ECLECTIC ARTS

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

THE BOOK IS BARE - a SOAPGIRLS Journal Entry - Part II - December 30, 2020 Eclectic Arts



12/30/2020
Part II

Here’s my attempt at Part II of the written piece about The SoapGirls. As with the first part, I’m going to just write from the top of my head and not over think things too much. This is one person’s opinion or perspective.

Thanks for reading,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


Missed Part I? Read it here!


*


Many stories have been told during the virtual interviews I’ve conducted with the band. They’ve also done live chats on Wednesday’s, lengthy Q/A’s after each of their live-streams, and of course they will start shows and also break in-between songs to talk about what’s on their minds. So, a lot of information is out there.


This pandemic lockdown has forced people around the world to pivot in their lives. It’s forced me personally to reconsider what I value in my life repeatedly. It’s also forced me to ask myself, “what do I believe in?”


Living in the USA during 2020 has been such an array of emotions and opinions that I could write volumes on the political aspects of this year alone. And no matter what you say someone will disagree with it. That’s a fact.


What would you do if you were faced with a decision that was based on entertainment? Hypothetically, if I was to be reprimanded for supporting The SoapGirls at my new day job (something similar has actually happened to me in previous jobs regarding other artists related to my media outlet), what would I realistically do? What would you do?


It’s easy to pontificate about dreamy wish-like scenarios where you stand up and tell off your boss in such a situation but in your heart of hearts - what would you really do? I’ve already been there so I know what I would do.


In a similar vein, some situations we just don’t know what we would do until we’re actually in them. If a building was on fire and you heard screams inside - it’s easy to say you would do this or do that. Cue the white knight music. But you really don’t know what you would do in that situation - the fight or flight syndrome.


With The SoapGirls it’s very evident that they have been in so many fucked up situations over their lives/careers that they are to a point where they know what they would do because they’ve already done it. They’ve developed their character in such a way that they won’t hesitate to call someone out that’s done an injustice in the world. What other band does this on a consistent basis (based on their own personal struggles)? None that I can think of.


They balance this out by looking at the positive whenever they can but also recognizing the negative (i.e. corruption, racism, blackmail, etc.), too.


This is just one aspect of the band that I admire. They stay the fucking course. From the early years of selling soap for charity to following their hearts when the big music companies were trying to mold them into cookie cutter pop star flavors of the moment to present day efforts to bring people from all walks of life together, the fans know all of this and love them for it. But take a moment and really let everything you know about The SoapGirls sink in. Really sink in. It’s pretty fucking amazing what they’ve accomplished isn’t it?


I am an extremely empathetic person. Beyond anything and everything you may feel you know about me, underneath it all is an empathetic person that cares deeply for others well being. Even when I mentioned I potentially could have missed the interview last week due to being a dingdong and not setting my alarm for AM, if that had happened, oh man! I would have felt horrible and I would have been beating myself up all day for it. Probably the next day, too, knowing how I am. It wouldn’t have mattered if the band understood and said let’s reschedule Mark - no problem. Nope. I would have been mortified that I let them down and myself.


So, just imagine if something major happens. Yeah, I carry that with me for days, weeks even. Millie mentioned something similar during one of the interviews - about feeling bad if she was an asshole to someone that didn’t deserve it (if they did deserve it then that’s a different story). Another example of empathy.


Those two girls that were selling soap for charity years ago haven’t changed in terms of helping others. It’s a part of who they are and their manager Sam, too, of course. It’s a rarity to find a band that is so empathetic yet also so determined to make change in their immediate surroundings. Yeah, you can point out charitable things other artists have done and I would never, ever knock that. But, are they actually living in the situation The SoapGirls are and still doing something about it?


“We Are The Others” is a song by the band Delain. Lyrically written about the real life death of Sophie Lancaster (who was beaten) just for looking different, the “Others” singer Charlotte Wessels refers to are - well - most, if not all, of us SoapSuds.


If you’ve ever felt you didn’t belong at any point in your life, you are one of the Others. I would hazard a guess that many of the SoapSuds fit into this category. Not all but many. And that’s the beauty of the SoapGirls - they’ve been there, too. They can relate from personal experience. And I’ve said it before - I damn sure can relate, too.


