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Five Faves: Favorite X-Men

Welcome to our second edition of Fave Fives. It won’t always be a list of characters from a film series or comic book series or whatever we are talking about. But this week, like last time, it is a list of characters. It’s one of the reasons people love the X-men- at least one of the reasons I love the X-Men- the diversity and range of characters. There are so many to choose from after nearly 60 years of publications. So this is my list of top five. It is probably different than yours, but I would love to know and see yours, so be sure to put it in the comments either here or on Facebook, so I can know who your favorites are.

So who did I pick? These are characters that for whatever reason have resonated with me over the years, the ones I love to see popping up in a story, or have an interesting back story or a cool power, or sometimes all three. I am not going to go into a lot of detail about why I picked each one, because the post will get really long, and this is supposed to mostly be a list with as little reading as possible- it’s Friday after all- I didn’t want to make you the reader work too hard. So maybe I won’t even list them here, but just put their pictures down below. You’ll notice the list is not numbered. This isn’t a ranking of these characters- just a list. Honestly, at any given time any one of these characters could be my number one, so it would be hard for me to rank them definitively. I just can’t do it. Don’t make me do it. So, just know that neither the first character listed or the last is my number one favorite. Or maybe it is, but I’m not saying it is. 

So, here’s the list:

Wolverine

Jean Grey

Nightcrawler

Cable

Kitty Pryde

So that’s my list for this week. If you want more X-Men content, check out my post from Monday and from yesterday.

If you want to see the first Fave Five list about the characters from the Last Jedi, then click here.

The X-Men and Understanding Others

I grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in  Salt Lake City area of Utah. I was white and surrounded by a lot of people who were mostly like me. I didn’t experience a lot of diversity ion my life when I was a kid. The most I remember from my early childhood was that many members of my extended family were not members of the same church. And, I remember thinking I was weird because my grandparents smoked and drank coffee. This was the closest thing I had to experiencing anything different from em in my early childhood. 

Then, around the time I was 11 years old, my parents divorced, and I kind of stopped going to church for a while. Honestly, in the little suburb of Murray, Utah, at the time, I felt like a freak when I went to school. I felt like a freak and weirdo around the other kids in the neighborhood. I felt like an outsider. And it was around this time that I really  got heavily into comics, and especially the X-Men. The X-Men were freaks and weirdos too. They were outsiders just like me, and I loved reading about them. I felt like I could identify with them. I felt like they were me.

This was how my 11 year old little mind with little life experience saw the X-Men. As I got older, I began to realize that the X-Men were something else entirely, and something much deeper. I began to understand that there were a lot of similarities with the X-Men and groups I was learning about in school. The X-Men were marginalized and discounted by the main population in the Marvel universe, like so many minorities in the United States. I began to see similarities in the hate groups in the cartoons and comics like the Friends of Humanity, and hate groups in the United States. I began to understand that the X-Men, and reading the X-Men was helping me to understand something else. 

My time as an “outsider” was so small and insignificant compared to what a lot of other people had experienced in history. People who were hated because of the color of their skin, or where they were born. Our country’s history is steeped in prejudice and bias and hate of those people who are different, or who we deem different. And to be clear, different than WASP. The people we see as not fitting in with the norm, suffer from this prejudice and hate. The X-Men exposed me to these ideas at an early age, and as I got older and began to see these parallels, it helped me to appreciate and try to understand better those who are hated.

Now, I’m not trying to say I’m an expert on race relations or racism in this country. I’m not. But I am grateful to the X-Men because from reading these stories growing up, it helped me to understand others who are different than me. Why? Because reading the X-Men books made me want to understand others and appreciate them, and not fear them. And dwelling on fear of something or someone can and often does lead to hate. It starts as discomfort but evolves on its own to something else. I think a natural thing, meaning human nature, is a feeling a discomfort around people or situations that are different from what we know. And when we experience that, how we proceed will determine whether we end up avoiding ands possibility hating what is different, or trying to understand and then appreciate. 

