A quick blurb before getting to Ponty’s incredible post: I’ve released my second book, Arizonan Sojourn, South Carolinian Dreams: And Other Adventures. It’s a collection of travel essays I’ve accumulated over the last four years, and it’s available now on Amazon.
Here’s where you can pick it up:
- Kindle Pre-Order (releases Friday, 24 March 2023): https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0BYV275TW/
- Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0BYRKG9MW/
- Hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0BYR7TZJD/
- UK Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BYRKG9MW/
Pick up a copy today! Even sharing the above links is a huge help.
Thank you for your support!
Ponty wraps up his extended honorable mentions with this third part, and it’s the biggest one yet.
In reading through his lists, I’m struck by how many incredible films have come out in my lifetime. The 1980s through the early 2000s were surely a golden age for engaging storytelling on the big screen. Even crummier films from those decades are far more enjoyable (and significantly less “woke”) than much of the garbage coming out now. I’m not suggesting there are no good films these days—quite the contrary—but those years were sprinkled with fairy dust.
Ponty leaves no cinematic stone unturned. He told me he had spent four hours writing this list—and at that point, he wasn’t even finished! I don’t think I’ve ever spent four hours on a blog post. Kudos to him: this list is a true labor of love, and we’re all the beneficiaries of his pen.
With that, here is Ponty’s third and final installment of honorable mentions:
I’m completing my honourable mentions this week with my apologies. I didn’t mean for this list to go on for so long and had hoped that like Tyler, I could condense it into one short piece but I love a good movie and once I get onto it, you just can’t shut me up. As it is, this will be the last of my honourable mentions and then you’ll find out what Tyler and I consider to be the best movie of all time. Or our favourites.
In my zeal to knock out the first two lists, there were films from genres previously mentioned, like horror, sci fi and action, that I forgot to include so I will add them to this list in the first category.
Films I Forgot to Mention & Guilty Pleasures
Before I talk about my guilty pleasures, I’d just like to point out a couple of flicks that missed my first two lists. I made mention of some of these films in my own reminders and then, d’uh, completely forgot about them.
Like the 1975 horror Jaws. While the film itself is great, it is John William’s score, more so, his opening theme, that has lingered. For a good while, I couldn’t swim in open water without hearing that music, before hastily swimming towards sound and shore. Even in Norway, when I was swimming in one of its luscious lakes, I remember hearing that tune in my head and swimming back to the docks, even though there was another part of my brain telling me that there wouldn’t be a great white shark in a lake. Or in a swimming pool. Or under my bed. Daft, isn’t it? So yes, despite some great acting, despite the threat to an island that relies on Summer big bucks, it’s the music and Richard Dreyfuss’s laugh that lingers long in the memory. I always enjoyed this scene, when Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are trying to convince the mayor (Murray Hamilton) to shut down the beach. The mayor is typical of any politician, looking first to the financial loss that decision would bring, rather than protecting his citizens. His comment about the National Geographic had me in stitches but Hooper’s reaction was much better.
And secondly, the Back to the Future series (1985-1990). They’re great family fun but are too good, in my view, to stick in guilty pleasures and despite the fact that these are plainly obvious sci fi flicks, the themes of love, friendship, and family strike through all 3 films like the writing in a stick of rock (cylindrical candy usually bought at the seaside, for uninitiated Americans). In the first film, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses his time in 1955 Hill Valley to get his parents together; in the second, it’s to stop Biff Tannen (Thomas Wilson) from creating an ugly future; and in the third, it’s about saving his friend, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) from an untimely death. Hover boards and flying DeLorians aside, there’s something of the traditional about all 3 films, as Marty alters the past and the future to create a better life for him and his family. The Butterfly Effect (the concept, not the crap film) really comes into play in these films but only to alter the timelines of those Marty cares about.