Embrace and celebrate who you are at all times. You may consider yourself shy but it could be you never felt you had a safe space to express yourself. Even just to be silly and have no judgment put upon you is a wonderful gift. Studies have shown how the public school system beats down the dreamer, the artistic expressive student, year after subsequent year. By the time they reach high school, they’re already not as expressive as they could have been if not for the fucked up school system.


As an adult we are expected to conform even more to society’s so called standards. I’ve always been of the mentality that if you want to put ketchup on your baked potato and sour cream on your fries I say - “why not”. But that’s not the norm - but I can tell you this. The other people (students and adults I’ve worked with over the years) that think that way - and there are a lot of them/us - gravitate immediately to that type of thinking.


The SoapGirls are you. They are the ones giving off the message of “hey - be yourself - we love it - don’t conform to something you’re not”. I personally love that mentality.


If you’ve noticed I haven’t written much about the actual music yet. Trust me - I will soon. As I said in the first installment of this now written series - there’s so much to write about this band.


Before I do that - let’s talk about the fans for a minute. My goodness - all of those shows in the UK and Europe have created such a cool foundational fan-base. Yes, I know there are fans all over the globe (including some guy in Seattle) but those that have seen the band live in person (God, remember seeing live music? I miss it so fucking much) are fans for life basically. I see the comments, I read the chats, and I see the feedback on my own interviews with the band. It’s awesome that the fans are far outweighing the naysaying bullshit trolls of the world.


I love the fact that the fans dress up to match the themes of the live-streams. That’s fucking amazing! I love seeing any time someone’s new merch order comes in and they can’t wait to proudly display their new item with a photo post online.


And think about it. The fans have been so fortunate during this fucked up year that the band has been performing for months now. As SoapSuds you’ve been able to see your favorite band over a hundred times this year! That would never happen in any other time - unless you were rich and could follow the band around. And if you’re that rich you and I need to be friends.


I got to experience that from the inside being on the virtual tour with AL1CE (I will never stop mentioning them - definitely give them a look/listen when you can). I got to open up their shows and then watch them perform night after night this year. I am beyond grateful to them for that. I always will be. Ditto to The SoapGirls for bringing it every week for months and months now. And with all the obstacles thrown in their way to boot. Such love and respect from me.


Hopefully, even if it’s a little bittersweet for those that won’t be able to see them live, their tour(s) in the new year happens. That’s of course the ultimate goal once we’re through this pandemic lockdown. Nothing would make me happier than to see posts from fans that just saw the band live in their town. And you know what? That means international bands like The SoapGirls will make it over here one day to the US. In 2021? I highly doubt it (I hope I’m wrong). There are too many things that have to happen before bands outside of North America will be able to realistically tour here again. But the UK and Europe? I sure as Hell hope so! Maybe even places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc. I think all of those countries have a better shot at seeing The SoapGirls than the U.S. does for the next year.


It’s 9:45pm PST on Wednesday evening. I think I’ve been sitting here typing this since 8pm or so. Who knows - time means nothing in this seventh circle of Hell known as 2020.


Censorship. Let’s talk about that for a few paragraphs.


The band has had roadblocks put in their way since before they were a band, really. Censorship has happened during the lockdown, during their live-streams, all across their social media, the list goes on and on.


If you watched the first video interview you know that even the upcoming live link on YouTube was either reported by some asshole or from the platform itself. I got the lovely email (that’s sarcasm) that my link had been taken down as it went against community standards. This was before we ever did the interview! So, it only made sense that when we eventually went live - I wanted to talk about this censorship issue as it had spread to my work.


If you want to push my buttons, do something like that regarding censoring my work. I will flashback to all the earlier years that I was against censorship of any kind.


Everyone is eager to do something if there’s no price tag attached to it. No risk. But as soon as there is a price tag/risk involved, that’s when you see who runs and who stays. Me? I wanted to do a fucking series of interviews after that bullshit happened. And you know what? As long as the band has time and interest, that is my intention into 2021 and really beyond. I’m not going anywhere.


