Pop Culture

Oscar hopefuls share lunch, light and sober talk

Sandra Bullock spoke of maintaining a good work ethic for years to come. Woody Harrelson spoke of soldiers. Carey Mulligan spoke about bumping butts with Quentin Tarantino.

This season's Academy Awards elite gathered Monday for the annual nominees luncheon, with table talk ranging from weighty matters such as the war on terror to lighter chatter like what to wear to the big show.

Before sharing a meal of poached pear gorgonzola salad, marinated chicken breast and apple tarts, nominees dropped by a news conference to talk about the whirlwind leading to the March 7 Oscar ceremony.

Bullock has been considered the front-runner to win best actress for the football drama "The Blind Side" but said didn't take her nomination for granted.

"Does anybody expect a nomination? I certainly didn't," said Bullock, an enduring box-office draw who had never before been nominated for an Oscar. "I'm really very amazed and thankful to be here, because I'd like to work hard for another 10, 15 years. So if this is what that means, bring it."

Harrelson, a supporting-actor nominee for the homefront war drama "The Messenger," and Jeremy Renner, a best-actor contender for the Iraq war saga "The Hurt Locker," said their roles instilled fresh respect for troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I walk up to any military personnel I can find, and I shake their hand and I thank them for their service," Renner said.

Before "The Messenger," Harrelson said he generally had viewed the war and the troops fighting it in the same light.

"I always kind of lumped it all together, and it wasn't until I had the opportunity through the shooting of 'The Messenger' to spend a lot of time with people in the Army that I started to realize how amazing these people are," Harrelson said. "As much as I have come to love the warrior, I still loathe the war."

Harrelson had a concise reply when asked if he ever expected to earn an Oscar nomination for a film released the same year he played a gleeful slayer of flesh-eating fiends in "Zombieland."

"Short answer, no," Harrelson said.

Mulligan, a best-actress nominee for the British drama "An Education," said awards season has been a thrill because of the Hollywood idols with whom she has rubbed elbows, including Bullock and fellow best-actress contenders Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") and Helen Mirren ("The Last Station").

"They've all been so unbelievably kind and not intimidating," Mulligan said. "You have them on such a pedestal and you think they could be a nightmare if they wanted to because they're so good. And they're just lovely."

Also among the idols she has met is Tarantino, a directing nominee for best-picture contender "Inglourious Basterds." Moments earlier, Mulligan said, she and Tarantino had accidentally bumped butts while milling about among the luncheon crowd.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Paul A. Hebert / Invision

    Image: Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock

    Sandra Bullock

    Actress-producer-philanthropist has played a feisty FBI agent, smart but lovelorn women and more in her career.

  • Image: Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock

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    Veteran of hotness -

    Sandra Bullock seems to have it all: Beauty, brains and, according to the Guys Choice Awards in June 2014, a decade's worth of hotness. Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves and Hugh Grant presented her with the prize in Culver City, California.

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    Prize winner -

    Sandra Bullock dazzled on the red carpet at the March 2014 Oscar ceremony. She was nominated for her role in "Gravity," but did not win.

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  • Image: Sandra Bullock arrives at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

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    Colorful pose -

    Bullock was one of the nominees at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 12, 2014. She was nominated for her lead actress role in "Gravity" but went home empty-handed.

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  • Image: 19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Show

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    Critical favorite -

    Bullock's turn in "Gravity" had critics sitting up and taking notice, most notably on Jan. 16, 2014, when she picked up a best actress prize at the 19th annual Critics Choice Movie Awards in Santa Monica, California.

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    Arm in arm -

    They love her, they really love her! Bullock walked away from the 40th annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 8, 2014, in Los Angeles with three prizes for her work on "Gravity" and "The Heat": favorite movie actress, favorite dramatic movie actress and favorite comedic movie actress.

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    'Gravity' -

    In 2013's "Gravity," Bullock plays an astronaut stranded in space and has to find a way to get home, all while coping with the recent death of her daughter. Bullock was alone on screen for most of the movie, and delivered a bravura performance lauded by critics and viewers alike.