Reading the X-Men for me, helped me to try to understand those who were different, and it is something I am grateful for. My wife and I have six kids. Three of them are deaf. When we found out, we had some decisions to make about what we were going to do. We decided to learn American Sign Language and to teach our kids American Sign Language. This has meant that our kids are part of the deaf community and participate quite a bit in the deaf community. A community that at the time I was completely uncomfortable because I had no idea about this culture and this world. Today, after years of interacting with individuals who are deaf, I feel more comfortable. But it took time and understanding.

That’s what the X-Men are about, for me, on some level. Yes, I love the sci-fi feel of the comics and the movies, and I love the characters and the stories, but this idea of understanding others, accepting those who are different are at the core of who and what the X-Men are. They live in a world that hates and fears them simply because of a label. Simply because they are born different. People in their world feel threatened by the mutants because  they don’t understand. They buy into the fear that their society has sold them. The idea that all mutants are dangerous simply because of who they are. In their world, there are two sets of standards for super powered beings. Humans and aliens like Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and others are loved by the masses (Spider-Man by most, jut not J. Jonah Jameson). They have super powers and wear costumes, and people love them. The X-Men are very similar- they have powers and wear costumes, and they are hated. It is a clear double standard.

Simply because they are not “human,” simply because they are born different. If this is not a parallel to the racism and prejudice that exists in our world, if you can’t see that, then I’m not sure how to help you to recognize it. And if you are turning a blind eye to what is happening right now in our world and our country, then you are like the mutant haters in the comics. To hate and fear simply because something is different, to make people less than human because they are different than you, it’s not acceptable. I would say it is evil and wrong. And we can do better. We need to do better. The X-Men helped me to see that when I was younger, and I understand that more now that I am older. 

This week is all about X-Men on the blog. Check out the post on Monday for more X-goodness. Click here to view it.

Why I Love the X-Men

I can’t remember the first time I saw an X-Men cartoon, or read an X-Men comic. I’m sure it was my pre-teens/early teens. I think one of the first things I remember about anything X-Men related was playing the X-Men arcade game at the now defunct 49th Street Galleria in Murray, Utah. Maybe it was when my dad bought me a Wolverine action figure from the store when I was pretty young. The grocery store we went to at the time carried these Marvel action figures, and I remember when my parents would go shopping my dad would buy me one. I had Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc. For some reason, Wolverine’s always stood out to me. When I saw the game at the Galleria (as we called it back then), I only wanted to be Wolverine, because he was the only one I really knew.

As I got older, and started buying more comics, I bought some of my first X-Men comics. Mostly, I stuck to Superman and Justice League, and for various reasons I had the odd Spider-Man issue. But one time, at a Costco of all places, they had this package of Marvel comics you could buy. It had like 20 random issues in it. One of the issues was the iconic X-Men #1, with art by Jim Lee and story by the iconic Chris Claremont- so I was at least 9 years old. That particular comic really stood out to me for a couple of reasons. One reason was because it was a number one. I didn’t know much about comics at the time, but I was already a sucker for number ones. I mean, I even bought Super Pro #1 because I was that big a sucker. Another reason that issue stood out to me over the other issues in the pack was what it was. 

I have always been into superheroes, but the X-Men felt different. They didn’t have the super flashy costumes that the Justice League had, and their secret identities weren’t really that secret. And they weren’t overly powerful. And they fought a different fight. Superman, for example was beloved by the people he helped. He was like a celebrity in the DC Universe. He was trusted and respected. The X-Men weren’t. It was kind of the opposite. They were hated by regular people. They were feared. No one trusted them. The reasons for that and why that mattered is something I am going to discuss in my post for Wednesday, so I won’t dig deeper into that here. Suffice it to say- the X-Men were different, and for me and my pre-teen little self, they were the right kind of different.

As the 90s rolled on, I clung to the X-Men. I have always considered myself a DC guy when it came to comics and superheroes, but the one major exception to that was the X-Men. As I have gotten older, I also love a lot of other characters and stories in the Marvel universe, but the X-Men were the first characters to draw me over to Marvel, and I am drawn to them still today. I just think there is so much to love about them. I think the number one thing, though, that draws me to them over and over is that I have always felt like an outsider. I think everyone does as a teenager or beyond. I think everyone does regardless of age at certain points in their lives. I was never the popular kid in school. I have never been the guy with a bunch of friends. Mostly that’s my fault, but that’s a different post for a different time.

