Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers is a 2001 HBO miniseries based on the true story of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks produced miniseries is a mostly factual account of Easy Company’s exploits in World War II, drawing inspiration from the book of the same name by historian Stephen Ambrose and Major Richard Winters.

The casting of this show is excellent. It’s strange, in a cool way, that members of the cast ended up exploding in popularity, but years, in some cases decades, later and for completely different projects. Damien Lewis would later go on to star in Showtime’s political spy thriller Homeland in 2011 as Nicholas Brody, Donnie Wahlberg is currently the star of the CBS procedural Blue Bloods, and Neal McDonough continues to be featured sporadically in various film and television projects. Unfortunately, the underutilized and underappreciated actor ends up being the best part of a forgettable or bad movie, and has yet to achieve anything equaling a major Hollywood breakthrough, which he definitely deserves. Michael Cudlitz had a starring role on the criminally underrated cancelled-too-soon cop drama Southland from 2009 to 2013. Also in blink-and-you’ll-miss bit parts are future (past) Magneto Michael Fassbender, future (past) Professor X James McAvoy, future Moriarity Andrew Scott, and future… um… everything Tom Hardy. It’s laughable to think, of all the eventual big-timers I just mentioned, the only name viewers knew at the time was comparatively the least talented: David Schwimmer. Indeed, while watching the first episode, my brother walked in and asked “Is that Ross Geller?”

Easy Company (no doubt due to the notoriety this award-winning miniseries received) is the most well-known company active during World War II. This notoriety is well-deserved; Easy Company remains one of the (if not the) most highly decorated units in the history of the United States Army. The company was essential in the initial European invasion (Operation Market Garden), held their own against German artillery in the Battle of the Bulge, and the capturing of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden. The company was an active fighting unit throughout the entirety of the United States’ involvement in the European Theater of War. This portion of the review may read like a history lesson, but when covering a historical miniseries such as this, a brief lesson of why exactly HBO, Hanks, and Spielberg thought Easy Company was so pertinent and interesting to cover over all other possibilities is necessary.

Both my great-grandfather and grandfather (My grandmother’s father and my grandmother’s future husband) were veterans of the war. My Grandpa Mike was a paratrooper in another company. I never learned much about Mike’s time in the war, but my Great Grandpa Orville had several interesting experiences I learned about from Grandma. Maybe my family history is why I find Band of Brothers so interesting and entertaining. At the time of this review (Memorial Day), this is my third viewing of the ten episode series. I meant to review the David Ayer film Fury from 2014, but circumstance lead me unable to obtain the film at this time. Not that I’m complaining about another opportunity to view this mastercraft of a miniseries.

Spielberg and Hanks previously collaborated on the award-winning war epic Saving Private Ryan in 1998. While a great film worthy of the praise it receives to this day, I prefer Band of Brothers on nearly every level. While understandably much lower in budget, comparatively, and therefore much lower in scale and action, I do not feel brutality is the main draw of Band of Brothers. As I’ve said in my recent reviews, I have recently come to the conclusion that the most important aspect of any successful work of fiction, over all other aspects of that work (in the majority of cases, though not all) is interesting and empathetic characters. The 169 minute Saving Private Ryan certainly does so, but the estimated 600-minute long total Band of Brothers beats it’s progenitor into the ground in this respect. The action in the miniseries admittedly feels extremely small in scale in comparison to the introductory sequences of the film, which are rightly considered legendary for both the filmmaking techniques, use of traditional and practical effects use over CGI, as well as historical accuracy. Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the actual sequence online to insert here, but I will say here that Saving Private Ryan is entertaining, awesome, and emotional and you should go watch it. However, though the Omaha Beach sequence is certainly nightmarish, haunting, depressing, and awe-inspiring in both the best and worst ways, some sequences of this miniseries are, arguably, more emotionally impactful than the film.