The stories are great – even the one in the first film where Marty’s teenage mother develops a crush on him – and I enjoy watching Marty’s parents and old high school bully change character depending on their time zone. Crispin Glover as George McFly is such a weasel in the first film that despite his protection of Lorraine (Lea Thompson), you still struggle to understand how on earth those two got together. But my favourite, of all these excellent characters, is Biff Tannen (Thomas Wilson). Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox went on to big things after these films but Wilson didn’t and that always struck me as odd. He was perfect as the bully in the first and second films and the gunslinger, Mad Dog, in the third. Great to watch and his interactions, with Glover, Fox and Thompson, are very memorable. And for those who can’t remember, the guy really hates manure.
From sci fi to romantic dance drama, I’ll take you to Kellermans and the Summer of 1963 for the hit 1987 film Dirty Dancing. This was my mother’s favourite film growing up. My brother and I would be forced to sit through it every year. You’d think, with that in mind, that I’d hate it but I quite enjoy the film and still watch it every so often. It’s got a superb soundtrack, the love story with the precocious ‘Baby’ (Frances) Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and the confident dancer Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) is utterly engaging and it gave us that classic line at the end, used countless times across the years – ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner.’
I love the last dance, where Johnny turns up to give the punters something special. When Baby is on the stage watching Johnny and his dancers come towards her (4:10 onwards, below), that scene still makes me tingle. I love good old fashioned choreography.
As much as I enjoy Dirty Dancing, the Aussies pulled out a romantic comedy with similar themes in 1992, Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom hitting our screens. Strictly Ballroom is more tongue in cheek than Dirty Dancing but the story of a very ordinary girl who gets the opportunity to dance with a professional and the love story that develops makes this a journey you want to follow. Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), our professional in question, comes from a family of ballroom dancers but has his own moves, going against the tradition of those who came before him. When his current dancing partner leaves him, he teams up with an unlikely source; an unassuming and very plain looking Fran (Tara Morice), a beginner at his parent’s dance classes. And so begins a long and fruitful journey, in which Fran gains more confidence in herself and her dancing and Scott starts to learn more about himself, their relationship blossoming as his fellow competitors and judges long for him to fail, while his family use every trick in the book to get him to return to the accepted forms of dance.
The end scene in this film is just as much fun to watch as the one in Dirty Dancing. Having been disqualified by a corrupt judge, Scott’s father starts a clap in the crowd and pretty soon, everyone is doing it. Scott and Fran come together to perform one last memorable moment and the dancing is stunning.
If I’d remembered Strictly Ballroom before I started writing my top ten, it would probably have just squeezed in. It really is a terrific film.
From ballroom dancing to figure skating, we turn now to a major guilty pleasure, Blades of Glory (2007). This wouldn’t feature on most top tens and it wouldn’t have gone in mine either but it’s such a funny and enjoyable movie, it deserves an honourable mention. The story charts the fierce rivalry between the very professional Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), trained since he was a small boy by a multi millionaire (William Fichtner) who has made it his life’s ambition to adopt, raise, and train winners, and the bad boy, Chaz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell), who has had a less sheltered upbringing than MacElroy and whose style leaves little to the imagination. After winning joint gold at the 2002 Winter Games, Michaels and MacElroy get into a fight, resulting in both of them being expelled indefinitely from mens singles figure skating. However, thanks to a deranged stalker, MacElroy discovers that he can still compete in pairs dancing and his old coach (Craig T. Nelson) brings the warring pair together, to compete as the sports first male-male pair. I’ll tell you, fan and expert opinion on this pairing would make this film banned now, which is one of just many aspects I like about the film. MacElroy’s adopted father ‘unadopting’ him when he is expelled; a brother and sister rival pairing whose relationship goes a little further than sibling normality; MacElroy’s strange stalker; and Michael’s attitude to family entertainment are just some of the reasons I enjoy this movie.
The scene I’m going to include though sees Coach Goddard (Nelson) trying to persuade his pairing to try a move never seen before in figure skating – The Iron Lotus. The looks on MacElroy and Michael’s faces after watching it say it all. If you want to see whether they perform it or not, you’ll have to watch the film. Tyler, you’ll love it [He’s right, I do. —TPP]. Audre, not so much.