The X-Men became my best friends in my middle school years. And more secretly all through high school. And less secretly now. I was so excited when the first X-Men movies was released. I couldn’t wait to go see it. I didn’t have any friends who wanted to go with me, so I went by myself opening weekend It was awesome. And very lonely. But mostly awesome. These were characters I have grown to love and appreciate, and I learned a lot about what it means to accept “the other” (again, more on that later). This team of misfits and outcasts got me through my formative years. I loved the comics, the films (the first two anyway, and now the newer ones), I loved the cartoon series, and the comics. There was just a lot to love. And in the 90s, Marvel was all about the X-Men.

It’s hard, because I obsess about a lot of different things, so sometimes it feels like I forget about some of the things I have obsessed about. Then something happens that helps me rediscover one of those obsessions. I have definitely had times where I didn’t focus so much on the X-Men, but whenever I remember my obsession, these old friends are always waiting for me. These heroes, who are fighting a very different battle are always there.  I am excited to talk about the X-Men with you all this week. I think it is important to talk about the X-Men right now, and talk about the lessons they teach us. Now, maybe more than ever, it is important to talk about “the other” and how we can understand them more. Maybe not more than ever. It’s probably something that has always been this important. In any case, the X-Men have helped me understand it more, and I think that is crucial right now.

Fave Fives: Characters in The Last Jedi

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Fave Fives. Each week I am going to take five somethings from whatever our topic is and list them here. I’ll give a little explanation about what I have selected and why, but then I am just going to list the five whatevers. Just a nice and easy little end to the week. Maybe you will agree with my picks, maybe you won’t, and that’s ok. Like I said, these are my favorites. Mostly this will be just a list with photos, and hopefully fun.

I said it clear back in my post on Monday, that one of the things that I love about The Last Jedi is the development of some of the characters. This film takes on a journey that takes our characters to the depths of failure, but sets them all up to overcome and eventually triumph. Sometimes the struggles we go through enable us to accomplish more than we could have if we didn’t have them to begin with. Yeah, that sentence seems clear as mud. What I’m saying is that our failures and struggles can define us and refine us as much as anything else we might experience. Maybe even more. Each of these characters goes through some kind of failure, but they learn from it and move forward. They don’t dwell on the failures.

So who did I pick for this list? Kylo Ren who was able to take his failure at the end of The Force Awakens and becomes more powerful, in some ways, than the grandfather he idolized. Luke Skywalker who had just spent years hiding from his failures, then shows up at the end as the powerful Jedi Master we all knew he was. Rey who is looking for her family, but finds herself. Poe Cameron who fails as a leader, only to emerge one fo the top leaders of the resistance. Rose because everyone should love Rose. 

Kylo Ren

Luke Skywalker

Rey

Poe Dameron

Rose

Kylo, Luke, Rey, and the Past

One of the main themes in The Last Jedi was the idea of moving forward from the past. This was the theme that resonated the most with me in the film, and one of the reasons I love the movies so much. There were three main characters that presented three views on this idea of moving forward, in my opinion: Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, and Rey. Each of these characters took a different approach to the same idea of moving on to something new. They each had the same goal in the end, but how they chose to try to get to that goal helps define their characters at this point in the story. 

Kylo Ren’s approach to moving forward was that the past needed to die. I think at one point in the movie, he actually says the past needs to die. But the past didn’t just need to die for Kylo. Instead, he needed to murder it. Coming off killing his father, thinking that had freed him from a burden, from a pull back to who he was, he used to be, he wanted to kill more of his past. He attempts to take out his mother, he kills his mentor Snoke in order to become greater than him, and he tries to kill his previous mentor Luke Skywalker. For Kylo, he sees the past as something that is holding him back, and he needs to destroy it and become something bigger and better. Without killing it all, it will continue to pull at him. In Kylo’s mind, he needs the past dead in order for him to move forward. 