Now of course I thoroughly enjoy our interview chit-chats for other reasons. Hopefully that’s obvious to everyone.


Here’s another example of the nefarious shit I’ve encountered on social media regarding the band. I post on Instagram pretty much daily (eclecticartsmedia) - Facebook not as much. I’m on Twitter but I rarely post on it. I’m of course on YouTube. And I have this here blog and I have a photography site but that’s pretty much for PR firms when they ask to see samples of my concert photography.


Of course I tag folks any time that I can. With Instagram it’s easier for me to do completely than on Facebook (phone VS laptop). Anytime I need to tag, say, AL1CE, on Instagram, it immediately auto populates for me because of the amount of posts I’ve done using their page. When I do the same thing for The SoapGirls, I have to type out the entire band name before it pops up and even then it’s at least four or five entries down the list. Shadow-ban at work.


A recent post by the band on Facebook that I happened to catch one early morning over here - I saw it in my newsfeed so I “cared” it and then was about to post a comment but it said the post was no longer available. I screenshot it immediately and then I went to their actual page. Gone. Ten minutes later it’s back (as the post said the time when it was originally posted was ten minutes ago). WTF?


The second interview we did - about 2 ½ hours into it, maybe 3, the camera's views for both mine and the band went black for a few seconds on my end and then reconnected. Normally I would chalk this up to some technology or platform glitch but this has never happened during one of my live-streams. Ever.


I’ve been looking at the numbers on YouTube as well for the band’s three interviews. There was a time back in late November where they changed. And I don’t mean a few views - I mean they changed (as in dropped) by a good hundred. Again, normally I would chalk this up to some lame YouTube quirk. But I immediately checked the views on my other recent videos and nothing had happened to those at all. Damn.


As I told the band before/during the first interview, I have never encountered such censorship during the nine years I’ve been doing this thing called Eclectic Arts. And that was in October - much of the other things above have happened since that first interview.


And of course there's been the numerous interruptions, stops, and take downs of their live-streams.


We all love the new music video for, “Heart In Bloom”. We’ve all been sharing it as much as we can to help the band “override” the shadow-ban. But it’s so disheartening for Sam and the band to even have to deal with any of this. They should be able to create the video, put it online, and have it be seen as intended.


Nope.


The powers that be continue to mess with them. Again and again.


But you know what? They continue to move forward and power on - with the ever growing fan base backing them every step of the way!


I think this is a good place to pause for now before diving into Part III. Thank you for reading this, sharing it on social media, etc. It isn’t about me - it’s about the band and getting the word out about The SoapGirls.


Every fan art you do, every post you make, every post you share, every order you place, every donation you make, furthers the cause of the band.


I already know quite a few people that are now aware of the band because of the interviews and posts I’ve made. One of them just messaged me tonight about them as a matter of fact after reading Part I.


If we all do our part, the band will grow to the point where they can create and inspire without the bullshit getting in the way. They’ll create and inspire anyway but you know what I mean.


Much love to Sam, Mie, and Millie,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
DECEMBER 2020 INTERVIEW



NOVEMBER 2020 INTERVIEW



OCTOBER 2020 INTERVIEW




Tuesday, December 29, 2020

THE BOOK IS BARE - a SOAPGIRLS Journal Entry - Part I - December 29, 2020 Eclectic Arts


The Book Is Bare (working title - initially it was called The Book Is Plaid)

12/29/2020


I’ve had an itch to write for the past few days. I haven’t published anything since the 15th of this month. I’d prefer to consider it getting in the holiday spirit but in truth - it’s laziness.


Why am I writing this? Partially because it’s the end of 2020 and I always get nostalgic at this time of year. This year in particular has been full of challenges for everyone to say the very least.


Partially because I feel the need to actually write something that isn’t an advance film review. I’m either reviewing films or interviewing artistic guests it seems, never writing anything else except for the AL1CE (band) tour journals.


This piece may go all over the place so my apologies in advance.  I'm just writing this in one shot. 


I want to talk about The SoapGirls.


I also want to talk about the broader picture.


