's just a series of things that happens to them, and that happens with the randomness of natural hazards. The shitty sergeant and the Arabs' attacks might as well be avalanches and plagues. They just happen as external threats, there's no rhyme or reason, and as a result the entire plot of this thing is just haphazard and unsatisfying as hell.

The spookiness of the intro corpses in the abandoned fort was pretty good though. I'm bumping the final rating two points just for that.

7/10
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Postby Merciel » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:46 am

Couple of other thoughts:

-- saving "beau geste: noble gesture!" as the final punchline was a huge wtflol, like how does anybody actually not know that offhand and need it explained as a drumroll line at the end;

-- this reminds me, SVC and I both cracked up at the kid in Shadow of a Doubt yelling at her dad for reading crummy mystery dime novels and yet being immersed in Ivanhoe at the same time (to be clear, I don't think this is a problem with the script so much as an accurate observation re: that type of kid);

-- I liked that they went to the trouble of casting a kid version of Gary Cooper who had his same eyes;

-- I don't think the "boys' novel" has existed as a subgenre since the '50s at the latest, has it? I feel like that mostly died out by the end of WWII;

-- I know this is intentional on David Chase's part, but it really is weird that Tony Soprano uses Gary Cooper as his ideal of masculinity. That had to have been a dated reference even in Livia's day.
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Postby Merciel » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:22 am

Dial M for Murder (1954)

Speaking of thrillers with saggy plots...

I didn't like this movie very much. I don't generally like murder plots that consider themselves too clever for their own good. Whatever puzzle-box satisfaction other people get from them just crashes and burns on the unforgiving rocks of my disbelief, and this was a stellar entry in the genre. Nothing that happens in this movie makes any damn sense, starting with why Grace Kelly (age 25 at the time of this movie) fell in love with Ray Milland (age 47, and an old 47 at that) and married him before he was a washed-up tennis star, and ending with the entire lolworthy contrivance of the inspector's various tests at the end.

All the performances are fine and Ray Milland is great and Grace Kelly is gorgeous (although the movie doesn't really give her a whole ton of stuff to do besides look decorative, which I found faintly disappointing), but god damn this is a dopey-ass plot.

6.5/10
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:34 am

I had been under the impression that Beau Geste was responsible for popularizing most of the stereotypes about the foreign legion (specifically the romantic aspect and the idea that it's full of criminals), but it seems to assume that its audience is familiar with those stereotypes, so now I don't know.

I liked the puzzle presented at the beginning and the solution presented at the end. The parts in between could've been handled more efficiently. I wanted more from the setting too; as with Beau Travail it is just a bunch of rectangles in a desert. The day-for-night sequence was pretty well done though.

I think boys' novels were pretty much killed by comic books. You can sell a paperback to anyone, but for most of their existence you've only been able to sell comic books to boys; so if you have a story that only appeals to boys you might as well put it in a comic book.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:46 am

I loved Dial M for Murder. It had the kind of cleverness I missed in Shadow of a Doubt.

I like when Cummings apologizes for not being very good at tennis and Milland says "Oh, well, New York and all that." What could that possibly have meant.

I also like how in 1954 they trusted Milland to do the accent he should've had in Beau Geste.
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