Kylo looks back on his past and sees himself as weak. He wants to be strong, so he wants that weaker him to be gone. He needs it to be gone. In the film we see this over and over. He destroys his helmet because it reminds him of when he was weaker, when he lost to Rey in the woods. Everything Kylo is doing in The Last Jedi is to become bigger, better, and greater than who he was before, who his grandfather was, who Snoke was, who his uncle was. Kylo wants the past dead because it holds him back.

Luke Skywalker looks back at the past and he is ashamed. He is ashamed of choices he made, or almost made. He is not proud of what he went into Kylo’s hut to do when he was his teacher. He hated himself for it. And as went into isolation and studied the history of the Jedi, he became ashamed of who the Jedi were especially at the end. He sees how they clung to ceremony and pomp, and he felt like the Jedi needed to die. He didn’t want to murder the past, but he was willing to let it die out naturally. His goal was to let the Jedi die out with him. He was ashamed of who he was, and as he learned more, who the Jedi were. For Kylo and Luke, the past was holding them back, and needed to disappear.

Rey doesn’t know her personal past, but as she learns more about the Jedi and the force she begins to embrace what the past was, and sees a way to move forward. She wants to build on the past as she discovers it, and sees what was in the past as the future. She doesn’t want to destroy it, she wants to cling to it in some ways. She sees it as an opportunity to become part of something larger than herself. That was something she had been wanting her whole life, and when she found it, she needed it even more. 

You know the old saying, never meet your heroes? It applies when you meet someone that you have looked up to, you have a lot of respect for, and they end up being totally different than you expected. Disappointingly different. This is what Rey experiences when she meets Luke for the first time. This is Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi Master, the guy who is going to save the Resistance. She had built up this image, rightfully so, in her head, and who she met did not meet that image. Now she was in a position to learn more about a past that was now part of her as a Force sensitive, but in her way was a man who wanted to get as far away from all of it as he can, and to keep it as far away from everyone else as he can. Rey begins to see things differently. Instead of looking to the past for the answer to the present, she sees it as building on the past, shedding what didn’t work, losing those traditions, and build something new. 

I look at these three characters, and I love Rey. I love parts of what Luke believes. There is a lot of tradition, a lot of pomp that needs to be done away with, but we can’t ignore the past completely. In the end I love that Rey embraces what the past was, all of it, and decides to move forward with building a better future. There is a lot to love about that idea. The past is what it is, and we can learn from it, or hide it and ignore it, but to truly build something better we need to understand it, and move forward from it. I think Rey embraces this idea. 

I also love the idea of getting rid of a lot of what holds us back. Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, there was a lot I learned about what that meant, and a lot of that was tradition. I learned the doctrine too, but there was a lot of things done because that’s how they were always done. It has been interesting to see how so much of that has changed in the last few years. A lot of the tradition, a lot of things we did just because we did them have been done away with. It has almost been a war on tradition for tradition’s sake. Moving away from a church that fits the needs the Wasatch front to meeting the needs of a global community. And honestly, I love it. I think there are a lot of parallels as we move forward in the Church to a better future. I don’t know. That’s some of my thoughts. 

Luke and Kylo saw the past as a hindrance, and it can be. If we cling to it so much it hinders us from moving forward. But Rey understood that knowing the past, learning from it and building on it can bring even better rewards. Living in the past, dwelling on the past can hold us back in our own futures, but hiding it away or ignoring can cause us to make the same mistakes. Only by understanding it, embracing it, and then moving forward learning from it can help us to be as successful as we can be. And that’s why this was my favorite theme from The Last Jedi.

Why I Liked The Last Jedi: A Love Letter

When I decided to do this introductory post for this week’s theme, I almost called it a defense of The Last Jedi, but honestly, I don’t think it will do any good. I mean, I have been in the middle of this fight for, well, let’s see, almost two and a half years. I don’t know if I remember a movie that has ever been as divisive for a fan base as this one has been for Star Wars. There are a lot of fans who absolutely hate this movie for whatever reason. I’m not dismissing those reasons, I’m just not going to list them all here. Then there are others who will defend this movie no matter what because it’s Star Wars, and they just automatically love anything Star Wars. And somewhere in between is everyone else.