On a similar comedy sports theme, we go from figure skating to Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004). The remake of the The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) aside – though that is another excellent film – this, for me, is Ben Stiller’s best performance, certainly in a comedy. Faced with the closure and possible buy out of his gym, Average Joe’s, to Stiller’s arrogant and narcissistic White Goodman, Peter LeFleur (Vince Vaughn) gathers a team of misfits made up of his gym membership to compete in the World Dodgeball Championship for the top prize of $50,000 which will save his gym. Goodman, of course, tries everything to wreck LeFleur’s plans, sending a team containing the might of Globo Gym to the tournament, Goodman himself as captain. It’s David vs. Goliath and we know who wins but the journey is well worth undertaking. LeFleur is taken under the wing of former dodgeball all star, Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn), who has let himself go over the years, and is now in a wheelchair and who has some unusual methods for training his team.
‘If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.’
It seems this tactic works (or doesn’t) with traffic too.
The film has some brilliant and colourful characters and slapstick aside, contains some very warm moments amongst the comedy but Ben Stiller is the scene stealer, his every moment as memorable as the last. The ‘touche’ scene will be one that many Dodgeball fans remember, when Goodman introduces his team to LeFleur and they get into a back and forth when LeFleur is unimpressed with Goodman’s grandstanding.
That scene is virtually every argument Tina and I have ever had, resulting in (usually me) ending it with a non sequitur, like ‘your face’ or ‘you smell.’ Yes, I really am a child.
Flight of the Navigator (1986) and The Goonies (1985) are films I grew up with and which, in my opinion, have aged very well indeed. I’ve watched both over the last few years and I still find them as gripping and as engaging as I did when I was a child. I wrote a review of Flight of the Navigator for another site a while ago, which you can view here (https://going-postal.com/2021/04/flight-of-the-navigator/), and very nearly wrote a review for The Goonies to go into my number 10 slot before I changed my mind and put in a horror instead. Both are superb holiday films, fun for all the family and must watches.
King of Kings (1961) is another superb movie, best watched at Easter. To be fair, we haven’t seen it in a long while and keep meaning to add it to our DVD collection. It is by far and away my favourite adaptation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and Jeffrey Hunter is superb in his lead role.
The Princess Bride (1987) sees a sick child (Fred Savage) being read to by his grandfather (Peter Falk). The tale is about a young farmhand, Westley (Cary Elwes) who falls in love with the young woman in charge, Buttercup (Robin Wright). He leaves to find his fortune, on the promise that when he returns he will marry her but believing he has died at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup is wooed by the malevolent Prince Humperdinck and is due to marry him, though her heart remains tied to her one true love. As Westley returns, Buttercup is kidnapped and Westley seeks out to rescue her.
What I love about this film is the power of great story telling. When the grandfather starts reading the story, the grandson seems uninterested. After all, he’s a young boy, video games have just appeared and the idea of true love and girls makes him yak but the story is told in such a way that the grandson becomes gripped, chastising his grandfather when he stops reading and urging him to continue. We have so many distractions in this life but you can’t beat the power of a good book and a great story and that’s what this film celebrates. As for the tale itself, it’s a swashbuckling adventure and romance packed into one, with some witty scenes and some excellent characters. One of my favourite scenes features Westley as he prepares to do battle with the first of Buttercup’s kidnappers, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who has his own vendetta to fulfill. There’s something very respectful about that scene, even though these two men are preparing to fight to the death.
A shame we didn’t have Andre the Giant’s sage advice before the scamdemic – ‘be careful. People in masks are not to be trusted.’ Indeed.
I love how impatient Inigo gets waiting for Westley to climb the rock face, throwing him a rope and letting him take a breather before they start. Still makes me chuckle. And I’m sure most people, even those who haven’t seen this wonderful story, have heard that most famous quote: ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ That’s been often repeated in many shows and films. You can’t beat a good homage.