This scene, in my opinion, is more emotionally striking than any scene in Saving Private Ryan. Of course, this scene comes from the seventh chapter, so the miniseries has the advantage of using six previous hours to get us invested in these characters, which makes their departure all the more gut-wrenching. To add to the impact, you must remember that this actually happenedJoe Toye, Bill Guarnere, and Buck Compton are real soldiers, Toye and Guarnere really got their legs blown off, and the incident really did irrevocably scar Buck for the rest of his (notably well accomplished) life. None of the characters in Saving Private Ryan are real, and, with the exception of the Omaha Beach sequence, none of the events occurred in real life.

The above scene is punctuated by the usually charismatic, upbeat, and infallible Buck, in a moment of shock, fear, sadness, anger, and urgency, screams desperately for a medic. Here, Neal McDonough, in his final major appearance in the miniseries, produces the single most vulnerable character moment in the series, which is filled with vulnerable character moments. There is little, if any, spectacle in the series. The combat sequences are brief, violent, realistic, and at no point flashy or drawn out. Combat is (possibly due to budget) not heavily featured at all, in actuality. Instead, the series has a heavy narrative and dramatic focus.

It’s scenes like this that are why Band of Brothers is so well-regarded, and why I am able to binge it three times over in two years. It still makes me sad, angry, and sickened to see this and know it actually happened. This scene, thanks to the pitch perfect acting, realistic looking set and makeup, as well as the score, will never lose its edge.

In the name of entertainment, it is publicly acknowledged that at certain points, the series does take certain creative liberties. In general, I have no problem if film or television that is created expressly for the purpose of entertainment stretches the truth at certain points to make the piece of entertainment entertaining. It becomes offensive when you base something off of a true story and either A) stretch the truth to such levels that what was claimed to be a true story becomes a complete work of fiction or B) omit certain parts of the truth that may hinder the film in some way. Unbroken did this. During Louis Zamperini’s captivity, POWs were burned, stabbed, shot, and subjected to horrific medical experiments. After being freed, Zamperini went off the deep end, developed an alcohol and drug problem, and basically hit rock bottom really hard. He later converted to Christianity, got back on his feet, and became a pretty decent guy. Everything I just said was omitted from the film, because Angelina Jolie wanted to keep a cartoonishly annoying amount of “hope in the face of despair” hogwash in the film so it would be more likely to get an Oscar. The Academy loves its melodramatic uplifting (not very) true stories. Jolie took out and altered crucial narrative parts, and the worst part about it is she didn’t even do it to make a better film; if all the stuff she cut out was in the movie, it undeniably would’ve been a better movie! It was all in the name of an Oscar. This means the film is not only callously exploitive of Louis Zamperini, whom my best friend considers a hero, it is also simultaneously exploitive of the people, including my best friend, who view Zamperini a good man. It is a letdown to anyone wanting to see a good movie, and the film is amazingly, by some black magic, exploitive of the actual film itself.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really don’t like Unbroken. I only saw it once, I don’t want to see it again, and since I saw it before this blog started, I wanted to rail against it in an official capacity. Luckily, the same crimes cannot be charged against Band of Brothers. PLOT TWIST: Now that tangent is just barely relevant to this review meaning I can keep it in there and not feel like it’s irrelevant! 🙂 In fact, the series was praised by members of the real life Easy Company upon release, and is noted for mostly maintaining accuracy. The members of Easy Company approved episodes before airing. The actors contacted those they would be portraying prior to filming in order to nail the personality of the individual heroes. On a touching note, Lynn Compton’s 90th birthday celebration was attended by McDonough, Cudlitz, and Richard Speight, Jr. McDonough’s son is nicknamed “Little Buck” in honor of Compton.

Band of Brothers was nominated for twenty Emmys, winning seven. It won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Miniseries, AFI’s award for Best Miniseries of the Year, a Best Miniseries award from both the Producers’ Guild of America and the TCA, and was selected for a Peabody Award for “…relying on both history and memory to create a new tribute to those who fought to preserve liberty,” which is more than I can say for Angelina Jolie. Band of Brothers is an entertaining, moving, interesting, accurate, and respectful portrayal of real life heroes that is also a lesson in long-form storytelling that every future miniseries should look to for inspiration in the ways of filmmaking and scripting.