This is one person's opinion.


*


We each have our own unique individual stories. I believe we can all agree on that. Even identical twins growing up in the same environment with the same encounters will still be uniquely different. Personalities, outlooks on life, intelligence, interpretation, etc. all can affect how someone views things.


We also evolve (well some of us anyway). I am not the same person I was when I was 21. Far from it. There are foundational pieces in my upbringing that haven’t and most likely will never change. However, on top of that foundation, pieces of my personality and belief system have changed as I’ve lived more, experienced more in life, and educated myself as the years have gone by.


In addition, the Mark from Eclectic Arts is not necessarily the Mark who was born in Seattle, WA. We can portray ourselves any way we want online through social media. I’m a fairly transparent person though - what you see is what you get.


The distinct change for me at least was conducting virtual interviews this year (which I had never, ever done). I’ve said this before but if someone actually watched every interview or Fun Table Session that I’ve conducted this year, they’d get a pretty good snapshot of what I believe in. There may be unintentional contradictions (particularly during The Fun Table Sessions - I blame the alcohol) as everything was handled live. I didn’t edit things out and then upload them to my social media sites. They were out there - warts and all - for everyone to see in real time and to view when it was convenient at a later date.


Based strictly on the feedback I’ve received from the guests, whatever I’m doing is resonating with many of them. I don’t say this egotistically. I say it as a humbling compliment that inspires me to stay on the path that I started some nine years ago. See? I’m already rambling and getting off course. Stay with me.


On the surface if you watch one of the virtual interviews from this year, it looks like fun and something anyone can do. And they were fun. But they were not easy to do. Like anything - when something difficult is made to look easy - a lot of work and experience has been put into that craft.


Beneath the surface I am a one man media outlet. I am a freelancer. I do not have a big corporation behind me, a high traffic website, or anything of the sort. It’s just me. Doing what I love and am passionate about. Any accolades I have as Eclectic Arts is due to my never ending work. Any blemishes are also ultimately my responsibility.


I am just like anyone else. I have fantastic days and I have days that are complete shit. I have my own struggles that some close to me know about but most do not. We all do. As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone has their own unique story. Pieces of my story have been aired this year over the virtual medium of live-streams. Not all by any means but pieces.


Any time I seem to have my shit together, there are just as many times when I don’t. And that’s the truth. Perception is not reality. If you’ve had consistent dialogue with me (which no one has online this year), then you could say you know what makes me tick. Maybe.


My point - if there is one - is that it’s easy to judge others and we do it all the time. Subconsciously and consciously. It’s a part of being human. What you choose to do with that judgment is where things separate us.


I can’t remember exactly what was my first exposure to The SoapGirls. As I told the band, I’m pretty sure someone from the Doyle camp - most likely Alex from Cancerslug (who is also Doyle’s vocalist) told me about them or posted something about them. I’m not a streaming person for the most part (Spotify, etc) so I’m guessing it was a video(s) on YouTube that I eventually checked out.


Surface recollections from my faded memory. I recall the image and the music. The image being two female band members up front with a dude on the kit. The music being punk inspired but also 90’s influenced alt/grunge rock. Revolt rock as we all know now. The DIY aspect is always a plus in my book, too. I remember liking what I heard and saw through some live clips but that was about it. I don’t know the year either. I met Alex back in 2015 so it may have been around then or it could have been later. Again, my memory isn’t what it used to be.


Beneath the surface recollections. None. I didn’t know anything about them at the time.


Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic set in here in Seattle in February. Business and school closures among other things came in March. I was sick for all of March (another thing I don’t talk about much online). During that time, all I could do was try to get well and also figure out what am I going to do with Eclectic Arts. I was very fortunate that I had more than one thing to fall back on. As a photojournalist, reviewer, and interviewer, I was not in the same position as some of my fellow concert photographers around town. I had options. I just had to figure out what I was going to do with said options.


I started Eclectic Arts with written (email) interviews. So, it only made sense to go back to my roots and pursue that route. The SoapGirls were on my shortlist to contact about doing one. I had read through some of the earlier interviews they had done and some of them came across as written ones (vs a phone or in person one that was then transcribed into an article). One of the other bands was AL1CE (see there’s a connection here). All of the written interviews are on the blog btw (link at the bottom of this).