    Warner Bros. via AP / Warner Bros. via AP
  • Image: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of "Gravity"

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    Dynamic duo -

    "Gravity" co-stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney made a powerful team in the movie. Here, at a special screening for members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Oct. 2, 2013, in New York, they also found ways to crack everyone up.

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  • Image: Sandra Bullock Immortalized With Hand And Footprint Ceremony At The TCL Chinese Theatre In Celebration Of Her New Film "Gravity"

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    Getting her hands dirty -

    Bullock's hand and feet prints were immortalized in concrete in front of the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, on Sept. 25, 2013.

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    'The Heat' -

    Bullock and Melissa McCarthy broke ground in 2013 when they starred in "The Heat." The film was the first buddy cop comedy to feature two women in lead roles.

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    For a good cause -

    Bullock arrives at amfAR's Inspiration Gala in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. The Gala benefits AIDS research worldwide.

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  • Image: Premiere Of Universal Pictures' "The Change-Up" - Red Carpet

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    Loyal friend -

    Bullock accompanies friend and former co-star Ryan Reynolds to the premiere of his film, "The Change-Up," at the Regency Village Theatre on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles.

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    Lady in red -

    Bullock was a vision in red on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.

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  • Image: Actress Sandra Bullock arrives at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

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    Golden -

    Bullock arrives at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, January 16, 2011.

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  • Image: Candids: January 6, 2011

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    Mother and sun -

    Bullock tries to shield her son Louis from the photographers on January 6, 2011 in New York.

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    Lending a hand -

    Sandra Bullock was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony for a health clinic at the Warren Easton Charter School in New Orleans on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. She was joined by (from left) Billy Hatchett, Warren Easton Foundation President, Alexina Medley, Principal, Sandra Bullock and school nurse Cassondra Ferrand. The Kellogg Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers Foundation were the main financial contributors of the $700,000 facility.

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  • Image: 2010 Teen Choice Awards - Show

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    Getting her back into it -

    Sandra Bullock, left, gets down with "The Proposal" co-star Betty White during the 2010 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre, in Universal City, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010.

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  • Image: Bullock on People magazine

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    Double whammy -

    Copies of People magazine featuring Sandra Bullock and her newly adopted son Louis Bardo Bullock are show on sale in New York on Wednesday, April 28. The actress announced that she was divorcing her husband Jesse James and that she had secretly adopted the boy in January.

    AP / AP
  • Image: 2010 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals

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    Blindsided? -

    Bullock and James celebrated after she won the best actress Oscar on March 7, 2010, for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in the football drama, "The Blind Side." The couple looked happy, but rumors that the marriage was in trouble circulated later in the month, when Bullock abruptly pulled out of participating in the movie's London premiere.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: 16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room

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    One from her peers -

    Bullock poses with the Screen Actors Guild Award for female actor in a leading role for her work in "The Blind Side" at the 16th annual event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, 2010.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Sandra Bullock, Jesse James

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    'Monster' man -

    Bullock and her husband, "Monster Garage" host Jesse James, arrive at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, 2010.

    AP file / AP file
  • Image: 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

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    On a roll -

    Bullock poses with her award for best performance by an actress in a motion picture -- drama for "The Blind Side" at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2010.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Scene from holiday movie "The Blind Side" undated publicity photograph

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    In the game -

    In 2009's "The Blind Side," based on a true story, Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother of a family that takes in Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home. They help him fulfill his potential and with the help of his coaches and adopted family, he becomes an All-American football player.

    Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "All About Steve" - Arrivals

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    'All About' Sandra -

    Bradley Cooper and Bullock arrive at the premiere of Twentieth Century Fox's "All About Steve" held at Mann's Chinese Theater on Wednesday, Aug. 26 in Los Angeles. The film tells the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with a man she's only been on one date with and ends up following him across the country. Bullock later won the Razzie award for worst actress for her role in the film--but it came just one day before she won her best actress Oscar for "The Blind Side."

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    Giving back -

    Bullock talks to high school junior LaShanta Williams on Friday, May 15, 2009, before being inducted into the Warren Easton High School Hall of Fame in New Orleans for her help rebuilding the school after Hurricane Katrina.

    AP / AP
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    Decent 'Proposal' -

    In 2009's "The Proposal," Bullock plays a pushy boss who forces her young assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her in order to keep her visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada. Bullock told the TODAY show that the film is not a romantic comedy, but simply a comedy. She's no longer a fan of the rom-com, saying, "They're not comedy and they're not romantic."