I might review Fury tomorrow, we’ll see. Yeah, I kinda noticed I forgot to review a lot of movies, so this is me compensating. Keanu was hilarious, Spectre suffered from the same problems Apocalypse had, Spotlight was great, Creed was great, I watched 2004’s Collateral and enjoyed it, and The Revenant was entertaining and much better than the overrated Birdman. I might go back and review some of these, but those are the very brief thoughts on those. In mid-July, I will be doing a retrospective look back at the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with my friend while up in Wisconsin for three weeks. And yeah, I switched to WordPress, because… reasons.

X-Men: Apocalypse (Plot Spoilers)

X-Men Apocalypse is a 2016 American superhero film starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Issac, and Sophie Turner. It is the ninth installment in the X-Men franchise and is directed by Bryan Singer. X-Men Apocalypse takes place in the alternate reality 1980s created by the previous entry, Days of Future Past. A mutant by the name of En Sabah Nur awakens after thousands of years and, since he is no longer being worshiped as a God, the world must be cleansed and made new again in his image. His henchmen are the Four Horsemen, presumably the basis for the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The four people selected in the 1980s are Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto.Magneto, Professor X’s bipolar BFF/mortal enemy depending on where we are in the movie, was living a peaceful life with his wife and child, hiding out in Poland after attempting to assassinate President Nixon in Days of Future Past. His family are killed, and Magneto decides, of his own will, to join the Horsemen. Pretty much all the characters from First Class with the addition of teenage versions of Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Scott Summers, join together to stop Apocalypse from destroying the world.

I was a fan of Days of Future Past. It was a very entertaining and interesting film that managed to undo the entire timeline so things can be made new again while fixing the stupid stuff (basically everything that happened after Singer left the franchise… except for First Class, which was surprisingly awesome). It had emotional depth and character development, something I gushed about constantly in the Civil War review I published yesterday. Apocalypse has none. I connected with nothing on the screen, and even though the fate of the entire world was at stake, I felt nothing. I was honestly bored throughout long periods of this movie. There is a lot of unnecessary exposition that adds nothing to the characters or accomplishes anything for the film in general. There are also several aspects of the film that make no sense from a motivational/emotional/logical standpoint. Why are characters doing this? Why not this? Why feel this way? Why should I care about this?

That last question is the most detrimental flaw of the movie, in my opinion. The world of X-Men first appeared in September 1963, the month of the Birmingham Church Bombing and the height of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, these characters were created as a direct response to the Civil Rights Movement. The X-Men are superheroes that fight supervillians, yes. More importantly, the mutants fight prejudice against their own kind by the general public. It is a theme that is touched on in every comic or adaptation of those comics. Charles Xavier is a telepathic MLK who wants peace and acceptance. That’s also what Magneto wants, but achieves those goals via force and violence, a la Malcolm X. Right off the bat, with the help of some solid characterization and motivations, these characters should be extremely empathetic to an audience, They were in First Class and Days of Future Past. Here, there is absolutely nothing..

We are introduced to Magneto hiding out in a small remote Polish town with his wife and small child. These two characters are so forgettable I do not remember their names. They are there to die so Magneto can kill the police who accidentally spear them with a bow and arrow, Seriously, they track down Magneto and daughter doesn’t want the cops to take her dad, so she (who can control animals) has a group of birds harass (at no point do they attack, just annoy) the cops, and the wife and kid, who were embracing, get speared by a misfired bow and arrow. Magneto then kills everyone at the factory where he worked because they decided to tell the cops about a wanted terrorist. Seriously, Erik is a straight up terrorist, why wouldn’t the factory workers tip off the cops? Apparently they’re all irredeemable d-bags who must die, because conflict. It makes zero sense. Apocalypse teleports to the factory and, for reasons unexplained, Erik goes with him. Some of the Horsemen are mind controlled. Erik is most definitely not. “I’m angry” is as far as that goes.

Some metrosexual mutant who talks about himself in the third person tells Mystique that Erik is in danger. They never explain how Caliban the Metro Man knows this; his powers are not explained whatsoever, So Mystique goes to the Xavier School, leads Beast on, and begs to go help Erik. Professor X agrees to look for his man crush, but Cerebro ends up being mind hacked somehow by Apocalypse, overloading the Professor and forcing him to telepathically launch the entire world’s nuclear arsenal into space. For a guy who wants to cause the apocalypse, worldwide nuclear disarmament makes no sense. Nuclear holocaust? Perfect logical sense. The whole thing is propped up as this big dramatic deal, but is never brought up again.