For those that don’t know - AL1CE is the wonderful band that invited me to open their virtual tour this year with virtual artist interviews. Without AL1CE the virtual interviews with The SoapGirls wouldn’t have happened.


The live-streams that The SoapGirls started doing in April (sorry I didn’t start watching them until early May I believe - I can hear it now - you suck you bastard) influenced the questions that I had asked in the interview. To my pleasant surprise the answers came back quickly! Yes, I am saying I was surprised because most written interviews take a long time to complete (and some never bother answering them at all). Per usual, I had some follow up questions to ask. This is where things stumbled a bit. Again, I had no idea what kind of crap the band had been (and still are) dealing with in terms of communication delays, social media issues, shadowbans, and the like. It took several weeks to get a reply back and during this time, I was knee deep in getting ready for the first leg of the AL1CE virtual tour. This is it’s own story but you can read the journal type entries if you’d like (also linked below).


Once I got all of the written pieces together as well as a zip file of photos, the interview was completed while I was on the virtual tour with AL1CE and published in July 2020. I got some good feedback on it and thankfully I started seeing the bands social media posts at that point (also the Suds groups on social media helped immensely - thank you). Up until that point, I had no idea they were active during the lockdown. Fuck you very much, shadow-ban.


So why did it take so long to arrange a virtual interview with The SoapGirls?


It didn’t. I never reached out to them while I was on the virtual tour with AL1CE. Put the pitchforks down. Or bars of soap you want to throw at my big bulbous head.


I didn’t start doing my own virtual interviews until mid August. I’m just being transparent here. I had a lot of shit going on outside of the AL1CE tour that kept pushing things back overall. I would make my little lists of artists I wanted to reach out to and then I would realistically wait and see how the outside of the tour shit handled itself. Basically stress on top of stress. So, some artists I pushed off until the Fall, hoping I would have the time to schedule them. And this is assuming a lot - just because I wanted to schedule a virtual interview didn’t mean the band wanted to do one. I’ve received plenty of “no’s” or “not right now’s” during 2020. And I’m always respectful of that.


So, as the band was doing live-stream after live-stream and the hardcore Suds from around the world were tuning in for each show, I was off in la-la land (well virtual la-la land as I was involved with my streams with AL1CE and on my own Eclectic Arts streams but you get the idea) only catching parts of streams here and there (usually after they aired) and if I caught one in real time, I was never in the chat. Ever. But, I was there.


But, thankfully, I reached out to the band while I was on the third chapter of the AL1CE tour and we set up the first virtual interview for that fateful Monday morning (for me) at 8am on October 19th, 2020. I still had three shows left with AL1CE to complete so I did the morning interview with The SoapGirls and then I did the night interview with March To May.


The second interview was originally scheduled for Monday, November 16th but I was the one that needed to reschedule it for the following Monday, November 23rd. I woke up feeling like absolute shit and, yes, I could have still done the interview but I didn’t want to do one in my condition at the time. It would have been a trainwreck so it was for the best. I always hate rescheduling anything but in this case I felt I honestly needed to. And I didn’t feel good about it.


And the most recent one was done on December 22nd. With the band’s schedule absolutely nuts that day/week, this interview ended up being short (by the previous standards) - only an hour and 45 minutes. It’s awesome to be able to type that - only an hour and 45 minutes! I’m so grateful that the band has spent so much time discussing things with me during our three interviews. It really means a lot to me.


What have I learned so far from these three interviews (and the written one)?


The cliche’ “never judge a book by its cover” fits here. Again, you don’t know what journey a person has been on so to place your judgment on them is really out of line. Why does someone have the viewpoint that they do? Coming from their background, you might develop the same viewpoint. You never know.


And it’s a two way street. As the interviewer, guests don’t know me (initially). Also as the interviewer it’s my job to do whatever I can to make the guest comfortable. If a guest starts to open up about things on their mind, it’s because they feel comfortable and eventually a trust is born. And I hold that trust dear, believe me. Once you violate it you rarely, if ever, get it back.