Stardust (2007) is another great fantasy, weaving together the stories of two very different worlds, as a young man with dreams and ambitions leaves his drab life to go in search of a star for the woman he loves. Except that she is not the woman he loves and he is not a man destined for a normal life. As Tristan (Charlie Cox) undergoes his own character development, a relationship forms between him and the star (Claire Danes) he intends to take back to his home. As with any good fantasy, it needs a villain or villains, as the case may be, and they are provided here by the evil witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Septimus (Mark Strong) both wanting very different things. Romance aside, there are some very funny moments in the film. The brothers of Stormhold, for instance, who in their quest for power have no issues in offing each other. The moment when I realised this would be no ordinary fantasy was this one, when the King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole) urges one of his sons to enjoy the view, as it was.
A few years before Stardust came to our screens, we were treated to the moody yet enjoyable Donnie Darko (2001), a story about a troubled teenager who is visited by a giant bunny rabbit and informed that the world is going to end. On a separate note, I do love it when in American films and TV shows, the characters inform us that the world is going to end. In Heroes (2006-10), which we are currently rewatching, the various characters are always telling us the world will end when what they mean is New York will end, America will end. You get it in Stranger Things, too. The world will end. Actually, no, Hawkins will be in trouble and probably the surrounding areas but the rest of the planet will be fine, thank you very much. Geez! These people, eh?
Anyway, Donnie Darko works well as mystery and drama, has a superb soundtrack and contains some distinctly unique and surreal moments. I like the scene where Frank (the rabbit) tells Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), in his dreams, to flood the school, ramping up sleepwalking to a whole new level. There’s something very Little Nightmarish about this film, definitely this scene, where in Donnie’s mind’s eye, he already sees the school lockers sitting in sea water, the image played as a thing of beauty rather than an act of destruction.
This is one of those movies that will have you talking hours after the final credits roll.
From flat out fantasy and dark mysteries, my penultimate choices are more in the realm of comic action, though there are definitely elements of fantasy to the latter. Kick-Ass (2010) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (also 2010) are both too good not to be included on this list. The first tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a high school nerd who has ambitions to become a superhero. To quote The Drinker, why? Don’t know. As it is, he finds himself completely out of his depth, especially when he meets two fellow crime fighters who are looking at bringing the local kingpin, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), down; one is a guy dressed like Batman (Nick Cage) and the other, his 11 year old daughter, Mindy aka Hit Girl. As Dave, aka Kick Ass, finds his popularity growing and Frank sees his shady business compromised, the criminal world meets the fantasy in a very real way. Kick-Ass contains the grisly elements ordinarily seen in a Scorcese movie but also contains some very light touches and some weirdly humorous moments, especially those that show the futility of being a superhero in the real world. The opening scene still has me in stitches. I know, I know, you’ll say I’m sick in the head but I can’t be the only one who laughed here.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is very different from Kick-Ass, the real world of Scott’s (Michael Cera) life very much enveloped in fantasy. Scott is bassist for the band Sex Bomb-Omb, a grunge outfit trying to hit the big time. Relationship wise, he’s pretty immature, dating a schoolgirl who is obsessed with the band, until an encounter with the mysterious Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) diverts his attention from both girlfriend and band. Unfortunately, to date Ramona, he has to face off against her seven evil exes and this is where the majority of the fantasy takes place. As someone who really enjoys music in film, I loved the battle of the bands sections, in particular the one where Scott’s green eyed monster manifests to fight against two of Ramona’s evil exes.
I should add to this by saying that the fake band Sex Bomb-Omb isn’t there to make up the numbers. They do some really good tracks, as do the other bands that make up the list. After I had watched the movie, I bought the soundtrack and love the blend of genres as well as rock and grunge. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of you here who go out and watch the film end up doing the same and picking up the soundtrack. It’s a cracking driving album, too.
