ECLECTIC ARTS

Thursday, October 22, 2020

ALL THE VIRTUAL TOUR WITH AL1CE LINKS October 22, 2020 Eclectic Arts

Greetings!

To make things simpler here are the various tour blog posts/reports from the 2020 Inside/Out Virtual Tour with AL1CE.

Best,

Mark Sugiyama

Eclectic Arts


Chapter III (opens in a new window)

Chapter II (opens in a new window)

The Summer Interim Shows (opens in a new window)

Chapter I (opens in a new window)



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I WOULD ASK YOU NOT TO LEAVE ME - Inside/Out Virtual Tour w/AL1CE - Chapter III - Observations October 21, 2020


I Would Ask You Not To Leave Me
Inside/Out Virtual Tour with AL1CE - Chapter III

Observations
10/20/2020




Greetings,


I’m in a writing kind of mood tonight which can’t really be explained - so I won’t.  I have “What I Was and More” by March to May playing in the background as I sit here with a great deal of thoughts and emotions going through my psyche. It’s a beautiful album by the way.


This third leg of the virtual tour has been (as I predicted in an earlier blog post about Chapter II) uniquely different from the other two legs or the summer interim shows. What I had booked at the beginning ended up slightly different in the end - much like a screenplay eventually becoming a film.


I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to participate in Chapter III. There was a very real possibility I was going to have to sit this one out. Sasha knows the most about this as she and I were communicating about the details prior to the kick off on October 8th. Fortunately, things worked out in my favor (initially) so I could say yes to the entire set of tour dates.


During the course of the tour things changed on my end more than once which created very stressful issues (and still do actually). Sometimes when I’m stressed I delve into my work. And that was partially true with the days from the 8th through the 21st (and beyond, really) of October. I would normally not take on a few additional Eclectic Arts virtual interviews during such a crazy time but I did. I’m always torn when there are new opportunities and very little time to schedule them. I push myself to accommodate things often at the detriment of my own well being. I know better. But, depending on my mood, I’ll usually say, “fuck it”, and just do it anyway.


I don’t know where this inner drive to push myself comes from. It’s certainly helped me achieve certain goals along the way with both Seattle Next Door and Eclectic Arts. But it’s also been a bugaboo that creates more stress in my life. I know what you may be thinking - if it creates stress, just say no thank you to the opportunity. Easier said than done. And it’s not the fear of missing out as much as it is more of a positive spin - here’s an opportunity to virtually interview someone that I am genuinely interested in speaking with. Pre-pandemic some of these opportunities would be much, much harder to come by. So, I push myself.


There is definitely a risk reward going on as well. Rarely, if ever, do I end a virtual interview and then think to myself, “well that was a waste of my time”. There’s a positive reinforcement of “see this is why I push myself to accommodate more than I should have on my plate”. I usually feel really good after virtual interviews. Some - like the one I conducted with The Soapgirls - even though it was political and intense at times - it had awesome residual effects on me. As I type this it sounds a bit like a drug addict needing their fix. I don’t know - I’ll probably never get a handle on this mentality of mine.


Overall, I’m pleased with the virtual interviews on the Chapter III leg of the tour. It feels good to know where I started and where I am now with my interview skills. All of them weren’t home-runs but they were solid.


I truly enjoy learning about people - both those that I know and those that I don’t. Being a naturally curious person has benefited me greatly when it comes to finding guests to book, the pre-show chats, and of course the virtual interviews themselves.


One thing that has not changed has been my mission statement if you will that I adopted for the guests on Chapter I of the tour. I wanted artists from all artistic areas. I also wanted BIPOC and LGBTQ+. In addition I wanted local, national, and international guests. And I wanted female representation where possible.


But at the heart of it all - I wanted artists that shared something similar to AL1CE. The community of like minded artists, creatives, that are also equally good people. We are truly a force and that is something I’ve learned during this time on the virtual tour with AL1CE. We are everywhere. You just have to take the time to find them, to connect with them, and maintain that ever expanding network.


It pleases me to no end that I now know Nicole Bouffard. And Clint Carney. And Kasmira. And Praheme. And Max. You get the idea.


And vice versa. The guests I’ve interviewed now know AL1CE. They are now a part of the extended AL1CE collective in my eyes. If that’s through me as a conduit or just directly between themselves and AL1CE, that is a wonderful thing.


And the fan base. Goodness. I am so appreciative of the support from all of the fans that have taken the time to check out my virtual interviews with AL1CE and especially on my own Eclectic Arts channels. I wasn’t necessarily expecting the support to travel from AL1CE to EA when I fumbled around on my own back in August. But it did. It’s like seeing old friends. That network has now grown exponentially as well. Thank you very much.