Moira McTaggert, Rose Byrne’s competent CIA agent from First Class, reappears here having had her memories of the events of the aforementioned film wiped by Charles. (I must admit, his reason for doing so isn’t very clear in First Class, I’m assuming it’s so Moira can live a normal life.) She reappears in this film. Whereas in First Class Moira was an intelligent, resourceful, skilled and independent woman who connected with Charles on emotional levels which lead to their attraction and love, here she seems a hollow shell of her former self with her character completely neutered. She doesn’t even really advance the plot  She’s hunting Apocalypse for the CIA, but other than a pointless Nancy Drew-esque scene in the beginning, she has no reason to be involved. She’s there to provide flimsy inner-conflict for Charles. In the scene where she is reintroduced to Charles, (who she doesn’t remember ever meeting)  Professor X, one of the most intelligent, well-spoken, cultured human beings in the Marvel Universe, and the second-most powerful psychic in the universe, is reduced to a nervous, stuttering, awkward creep that makes Peter Parker look like Brad Pitt, She is there to provide a love interest to Charles and nothing else. I know I’m spoiling the movie, but I needed examples to illustrate my point. In every good story, the characters and their motivations drive the plot. In a bad or forgettable story like this one, the plot drives the characters and their motivations. This leads to scenes in movies not making a lick of sense or just being plain boring to an audience.

Fox figured out that people enjoyed DOFP, but couldn’t figure out why, which would explain the nonsensical scene where Wolverine shows up for no reason, the film goes full monster-slasher movie for three minutes, Wolverine runs out in the snow, and nothing else happens. It was like a whole other movie, and it was not a kid-friendly sequence in any way. There’s no consequence and it left me scratching my head.

The acting in this film is very good, (for the most part) I must admit. McAvoy, Fassbender, and Turner would be compelling and interesting if it wasn’t for the subpar script. They didn’t have a lot of effective material to work with, but they tried. The two leads emote quite well. That doesn’t mean it was all good on that front, either. Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Issac, and Alexandra Shipp phone it in here like an unlimited talk and text plan. Oscar Issac, an actor brimming with charm, wit, and charisma is a walking piece of cardboard here, Lawrence doesn’t want to be there, and I suspect Shipp is just not all that good of an actress. Isaac and Shipp make their already uninteresting, one-dimensional characters even less interesting, and Lawrence’s lack of enthusiasm (as well as the constantly contradictory actions and emotions of Mystique as a character) turns a once well-rounded, interesting and multidimensional character into… one that isn’t anymore. Olivia Munn is a great and underrated actress who played the most entertaining character on HBO’s The Newsroom, in which all of the characters are pretty entertaining.

Here, Munn has about three lines and no character development. Literally three lines. There’s no character arc whatsoever. She is the most static and flat character I have seen in a film recently. Her job here is to stand there and look sexy. The way Munn and her talents are wasted here make 007 seem like a major proponent of equal treatment for woman. It is clear that Singer or whoever is in charge of that kind of thing did not think highly of Munn at all, and that waste of talent is a real travesty.

X-Men: Apocalypse is not a horrible movie. It is not insulting nor does it nefariously exploit an unsuspecting audience. It is entertaining at brief points, but is mostly simply a snooze. It is a disappointing use of iconic characters that I theoretically should connect with more than those in Civil War. Professor X is a cultured, well-spoken, wheelchair-bound genius, come on! 🙂 Unfortunately, a really bad script with numerous plot holes or things that don’t make any sense period completely derail this movie. Even things that end up making logical sense don’t connect emotionally. As a fan of First Class and DOFP, I’m curious what happened. Studio interference would be my guess. Much like Moira McTaggert, I feel my memories of this bore leaving my mind even as I type this. I just saw this yesterday, so that is saying something. If you want good superhero action, watch Civil War again. If you just want something to see, my mother went to see Jungle Book by herself. I have yet to see it, but from what I’ve heard it’s very very good. In any case, it is bound to be more memorable than this, although that admittedly isn’t setting the bar very high at all.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a 2016 American superhero film directed by The Russo Brothers, Joe and Anthony. It stars every major superhero from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films with the exclusion of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk/Bruce Banner. Two new, sustaining additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Daniel Bruhl also stars as Colonel Helmut Zemo, the driving force behind the majority of the events of the film.