To finish this section, I’m going for an old school comedy, a low budget classic I haven’t seen in years and need to replace. Clerks (1994) was made back in the days when Kevin Smith still had a spark of creativity and wasn’t a cry baby Wokist like he is now. It’s usually good to catch these guys at the beginning of their careers so you’re not tainted by anything they do when they feel the need to apologise for everything. Filmed in black and white, Clerks is a day in the lives of two convenience store clerks who, let’s say, are not very good at their jobs, annoy their customers, and shut up shop when they feel like it. Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) is the more responsible of the two but he spends a good amount of time complaining about his place in the world and his complicated relationships much to the annoyance of his plain speaking workmate and friend, Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson), who has a talent for upsetting people. As far as day in the life stories go, pretty much everything that could go wrong does go wrong as the hapless clerks find themselves chased out of a funeral or threatened and/or bored by customers. If I remember rightly, Randall points out partway through the film that ‘this job would be great if it wasn’t for the f***ing customers.’ I’m sure a lot of us have felt like that at some point. There are some great moments but I like the part where Randall, who’s running the video store, places an order for some rather unsavoury tapes while in the presence of a young mother and her very young child.
Clerks 2 is also pretty good but if you haven’t seen either, go for the first. It’s very funny.
We’re nearly at the end, good folks. If you bear with me just a little longer, I’d just like to mention a few more films that I think should go onto your viewing list.
LA Confidential (1997) and Pulp Fiction (1994) have something about the neo-noir about them. They’re the sort of film I could quite easily see in comic book form, the directors of both movies creating a form of story telling that is easy to watch, despite their vastly different styles. LA Confidential is narrated by a media hack, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), telling the audience the story of the fight against organised crime in the city. You have your celebrity cops, corrupt cops and, hold my drink for a second, some policeman who have got into the job for the right reasons, i.e., upholding the law and protecting the public. Imagine that! Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) fits into the latter and is seen by the rest of his department as a weasel nosed tattletale, especially after he testifies against most of them when they beat their prisoners. After a mass killing in a café, Exley, who has been promoted to detective in the interim, must find the real killers and the motive behind it, which takes us into corruption he could only have guessed at. It has a very old-school film noir feel about it and that’s nothing to do with its 1950s setting. The mystery, the tension, the façade being played against this touristy ‘come to LA, the City of the Angels,’ is done very well indeed.
Pulp Fiction, on the other hand, sees a collection of seedy stories come together, each one blending effortlessly into the next. While each story contains its own narrative and end goal, the writing for them is witty and at times very casual. For instance, in the tale of Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), on their way to a collection, which goes sideways, they discuss the metric system, in particular what you can do in a burger joint in America and Europe, and then there’s the conversation about what their boss Marcellus (Ving Rhames) did when he found another man giving his new wife Mia (Uma Thurman) a foot massage. Very random but it fits.
It also paints these characters as likable, even though you know what they are and what they do. Tarantino was very good at doing that in his films, intertwining these stories with random conversations that show the most horrid personalities as sort of amiable. He did it in Reservoir Dogs (1992) too, with the “Like a Virgin” segue. You know the killers sitting around the table, you know what they’re about to do and yet this very weird segue into the lyrics of Madonna’s hit makes them appear, in that moment, like normal people, sitting around discussing inane topics.
The next two I want to mention are dark comedies, the latter a little lighter than the other; The Last Supper (1995) and Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).
The Last Supper sees a group of post graduate lefties who realise that their anguish and posturing about the world is getting them nowhere, thus deciding – after an ‘accident’ with a mechanic – to invite guests to dinner to try to change their minds about their respective views. If they don’t, they kill them.
I like the character arcs in this film and the changes each of the five go through as the film progresses. I also enjoy some of the debate and could quite easily see myself with a leftist discussing some of the issues spoken about here. But I’d probably stay away from the white wine! Each of their guests have their own particular crusades, their own foibles and flaws but their take on the issue up for discussion features the sort of reaction you’d expect from those on the left. Some of them, though, are frankly bizarre like the guest who offers her own perspective on what she’d be prepared to do in her march for the right to life. It’s not until the end of the film, where the extremes on both sides take a back seat and we’re offered some balance, that the possibility of contrition is realised, but will it be too late?