    Touchstone Pictures / Touchstone Pictures
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    Future shock -

    In 2007's "Premonition, Bullock finds out that her husband was in a car crash, but when she sees him the next day, she realizes that she had a premonition and will do anything she can to keep it from coming true. Bullock told the TODAY show that the film's bleak outlook played into her natural impulses. "I worry and I expect the worst out of everything," she said.

    TriStar Pictures / TriStar Pictures
  • Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Lake House" - Arrivals

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    Reunited -

    ‘Speed’ co-stars Reeves and Bullock reteamed for 2006’s “The Lake House.” In the film, they play a couple who fall in love despite the fact they live in different years. They bond over the house they both live in and trade letters by using the mailbox. "I was a little nervous," Bullock told the TODAY show about reuniting with Reeves.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • 2006 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted by Graydon Carter

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    True love -

    Bullock married motorcycle builder and "Monster Garage" host Jesse James on July 16, 2005. They met when Bullock arranged for her 10-year-old godson to meet James as a Christmas present. She's the stepmother to James' son Jesse Jr. and his daughters Chandler and Sunny. “Thankfully I married someone who loves me just the way I am – and all the nuttiness that goes into me,” Bullock told InStyle magazine.

    WireImage for Vanity Fair Magazine / WireImage for Vanity Fair Magazine
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    Surprise winners -

    The cast of "Crash," including Bullock, Matt Dillon and Terence Howard celebrates after the movie beat out favorite "Brokeback Mountain" for the best picture Oscar at 78th Academy Awards on March 5, 2006.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Glamour Magazine Hosts The 17th Annual Glamour Women Of The Year Awards

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    Secretly charitable -

    Glamour magazine awarded Bullock the “Undercover Activist” award at the its “Women of the Year” Awards in 2006. The actress was celebrated for quietly donating millions to the Red Cross after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2004 tsunami without trying to get publicity for her charitable actions.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Sandra Bullock Honored With Star On The Hollywood Walk

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    Stardom! -

    Bullock was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame on March 24, 2005 in Hollywood, Calif.

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    Rom-com fever -

    Hugh Grant plays a billionaire who can't get along without the help of his attorney (Bullock) in 2002's "Two Weeks Notice." But when she gets fed up and decides to quit, Grant realizes that he may be in love with her.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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    Armed and dangerous -

    Bullock got serious for 2002's "Murder By Numbers," in which she plays a crime scene specialist on the trail of two students (Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt) accused of murder. Bullock briefly dated co-star Gosling.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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    Ya Ya! -

    In 2002's "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," Bullock plays Siddalee, a New York playwright who gets into a fight with her mother (Ellen Burstyn) after she's quoted in Time magazine. It's up to her mother's friends (Fionnula Flanagan, right, Maggie Smith, second from right, and Shirley Knight, left) to explain her mother's history to Siddalee in order to patch up their rift.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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    Playing to her strengths -

    In 2000's "Miss Congeniality," Bullock plays an FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant in order to catch a terrorist. But the tomboy agent has to undergo a complete makeover in order to play a believable contestant. "The one thing me and this latest character have in common is we're both slobs," Bullock said.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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    Here's to Bullock -

    Bullock played an alcoholic who reluctantly gets the help she needs in the 2000 film, "28 Days." The film received mixed reviews.

    Columbia Pictures / Columbia Pictures
  • Actress Sandra Bullock walks onto the stage

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    Showing a sultrier side -

    Bullock walks onto the stage in a bright orange dress at the VH-1/Vogue Fashion Awards on Dec. 5, 1999 in New York. She introduced singer Beck.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    'Nature' calls -

    In 1999's "Force of Nature," Ben Affleck plays a man who must get from New York to Savannah, Ga., for his wedding but finds himself sidetracked by an eccentric woman (Bullock).

    DreamWorks via Getty Images / DreamWorks via Getty Images
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    'Magic' time -

    In 1998, Bullock and Nicole Kidman starred as women with witch-like powers in "Practical Magic." But their gifts come with a curse -- any man who falls in love with them is doomed to an untimely death.