I tend to be on the side of loving this movie. My wife asked me the other day which Star Wars movie was my favorite. It came down to this one or Empire for me. And I honestly said The Last Jedi. I am not, however, an unconditional Star Wars lover. I can’t stand Attack of the Clones, Solo was just alright, and Clone Wars- I hear it gets great, but I have struggled to get through season 2, so I don’t know. So, I don’t just love everything Star Wars because it’s Star Wars. I still loved this movie, though. I think the story telling is pretty solid. I like what happens with some of the main characters. I liked the idea of moving forward from the past. There was a lot to like.

That’s not to say that people who didn’t like it are wrong, or their opinions are not valid. I even get some of their arguments. I know the Canto Bight side story is one of the big complaints. I have heard everything I care to about the awful Admiral Holdo. And of course how Luke would never act the way he did. I have heard it all, and I get where you’re coming from. Please understand I’m not blind to your argument, I just see it differently. Admiral Holdo was acting like a military leader who was sharing parts of a plan with those that needed to know, Poe didn’t need to know. Luke would behave that way, because he did. And Canto Bight was important in setting something up for the next film, that we didn’t get to see. At least that’s what I think. The kid with the broom. I want to know what happens with the kid with the broom.

Here’s the thing, I know most of you who really hated this film are not going to agree with me, and I’m not trying to get you to change your opinion. I just want you to know that I have heard your arguments. You’re not going to share anything new, so let’s just agree to disagree. This isn’t a defense of the film. That’s what I am trying to get at. I am just explaining why I like this film. Rian Johnson did what he did. Told the story he did. I am not trying to defend it. I just think it was really good. And it would have been even better if Rise of Skywalker would have gone differently.  

This post isn’t about Rise of Skywalker, so I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but The Last Jedi was supposed to be the second part of a trilogy. A bridge between the opening act of The Force Awakens and the conclusion of the story in what was eventually called The Rise of Skywalker. However, now that the films are finished, Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker are nice bookends that look and feel similar, but The Last Jedi is this middle story that just doesn’t fit in. That’s not Johnson’s fault. I think Disney buckled under a lot of the fan complaints and spent a good portion of Rise of Skywalker undoing a lot of what Johnson did in Last Jedi. This is also Disney/Lucasfilm’s fault for apparently not having an overarching plan for the story of the new trilogy. Or swerving from that plan drastically with the last movie. If Episode 9 had built off of the story told in TLJ, it would have been even better as a part of a whole story. Like I said, though, this isn’t about Rise of Skywalker or the sequel trilogy as a whole.

No, this is about why I like The Last Jedi. It comes down to the story. It comes down to the characters. And it comes down to what it all meant to me. That last part is going to be covered more in depth on Wednesday’s post, but I have to mention it here. Rian Johnson has become one of my favorite directors, with this film and Knives Out, two of my favorite recent films. Knives Out may be one of my top three films from 2019. In any case, let’s look at each of these three parts one by one.

The Story

Much like Empire Strikes Back, the story in The Last Jedi is a little darker, a little more dire. When it ends, the Resistance is beaten and bloodied, and we’re not sure how they will go on. Compare this to Empire Strikes Back. Yes, our heroes, most of them, escaped Vader, but there was no medal ceremony or giant exploding Death Star. We have the most shocking revelation in the history of the franchise, and we are left wondering how it will all end. How will the Rebels regroup and finally defeat the Empire? But there is hope at the end of both movies as well. Hope that they will come back and win. 

This is the way a lot of second parts of trilogies work. They aren’t always happy. In fact the heroes often find themselves in situations that go from bad to worse. Their challenges mount and somehow they get through them but at a high cost. But it’s in preparation for the final act, the big battle, the climax. And The Last Jedi does this. It actually does it really well. I know that a lot of people don’t like where the story went, or how it got there, but sometimes, in the middle of the overall story, that’s ok. Just wait, let it resolve itself, see where it goes. I also know that a lot of people didn’t like the story because they didn’t like where it took some of the characters. Well…

The Characters

I’m not going to dive too deeply into the characters here, because later this week I am going to talk more in depth about some of my favorite characters from this film. But, I liked where most of our main characters were at the end of this film. I really did. I can also say that a lot of what happened was really unexpected, and maybe it felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath us, but really, in the end, I liked how our characters developed. Rey had been wanting to find out about her parents and her family for so long, and it was almost liberating for her when she found out that they weren’t anybody special. It left her free to forge her own path, create her own destiny, and it gave hope to anyone out there who was born a nobody.