So where does this leave me tonight? My thoughts are drifting to something Chye-ling Huang said to me during a pre-show. She came on before Hayden Weal’s virtual interview (this was the second interview of Chapter III - from New Zealand - they are partners if you didn’t know). She wanted to say hi (since we had also done a separate virtual interview and one Fun Table Session together earlier). But more importantly -


She told me that after our “chat” as she put it - she was so inspired by my enthusiasm for her and Cole Jenkins’, “Life Is Easy” webseries, that she went and wrote the treatment for the second season. She said she really thought they were done with the show. She wasn’t considering a second season but after being interviewed by me - she thought - wow - maybe there is another season to explore. How cool is that? I was so touched I almost shed a tear right then and there. True story.


Those few moments fuelled me for the next day or two in such a positive way. And I told her as much afterward in an email. One of the sweetest and most unexpected things ever said to me as an interviewer and just as a fellow creative person.


I think back to the virtual interviews with Steve, Scott, and Gordon. The fact that I got information from Gordon that his bandmates didn’t even know was such high praise to me as an interviewer. It was a pleasure chatting one on one with all three of them. Such gifted artists and people. It filled my heart with joy virtually interviewing them as individuals.


I’m looking forward to doing the same format (3 of 5 questions and 30 minute segments) with Tash, Sasha, and Carl sometime before the end of the year (or into early next year). I have no information about the bands future plans - other than they are always working on something(s). With my own schedule up in the air for the time being, we’ll just play things by ear. But, it will happen at some point down the road.


Oh, and yes, the virtual interview where the tables are turned on me should be in that mix, too, I suppose.


It was also nice to finally do the virtual interview with Derek Vasoni. I completely dropped the ball on his interview initially. He was supposed to be on the Chapter II leg. By the time things were scheduled, I was 1. Overbooked 2. I decided to stop booking international guests (pre-records). The mistake was that I didn’t update Derek. So, when it came to booking this Chapter III leg - I sheepishly reached out to him, owned up to my mistake, and then gave him first priority on finding a date that worked (knowing he was in Japan). He understood and we worked from there.


Once his slot was booked, a few of the other interview slots fell into place. Hayden Weal was supposed to be shooting his next movie in New Zealand. So he could do the interview one day, then couldn’t, then could. Erika Lundahl was pretty much set to do whatever date Derek Vasconi didn’t pick. She was great that way and I really appreciated her flexibility. Jon Siren was great to add to the interview mix courtesy of AL1CE. As I’ve mentioned before, whenever the band asked me if I could accommodate a guest suggestion - I never had to question it. I already knew of Jon so it was doubly easy to say sure. Max from House Akcros was a little different. I still said yes immediately but I knew nothing about him. And quite frankly there wasn’t much out there on him when I started doing my research. But I just viewed his virtual interview as a bit of a challenge to myself. Let’s see what kind of interview skills I have in this particular situation. During the pre-show he eventually opened up and I knew once we went live, I could provide a solid virtual interview.


I’m still listening to other March to May tracks right now so that gives you an idea of how inspired I was by our short chat on Monday evening. They have produced some beautiful soulful music. It paints a picture in my head and is also quite soothing, too. I am very glad they took the time to speak with me. And for Beth to join us from 3am her time (I didn’t know she was in London when I booked them).


Tonight was the virtual interview with Rowan from OBT. I liked her and Carlos immediately when I did their interviews back in mid August. The photo that is accompanying this blog entry was taken the morning of the first round of interviews (I did two days of interviews for OBT - just a blocked out chunk of time both days - not full days). I initially was trying to get her to join a Fun Table Session but her schedule got difficult but Carlos was able to switch (I had planned for him to do one later anyway). So it all worked out. And they both knew I was trying to book them for a virtual interview on the tour together. Carlos had class but Rowan managed to make tonight work.


I enjoy interviewing artists from all walks of life, all levels and abilities. Sometimes when I reach out to local talent they are a bit surprised (when they see the other artists I’ve interviewed over the years). I never look at it that way. All artists have something to offer and I want them to tell their stories. They’re just as valuable as the “big” stars or what have you.


Do I have a point with this tour post? Not really other than this was written in one sitting which is new compared to the other tour posts I’ve done. I’m very content and satisfied with the Chapter III leg of the tour.


My lack of participation in anything else outside of my virtual interviews this go round is nothing personal. My balance is out of whack right now and I need what energy I have to get that balance back.