Would the band come back and do another interview(s) if they weren’t relating to how the first one went? If I had done a poor job, asked the same old shit, and/or made them feel uncomfortable? On the flip side, would I bother to schedule another interview with them if I had been offended in some way? Chinese sushi anyone? (I love ya Sam - you will never live that one down lol). Hell no - on both accounts (never speaking for the band but guesstimating).


There are so many pieces to their story both as a band, as sisters, and as a family. And I only know a fraction of those pieces. I’m sure there are many others to uncover - but only as they feel comfortable discussing in the future.


If someone tells me something in confidence, that’s where it stays. Even if it’s something most would consider minor or not a big deal, it’s never my place to say. Having worked in professions where confidentiality was paramount, I’ve had good practice keeping my mouth shut.


There are a lot of strange people out in the world. Some don’t mean any intentional harm. They may be lonely, sad, or depressed, so they cling on to things that make them feel good (bands, actors, athletes, etc). They follow social media to the point where they know everything that is going on with an artist. Or an interviewer for that matter.


Others, however, don’t have good intentions and they are fully aware of their actions. And I’m not talking about the perverts or the trolls online. I’m talking about the assholes that are looking to harm. The pieces of shit that take great pleasure in others misery, wanting to see them in pain. Or even worse. It only takes one bad experience to taint things for the future. Just my opinion.


This just brings me back to not knowing someone’s story. There may be very good reasons why an artist engages with their fans online but does so when they can or even at an arm’s length. The SoapGirls engage directly with their fans as much as possible. But, they’ve been very public about the shit they’ve been through, too. Most fans get it.


I’ve learned that they sincerely love and appreciate their fans. Every band says that at some point but do they mean it? The SoapGirls do. They remember what it was like to be bullied, to be the odd ones in school, to be harassed by children and adults alike, and as adults to still have to deal with this kind of shit. They know that every fan gained along the way are seeds to grow to a higher platform where the tables are turned in favor of the rest of us.


But they’re aren’t kids anymore. And their understanding of what they want in life has really developed into a beacon for others to join them in their life pursuits. They are becoming (or are) the role models they wished they had when they were younger. For all the teachers, administrators, classmates, neighbors, town folks, shop owners, etc. that ridiculed them, they are now leading the charge for freedom - in all of it’s forms. Censorship be damned.


I’ve found over the years that those that were bullied at some point in their life usually become empathetic adults. They know because they’ve been there. The SoapGirls have both been there. I’ve been there, too. This is a key component in terms of understanding where the band comes from and where Eclectic Arts comes from, too.


The past will never dictate my future - but it will give perspective on the choices I make as an adult. Again, the band is letting their fans that they meet online (and eventually back at shows - so envious of you all that have seen them live in person) know that you are okay as you. You are a unique human being and you deserve everything you want in life. Be you at all times.


The shit times are exactly that - and they are tough to get through. But you will get through them. The pendulum won't stay stuck in one position forever. Eventually, it swings back the other way to the good times.


I’ve also learned that I don’t know shit about the world. I’ve always known this but after talking with the band, Sam, both online (and a little offline too with Sam), I’ve been taking more time to educate myself about not only South Africa, but the corruption in the world as a whole. We all know it’s there but how many people actually take the time to sift through all the shit? I’ll be honest. I didn’t. Well, I did some, but not nearly enough.


It’s exhausting. It’s like rolling a big ass rock up a mountain that never seems to have an end. Eventually you can’t push it anymore. It overwhelms you. But if you care about yourself, others, and the state of the world, you have to push on. Catch your breath when you need to but stay the course. And yes - I keep telling myself this all the time, too.


I’ve learned that The SoapGirls are a true inspiration to fans around the world. Their fanbase is indeed international. Just the chats alone during the live-streams proves that. But they have also grown a fanbase that is from all walks of life - just like they talk about all the time. They want a safe space at shows or online where a fan can - just - be - themselves. No pretense. No bullshit. No awkwardness (unless you’re naturally awkward then carry on). You know? It’s one thing to say something as a band but it’s quite another to put those words and thoughts into actions. And they’ve done so with remarkable results. And all on their own!