Civil War is the 13th film in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. It serves as both “Avengers 2.5” and a direct sequel to what I regard as the second best film in the megafranchise up until this film, the brilliant Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This film builds off of the tension, emotion, and impact felt in Winter Soldier and succeeds where Age of Ultron arguably failed. Whereas the first Avengers film had razor-sharp focus and excelled in connecting the characters with the audience, Age of Ultron suffered from a lack of focus and while it was an entertaining spectacle, it suffered a lack of emotional connection. Civil War is everything Age of Ultron should have been and more, and is now my single-most favorite entry in the franchise.

The reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large is so successful isn’t spectacle or CGI. Spectacle and CGI makes money for sure, look at Avatar, but why has the MCU been able to completely change the landscape of the Hollywood blockbuster machine to such an extent? It’s the characters. We love these characters. Iron Man would have been entirely forgettable without Robert Downey, Jr’s incredible talent.Guardians of the Galaxy would’ve been a complete disaster without a cast of the most charismatic,personable, and funny actors and actresses in Hollywood. We love them, we want them (and the films, subconsciously-speaking) to succeed.  That is the main draw of Civil War.

What stories are most commonly associated with superheroes? World domination via fantastical means that cross into magical/supernatural or science fiction themes that will end billions of lives. Stories like that happen on a weekly basis and have been since the 1930’s. They work because the stakes of the story are automatically huge. What the powers that be pulling the strings at Marvel Studios realize that it doesn’t always have to be that way. If Obadiah Stane succeeded in Iron Man, there would be another weapon (the Iron Man armor) to be used in warfare. The same structure was used in the unexpectedly pretty darn good Ant-Man with the Ant-Man suit. If the heroes failed, we the people would still wake up tomorrow in comfort and continue our lives unimpeded. What then, you may ask, is the point of these very low stakes? Character development. It allowed Tony Stark/Scott Lang to grow into better, more wholesome, spectacularly gifted people. It got us to like them, a lot. That’s what Age of Ultron failed, in my opinion. I remember thinking it was amazing, but looking back, there wasn’t much of an emotional impact. Yeah, the Hulkbuster fight was awesome and Vision picking up Mjolnir was cool and a really good shorthand answer to the question “Is this new character one of the good guys?” in a way that didn’t add more screentime to a film that had way too much going on. I don’t remember much about the film that didn’t pertain to massive explosions, and in hindsight, I should’ve waited a while to review the film and let my lizard “big boom pretty” brain simmer down. It wasn’t a bad film, not at all. It just had a lot of problems, problems I somewhat consciously chose to overlook because… well….