Grosse Pointe Blank tells the story of Martin Blank (John Cusack), a hitman who returns to his home town for a high school reunion. There are some great performances from his co-stars – Debi (Minnie Driver), the former girlfriend who he ditched on prom night, Grocer (Dan Ackroyd), a rival hitman – but my favourite is his psychiatrist, Dr. Oatman (Alan Alda) who finds out about his patient’s occupation and becomes a nervous wreck whenever they’re in contact.
Three more movies and then I’m definitely done.
I’m going to take you to a couple of classics now, both film noir. The first is the Gloria Swanson masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (1950), which tells the story of a struggling writer (William Holden) who develops a tragic friendship with a former silent movie star who yearns for a triumphant return to the silver screen. One of the things I liked about this film is the very obvious metaphor; Norma Desmond’s (Gloria Swanson) mansion still has the majesty, the spectacle of grandeur, but is faded and falling apart in places, just like its owner. Desmond still sees herself as important, as a star, despite the fact that cinema has moved on happily without her. Joe (Holden) represents the modern in this story and consistently comes to clashes with Desmond, despite the fact that he is held as a kept man, Desmond using Joe as a way back into the limelight and Joe using her for her wealth. I imagine most of you have seen this film by now but if you haven’t, take a look. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Secondly, there’s the Orson Welles thriller, The Third Man (1949), which sees a writer travel to postwar Vienna only to find himself investigating the death of an old friend. This is another one of those films that if was made now would look better in black and white than colour. The shadowy streets and sewers offer the audience an idea of the kind of man we’re looking into, a mirage of a ghost with a murky past. Another must see.
And finally, we return to the modern with Memento (2000) about a man who suffers from short-term memory loss trying to find out who murdered his wife. Guy Pearce is brilliant as Leonard, the tortured soul who takes pictures as a way to guide him not only to his wife’s killer but to his own forgotten memories. This film is as tragic as it is thrilling.
And that’s all, folks. Tune in next week (and the week after) to view our final picks on our perennial journey. Thanks for sticking with us.
6 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Best Films: Hono[u]rable Mentions, Part III”
Some notes about what has to be the nonpareil movie review:
Jaws – that music was frightening in a way no other sound track was. It was a good movie but the opening music puts it in it’s own special catagory.
Americans know rock candy – it’s been around for ages; oddly enough, you find it in ‘old time stores’ in rural places.
I would substitute Dirty Dancing with FOOTLOOSE!!! Laughing out loud! It’s a good thing I’m all alone in this room because if anyone saw me while I was getting this link for you, they’d be hospitalized for laughing til they were damaged! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyD8BxoB2To
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Cheers, Tyler. We won’t be getting your book until midweek and when we’ve read it, I’ll be able to include snippets while I’m selling it on TCW. If I still had my Twitter account I’d have put it up there too but I couldn’t keep hold of too many social media accounts. Time, life, you know? I did make mention of it yesterday so hopefully, some on the site popped over to look, maybe even buy.
You’re right, Audre. It’s not often the score will rival the film in how we remember it but Jaws is right up there, with The Omen, with Lord of the Rings. A great soundtrack will last in our minds as long, if not longer than the film itself.
As for Footloose, yes, I like it but Dirty Dancing has lived with me for much longer. It had to be there and Strictly Ballroom was just too fantastic to ignore.
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Thanks, dude. I think yours was the very first order to be processed. Thank you again for your support—and for letting me bogart your post with a sales pitch!
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Hey! Bogart is my maiden name. Let’s have a little respect, huh??? (wink)
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Ha! No way.
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Yes way!!! It’s what the B on my driver’s license stands for. Audre B Myers
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