Sometimes I try to stop and decompress on any given evening. But more often than not I was taking care of other work commitments (mainly film reviews). Even something as small as social media, it’s always on my mental list to keep up with. Getting either the approved images to work with or finding some on my own, checking the dates and times, and then making sure I tag and hashtag the right people, words, etc. Typically it’s better to post in the mornings on week days but you’ll see I posted in the evenings - a lot. I utilized Stories better this go around. I normally don’t post on FB Stories - but started just adding the ones from IG to FB. It worked well as I could time when to share something to FB Stories to spread the promotion over a longer period than 24 hours.


The Inside/Out Virtual Tour with AL1CE overall was a major success from my point of view. The band and everyone involved (all of the artists, DJ’s, bands, performers, etc.) should feel really good about what they accomplished during some incredibly stressful times.


I know for myself, my little part as the “host”, I feel I held up my end of the deal. It wasn’t perfect but nothing ever is. Just the experience was worth it alone. From May to October - it’s been one for the books.


And who knows? Maybe there are more chapters to be written. That’s up to the members of AL1CE.


But I will say this. If there is a future opportunity where the band feels I can add something to their endeavor, whatever that may be, big or small, I will always wholeheartedly say yes - as long as I can honor the commitment to the standard I hold myself to. Even if it kills me.


Thank you everyone. I will cherish the memories of this virtual tour for the rest of my days.


Best,
Mark D. Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

12:15am PDT


Connect with Eclectic Arts HERE (opens in a new window)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET Rep 1 Review October 19, 2020


PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET
REP 1
Review: 10/19/2020



A digital season for the Pacific Northwest Ballet was unveiled with their Rep 1 this month. Available for five days the virtual experience was something to behold. During this time of the lockdown/pandemic, the return of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in any format was most welcome.


I have been in a unique position during this trying time. I have not only been on a virtual tour with a personal favorite band conducting virtual interviews but I have also conducted my own virtual interviews during this time. Nearly eighty virtual interviews later, I have seen things from both sides as a consumer and as a virtual content provider.


We all know the live experience cannot be replaced. That is a given. However, virtual concerts and events have evolved over the last several months. Initially used as a means to stay connected to the fanbase they are now vital revenue streams where a ticket to view is not uncommon at all.


Live streams in real time as well as pre-recorded live events are available nearly every day of the week now. With the future still questionable into 2021, any sort of live event has had to rethink how they go about their business to quite frankly survive during this pandemic.


Rep 1 was divided into Act I and Act II. With the pandemic affecting my sense of time, it was so refreshing to see something, anything related to the Pacific Northwest Ballet. It felt like it had been an eternity since I had watched anything on the elite level of what the Pacific Northwest Ballet does on a regular basis. The experience was more emotional than I thought it would be. This has happened to me during a few other streams I have reviewed and/or been a part of so I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was. It’s a reminder of what once was and the uncertainty of what may be (or not) to come.


With eleven different pieces performed, there was something for every ballet fan. In the digital format, the viewpoints are much different than being in McCaw Hall. There are relatively up close angles that I normally would not be able to see. Much like the dress rehearsal footage that was presented earlier this year, it’s amazing how different the experience feels when the audience can see things from a variety of angles.


It’s good and bad. It reminds me more of seeing a film production when there are multiple angles versus the one angle you have from your seat when you see a live performance. But, again, I personally was happy to see anything from the Pacific Northwest Ballet.


The extras that were included really added to the overall presentation of Rep 1. The interviews, additional dance footage, and notes were greatly appreciated. It was clearly evident that every possibility was factored into how to present Rep 1. I’m sure, like everyone else, there will be tweaks and upgrades and changes as the season continues and new ideas arise regarding the digital presentation of this season.


I personally love live streams that are in real time. They’re the closest thing to being there. Is that realistic for future digital Pacific Northwest Ballet performances? I don’t know. Probably not. They always have a different cast for every performance which would mean they would have to livestream all of the shows (versus live streaming opening night for example and then just making that available for subsequent viewership dates). There’s also the unions, dancer availability (some aren’t participating it looks like or at least for now they’re not), technicians to work the livestream cameras and equipment, and every other department that helps bring the shows to life at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. And above all else - safety during this pandemic.


Overall, Rep 1 was an emotional reminder of just how great the Pacific Northwest Ballet is and also just how needed it is in these unprecedented times.


Best,
Mark D. Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


Connect With Eclectic Arts HERE!




Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ARMORED SAINT - Punching The Sky - Record Release Party Review! October 14, 2020


ARMORED SAINT “Punching The Sky” Live Virtual Record Release Show

Review: 10/14/2020
Rating: 5 / 5
Armored Saint Official Site
Metal Blade Records





We all know how trying this year has been (that’s a major understatement) for everyone, including artists in the entertainment industry. When the current climate requires bands to tour and sell merchandise as their primary revenue streams, the pandemic has put an incredible amount of stress on all of them.


Some bands have done what they can to pivot during this time while others are in flux understandably so. The mighty Armored Saint have not only decided to put out their brand new album, “Punching The Sky” during this pandemic but they celebrated with a record release party - virtually - on Saturday.


For a mere $10 a ticket only (and up for signed CD’s and t-shirt bundles), fans could tune in to a live performance from the band that included four tracks from the new album. There was also a Q and A session after the performance.


We all know and agree live streams aren’t the same as being at a live, breathing, sweaty, headbanging metal gig, but they are the closest thing we have right now. With my television ready for the concert on Saturday afternoon, I was truly moved by the concert that was to come.


The band shot the show at the Whiskey A Go Go in L.A. so the fans got a full concert experience (sound, lights, multi-camera, etc.). Right out of the gate I felt like I was there. It was glorious!


Running through a set that was just over an hour long, the Saint played new and old. “Pay Dirt”, “Reign Of Fire”, “Isolation”, and of course, “Can U Deliver” were just some of the songs that were in the set-list.


John, Joey, Gonzo, Phil, and Jeff were on fucking fire! It honestly felt so good to see them back on a stage doing what they do best. Having watched (and personally been a part of) many virtual shows during the pandemic, I wasn’t sure if this gig was going to resonate with me or be just another live-stream. I was happy to find myself pumped up throughout the show. While it made me miss live shows that much more, it was also a triumph as a reminder about how good this virtual format can work until we get past this pandemic.


It’s not too late if you missed the stream - you can still buy a ticket HERE to view it! (opens in a new window)


The Saint are back!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect With Eclectic Arts Here:  Social Media Links HERE!


"Punching The Sky" - Out October 23rd!  BUY HERE!






OFFICIAL VIDEO



OFFICIAL VIDEO

Monday, October 12, 2020

THE OPENING ACT Film Review October 12, 2020


The Opening Act

Reviewed: 10/9/2020
RLJE Films
Rating: 3.5 / 5

In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand October 16, 2020. 


(A RLJE Films Release)



Stand up comedy has to be one of the most nerve wracking career paths for any new comic. There’s nothing to hide behind. It’s just you, a mic, and your material. That’s it. When you get laughs from the audience, that’s what keeps you going (much like the cheers at any live arts based event). But, when you bomb and the flop sweat starts, that has to be equally emotionally draining.


“The Opening Act” follows Will Chu (played by Jimmy O. Yang) as he works a job that he hates while in his off hours pursues a career in stand up comedy. He performs his material at open mic nights and dreams of playing the colleges and clubs, working his way up the ladder.



((L-R) Ken Jeong as Quinn and Jimmy O. Yang as Will O’Brien in the comedy THE OPENINGACT, a RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.)



When a fellow comedian (played by Ken Jeong) has a scheduling conflict for a four night gig, he offers up his MC spot to Will. Headlining the club is one of Will’s idols - Billy G (played by Cedric The Entertainer). What follows are the ups and mostly downs of the life of a comedian.


Will learns early on that he has to learn how to deal with hecklers. He has to get the introductions right for the comics he is introducing - especially the headliner. And he learns from his fellow comics, it’s a long and hard road to get to that treasured headliner spot.


“The Opening Act” features cameos from other well known comedians such as Russell Peters and Bill Burr. The storyline doesn’t really take the audience on a ride - it is simple and to the point. Yes, the audience feels good about how things end with Will’s stint at the comedy club but overall the story plays like a movie made for TV. 



((L-R) Jimmy O. Yang as Will O’Brien and Alex Moffat as Chris in the comedy THE OPENING ACT, a RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.)



There are laughs and Jimmy O. Yang does a fine job as the character of Will Chu. He is very believable as a comic just starting out learning the ropes. But, the end credits with short interview clips from the comics in the film talking about their early days was actually more interesting than the film itself.


Overall, “The Opening Act” hits some of the right notes but just like a new comic, it needs work to get to the status of a complete tune.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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THE DEVIL HAS A NAME Film Review October 12, 2020


The Devil Has A Name

Reviewed: 10/9/2020
Momentum Pictures
Rating: 4 / 5

In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand October 16, 2020. 