Anybody can becomes a somebody, and everybody can be special. That was kind of the point. A point that was totally undone with The Rise of Skywalker, but again, that’s not the point pf this post. So I’ll move on.

I also loved- LOVED- where Kylo Ren was at the end of this chapter. He went from being a whiny, emo, Darth Vader wannabe to Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, and looked totally awesome doing it. He was a legitimate threat now, and someone who had eclipsed anything Vader had accomplished- at least on screen. And there was something to his whole “destroy the past” idea, but I’ll get into that on Wednesday.

Finally, for this post, Luke. He’s the guy a lot of unhappy fans point to when they discuss this film. Discuss- or more accurately rant against this film. Luke would never behave that way. He would never do that. Rian Johnson just didn’t get his character. I get these complaints. As a lifelong Superman fan who has had to endure Zack Snyder’s treatment of the character- I totally get it. The thing is, I just don’t think it’s accurate in this case. And unfortunately, Luke would behave this way because Luke did behave this way. I wanted to have the super powered, force wielding Jedi Master Luke Skywalker going into this film. And, initially I was disappointed with the hermit, disgruntled Luke we got. That being said, I love this Luke. He is broken. He is down. He believes it is because of his pride, and the pride of the Jedi as a whole that Kylo and Snoke are even around. He is ashamed of himself and his own weaknesses, and like so many of us, he can’t forgive himself. These kinds of things don’t make me dislike one of my favorite characters in the saga. It makes me love him more. It makes him more interesting, not less.

What it all meant to me

End of the day, it all comes down to what this film meant to me. I am going to go in depth on this particular topic on Wednesday- how the whole idea of moving past the past, moving beyond the traditions we cling to just to cling to them- this whole message resonated with me. So much so, I consistently write run-on sentences to describe how I feel. It’s that important to me. That deep. That’s why I keep coming back to this film. That’s why I love it, and why It has become possibly my favorite film in the whole saga, even though it doesn’t quite fit in here anymore. Sandwiched between The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, it kind of stands out. But it doesn’t change that this was the best film of the new trilogy. And top two for the whole saga.

That’s why I like The Last Jedi. Like I said before, I don’t anticipate changing anyone’s minds about this film. You all will like what you like, and that’s totally valid. Just be careful thinking that the only people who like this movie are the people who just love anything Star Wars simply because it is Star Wars. There are legitimate reasons to like, and maybe even love, this film.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo is the Star Wars movie I was pretty sure we didn’t need, and I knew I didn’t want. Now that we have it though, I am pretty pleased. Basically, I went into the movie with little to no expectations, and came out happy with the latest addition to the Star Wars lore. The film is by no means perfect, but overall, it was enjoyable and fun.

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Episode 10: Harry Potter

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Are you ever too stubborn for your own good? It happens to me probably more than I would like to admit. It almost happened to me with Harry Potter. It’s hard to say why exactly I was so against the idea of reading the series, what held me back for so long, but i just know that for a long time, I just refused. Until I didn’t, and my whole geeky world changed.

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Episode 9: Counting Down the MCU, Pt. 2

Here it is, the much-anticipated follow-up to Monday’s episode- this part 2 of my MCU countdown. This is where you can find out which movie I have listed at number 1. For those that know me, it probably isn’t a huge surprise. I have talked about this movie a lot. I have even been a guest on another podcast to discuss this movie. It isn’t just my favorite MCU movie, it’s one of my favorite movies. Period.

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Episode 8: Counting Down the MCU, Part 1

Due to technical issues, I had to take last week off. I just couldn’t deliver a good, quality product, so I decided it was better to skip it. But I am back this week, and I have brought with me an epic double episode! And it is all about the MCU. The MCU now consists of 19 films. Some are better than others, and others still stand apart in a class of their own. In this episode, I begin to break down which are which. This is part 1, breaking down numbers 19-11. Part 2- the top 10- will be released on Wednesday.

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