    Warner Bros. via Getty Images / Warner Bros. via Getty Images
  • US actress Sandra Bullock displays her 1998 People

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    People's Choice -

    Bullock was named the favorite motion picture actress for her work in "Hope Floats" at the People's Choice Awards on Jan. 10, 1999.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Bullock & Rowlands In 'Hope Floats'

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    Staying 'Hope'-ful -

    In the 1998 film "Hope Floats," Bullock stars as a recently divorced woman who returns with her daughter to her Texas hometown to stay with her mom, played by Gena Rowlands. As she tries to get her life back together, she strikes up an attraction with an old friend, played by Harry Connick Jr.

    20th Century Fox via Getty Images / 20th Century Fox via Getty Images
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    Sinking sensation -

    Bullock reprised her "Speed" role for the ill-fated 1997 film, "Speed 2: Cruise Control." Jason Patric took over for Keanu Reeves in this story about a cruise ship that becomes the target of a computer hacker. Scoring just 2 percent "fresh" on RottenTomatoes.com, the USA Today critic called the film, "A waterlogged sequel that'll soon be bottom-feeding with 'Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.'"

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox
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    Hemingway's lady -

    In 1996's "In Love and War," Bullock plays a nurse who cares for Ernest Hemingway, played by Chris O'Donnell, during World War I. The film marked a dramatic departure for Bullock, but didn't light up the box office, earning only around $14 million.

    New Line Cinema via Getty Images / New Line Cinema via Getty Images
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    'Sleeping' beauty -

    Bullock won hearts playing a lovelorn subway token taker in 1995's "While You Were Sleeping." She played Lucy, a woman who has a crush on a man she doesn't know and then saves life. He goes into a coma and through a series of misunderstandings his family comes to believe that she is his fiancée. Demi Moore was originally supposed to play Bullock's role.

    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection / Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
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    'Speed'-y road to success -

    Bullock's breakthrough role came in 1994's "Speed." In it, she played a feisty passenger on a city bus who finds herself at the center of a mad bomber's plot to blow up the vehicle if its speed drops below 50 miles per hour.

    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection / 20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
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    The 'Potion' worked -

    Bullock starred opposite Tate Donovan in the 1992 film, "Love Potion No. 9." The film tells the story of an elixir that makes people of the opposite sex fall love with each other. The potion must have worked for Donovan and Bullock because the couple dated for four years after meeting on the set.

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox
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    'Working' for a living -

    One of Sandra Bullock's early roles was on the short-lived series, "Working Girl," the small screen version of the film that starred Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. The series only lasted for 12 episodes.

    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection / 20th Century Fox via Everett Collection

Bullock, Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe, a best-actress nominee for the Harlem drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire," said they have barely started to consider what to wear to the Oscars, one of the world's top fashion bashes.

"It's two weeks away, and my stomach's hurting over it a little bit," Sidibe said. "I'm a little scared."

Contenders posed for the annual Oscar "class picture" — a group photo of all 121 nominees at the luncheon.

The crowd included ex-spouses Kathryn Bigelow, director of "The Hurt Locker," and James Cameron, director of the sci-fi sensation "Avatar." Though the best-picture field was doubled to 10 films this season, the contest for top prize is considered a two-movie race between "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker."

Others on hand included acting nominees George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart") and Colin Firth ("A Single Man").

The Oscar show had its best TV ratings ever when Cameron's blockbuster "Titanic" dominated the awards 12 years ago. Oscar organizers hope that having "Avatar" and hits such as "Up," "The Blind Side" and "District 9" in the mix will coax more viewers to tune in to a show that saw ratings fall to an all-time low two years ago.

"This year, it seems to be more lively, more interesting than it has been in a while," Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told nominees during the luncheon.

Gyllenhaal, a supporting-actress nominee for "Crazy Heart," said she got some valuable advice from brother Jake Gyllenhaal, a past nominee for "Brokeback Mountain," about not letting the Oscars go to her head.

"He said, 'There isn't actually anything at the end of the rainbow,'" Gyllenhaal said. "He said, 'It's a lot of fun and enjoy it in that spirit. If you make it mean too much more than that, you'll probably go astray.'"

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