Morality plays a large part in the new film “The Devil Has A Name”. If you keep doing what you do and the consequence is less than if you do the right thing, keep doing what you do. That’s the crux of this film which is based on true events.


David Straitharn plays a farmer whose water is polluted by a large oil company. One of the top executives of the oil company (played by Kate Bosworth) is assigned to the case to basically cover it up by buying out the farmer.


When he refuses to sell, the oil company plays hardball knowing that they will almost always win in court.


(David Strathairn as Fred Stern in the drama, THE DEVIL HAS A NAME, a Momentum Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.)



“The Devil Has A Name” does its best to show where the interests lay for these huge corporations. It also shows what they will do to protect their bottom line at any costs.


David Straitharn was excellent in his lead role as the farmer with a heart. His working relationship with his farm boss (played by Edward James Olmos - who also directed the film) is also done well.


Kate Bosworth plays her character as the ruthless executive perfectly. As the story unfolds, she sees the bigger picture for her company that even the current CEO doesn’t see until it’s too late.



((L-R) Kate Bosworth as Gigi and Haley Joel Osment as Alex in the drama, THE DEVIL HAS A NAME, A Momentum Pictures Release. Photo courtesy Momentum Pictures.)



The David VS Goliath plot has been popularized over the years in many films. In “The Devil Has A Name” the story is handled well by director Edward James Olmos but it also lacks the emotional punch to the gut to take it over the top. The performances by all of the actors were very memorable (including Haley Joel Osment as a snake in the grass pawn).


I enjoyed “The Devil Has A Name”.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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Friday, October 9, 2020

BROIL Film Review October 9, 2020


Broil

Reviewed: 10/9/2020
Well Go USA Official Site
Rating: 3 / 5

Debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD on October 13

(Well Go USA)



The new thriller/horror film “Broil” takes a familiar plot and then adds a twist to the proceedings. Chance (played by Avery Konrad) runs into problems at school. She is sent to live with her grandfather (played by Timothy V. Murphy) where she learns of the family's secret. A chef for hire (played by Jonathan Lipnicki) is also brought in to add even more surprises to the storyline.


The storyline is a bit confusing at first. Chance is clearly the focus and her parents and grandfather are the supporting characters. Without giving too much away, once the proceedings start at her new home, things begin to unravel and the pacing picks up. 



(Well Go USA)
 


Timothy V. Murphy as the grandfather was delightful in his role. He played up the character to the point of almost being over the top but then withdrew just a hair to make things work quite well.


Jonathan Lipnicki puts in a multi layered performance that at first seems simple but soon unveils so much more to his character.



(Well Go USA)



For all the good things “Broil” has going for it, I really didn’t end up feeling satisfied once the film was over. It had its moments and it held my interest but it ultimately needed more substance to reach greater heights in the genre.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


Official Trailer






Thursday, October 1, 2020

CUT THROAT CITY Film Review October 1, 2020


Cut Throat City

Reviewed: 10/1/2020
Well Go USA
Rating: 4 / 5

Own it on Digital October 6 and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack & DVD October 20!

(Well Go USA)



“Cut Throat City” is the latest film from RZA (of Wu Tang Clan fame). The release is timely (or perhaps shows that things have never changed) with the current state of society. Set after Hurricane Katrina, four friends from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans are struggling to survive and do the right thing. With no opportunities and every door slammed in their faces, they turn to a relative to make ends meet through criminal activity.


This is truly an ensemble cast. Shameik Moore, Tip “T.I.” Harris , Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, along with Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, Eiza Gonzalez, and Ethan Hawke bring the story to life during every scene. 



(Well Go USA)
 


The choices that Blink (played by Sameik Moore) and his friends have to make as things go from bad to worse are not only believable but relatable for the audience. Blink has dreams of a career in graphics. His buddy wants to be a legendary jazz musician. But, with the neighborhood where they live, FEMA is there to “help” the citizens. This issue is really interesting but not surprising at all.


The subplots with Blink’s father (Wesley Snipes) and the kingpin of the streets The Saint (Terrence Howard) work very well, particularly when these two veterans were on screen. I would have liked to have seen some sort of scene with Wesley and Terrence but storywise I don’t think it would make any sense. Perhaps for a future movie.



(Well Go USA)



I enjoyed “Cut Throat City”. My only suggestion would be to reign in the length. I think the film could have been trimmed to an hour and 45 minutes. Sometimes letting a plot air out makes sense but in this film it actually needed the opposite. The faster the pacing, the more claustrophobic the setting, the better results when your main characters are on the run. Trimming the fat as it were.


Other than that, “Cut Throat City” was an entertaining film.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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