OK, enough hindsight bashing of Ultron. My point is when it comes to wanting to build a sustainable franchise people will pay good money for, character will whup spectacle every single time. If not character, at the very least you need an interesting, fully-realized and rendered world full of interesting aspects you can build off of, like John Wick. I need to refocus back on Civil War, but this connects, I promise.
The perk of being the 13th film in the franchise is that Civil War had both of the aforementioned things straight off the bat. I was immediately invested in Stark, Rodgers, and wanted to see them grow and develop as characters. And they did just that. Oh, Lordy did they do that.
Following the events of Age of Ultron and a disastrous yet supremely entertaining Avengers operation, the governments of the world chose to ratify the Slovakia Accords, which would once again lead to the Avengers being a government-sponsored team. If they don’t sign, they cannot operate legally at all. Tony Stark is a staunch proponent of the Accords; saving the world with heavy restrictions is better than not saving it at all. He has a point. Rodgers, knowing firsthand the corruption inherent in the governments of the 21st century, feels the opposite. What if there’s somewhere they need to go, but bureaucrats and politicians say no? What if those same people use the Avengers for dirty work instead of protecting the world? Another valid point. Right off the bat, the conflict isn’t an evil robot or a norse god, it’s a conflict of personal ideologies.  Even with an ensemble cast, Civil War is, at it’s core, the most personal story Marvel Studios has ever told. It is more emotional and impactful than any film in the MCU. It’s been a week, and it’s still stuck with me. (I promised not to make the mistake I mentioned earlier with Ultron.) The stakes are low. The world will still spin regardless of how things pan out. That’s a good thing. There’s no potential mass genocide to prevent; no excuse to distract from the characters, their relationships, their challenges, their flaws, or their conflicts. With a script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the narrative superbrains behind The Winter Soldier, the narrative maintains focus on the characters 100% of the time, even in the midst of a massive, ridiculously amazing, ripped-from-panel battle at Leipzig.
I know I spent a chunk of this review seemingly ripping into action and spectacle, but that wasn’t my intention. It’s a problem when action and spectacle is prioritized over character and emotion (in most cases). If you can have spectacle, action, character, and emotion and present them all simultaneously, freaking do it. The more elements in a movie that you can get to blend together in harmony, the better your film will be received by an audience, It’s a near-impossible tightrope act that few have been able to pull off, leading to most films leaning to one side or the other, because balancing multiple elements is extremely difficult. Markus, McFeely, and the Russo Brothers pull off this balancing act with perfect efficiency. I give a lot of credence to character development… but SWEET MARY MOTHER OF GOD THAT AIRPORT FIGHT!!!! With this extended sequence, this film manages to deliver not only the most entertaining, straight up epic battle scene in the entire MCU, but one of the best climactic battles ever put to film. And at that point, the film still has about 45 minutes to go.
The airport sequence, though worth the price of admission alone, is not the only action to be found in this movie. Far from it. The most interesting and entertaining bits of Winter Soldier involved tightly, neatly shot and edited hand-to-hand combat sequences.
In Winter Soldier, the Russo Brothers manage to perfectly balance the intensity and realism of the spy films which heavily inspired it, while keeping with the fact that it is primarily a superhero film. The same rings true for their second effort. With the exception of the grand, large-scale airport fight, the other action sequences are gritty, rough, kinetic, reminiscent more of Mission: Impossible Rouge Nation than Iron Man. It is, honestly, what I personally prefer. We have been fighting with fists since the dawn of man. A fistfight is a true measure of a man’s skill, the ultimate competition. Anyone can shoot a bow and arrow, or more recently, fire a gun (I’m crippled and I’ve done both). But fighting with fists takes skill and a primal sort of intelligence that you cannot learn academically. It activates something in our brains that we, for some reason, like. I don’t think it’s bad, just basic primal instinct. It’s why most of the world knows and loves the names of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, But why does it work so well here? In Winter Soldier? Sure, the choreography is great, but it’s the characters. It’s two characters we’ve connected with working out issues not with micro-missiles or repulsors, but with the two weapons God saw fit to grant every human being straight off the bat. Like the rest of this film, the action is personal. I’ve said it countless times and I will say it again: the characters are what make this film, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, so engrossing.
Civil War is not the greatest film of all time. It is not an avant-guard experimental piece, and although I will argue it has several layers that can be dissected and analyzed, (even the crappiest films do) it is not an exceptionally deep film. It is not groundbreaking or gamechanging in the way Iron Man was in 2008, Sam Rami’s Spider-Man was in 2002, or Richard Donner’s Superman was in 1978. This film (most likely) will not have a permanent spot in collective pop culture like the aforementioned films.I hope it does, but I doubt it. It is in no way a perfect movie, just one without any glaring or detrimental flaws to detract from my experience (at least after a single viewing). It is not a landmark cinematic experience. I challenge you to find a more entertaining film that hits as many checkmarks for audience relation (and therefore enjoyment) released in the past few years. Though I am not ready to champion Civil War as the best superhero film (I’ll be honest, in the heat of the moment, people tend to blow things out of proportion.), it is, I can say with confidence, the best Marvel Cinematic Universe offering to date, and I believe it will remain so for quite some time.