I really resonate with Do It Yourself (DIY) artists in any Art form. Seattle Next Door (my model photography work - pre EA) and Eclectic Arts started from absolutely nothing. Not even an idea. They both organically happened on their own (I suppose I should write about those some time). So when a band like The SoapGirls put in the work and do things themselves, there is such an authenticity to the proceedings that I for one can’t help but take notice. And smile. I have so much respect for any artist that takes it upon themselves to put thought into action. To build up something from nothing takes an incredible amount of resolve. Huge respect to Millie, Mie, and Sam.


I’ve learned that The SoapGirls have been touring the UK and Europe for eight months at a time on average for around five years or so. They have developed into quite the live act and it shows during their live-streams. Whether it’s an acoustic Monday set or a themed raucous Saturday night set, Millie and Mie (and Sam when he was still there) sound really good! Redd sounded good this past Monday, too. All of those hundreds of shows has really honed the band into a devastatingly fun live act - both sonically and visually.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve learned more about how other countries view the U.S. and how what the U.S. does impacts other countries. Again, it’s something I’m aware of on a surface level but until someone tells you that because of what the U.S. has done, this is what happened in our country, it’s unfortunately not impactful. I think many people (not all) in the U.S. don’t really have a clue what’s going on outside of our own country. I know for the most part I don’t. Sure, I hear the occasional news report or see a headline online, but that’s whatever the media decides to feed us peons. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been spending more time educating myself on the issues that have been brought up during the bands live-streams and during my own interviews with them.


Well, I’ve spent nearly seven typed pages writing about the band, my background a bit, and I really haven’t even scratched the surface with this piece.  I suppose this will be Part I.


Let me end this for now by saying we are all fans of different music artists. In my case I’ve been incredibly fortunate to interview artists this year from all over the world. Directors, producers, and actors from the film and television world. Musical theatre artists and professional ballet dancers. Musicians of all levels (local, national, and international) and various genres. Artists with opera backgrounds. My first symphony conductor, too. Just a wide variety of incredibly wonderful guests.


I can honestly say that it’s been my absolute pleasure interviewing The SoapGirls. Millie, Mie, and Sam are fighting the good fight in their own unique way. There is no band out there like them. And that’s saying something.


I will always support them in everything that they do until they have the platform that they so richly deserve. You may not “see” me in the chats every show or commenting on every social media post but just know that I am there, I do see you, and I most definitely hear you.


Much love,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts






HEART IN BLOOM OFFICIAL M/V!



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part III - December 2020



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part II - November 2020



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part I - October 2020



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

NASRIN Film Review December 15, 2020


Nasrin

Reviewed: 12/15/2020
Virgil Films and Floating World Pictures
Rating: 4 / 5 

Opens in theaters on December 18th across the nation in virtual cinemas!






With 2020 being the year no one expected, the intense spotlight that has focused on various human rights movements plays right along with some topical films that have been released this year.


“Nasrin” is one such film.


Nasrin Sotoudeh is a political and human rights activist in Iran. This documentary was filmed in secret to protect the filmmakers from harm. Nasrin is an attorney at law that has stood up for women’s rights. She has taken on many cases where she has put herself and her family in jeopardy based on the laws and society at large in her country.






She was most recently imprisoned for 38 years and 148 lashes. Yes, you read that right. However, as of November 10th, Nasrin was released from prison due to health concerns.


This only touches the tip of the iceberg about this remarkable woman and her efforts for women’s rights and equality for all.


At times the things she deals with seem so archaic that you can’t help but sit in disbelief and wonder how things like this are still going on in the world. Yet, they are.


The film is filled with interviews not only with Nasrin but those she has worked with, those that have interviewed her throughout the years, and of course her family. Director/writer/producer Jeff Kaufmann has made a powerful documentary film that lingers far after the credits roll on the screen.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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SKYLINES Film Review December 15, 2020


Skylines

Reviewed: 12/15/2020
Vertical Entertainment
Rating: 4 / 5 

Vertical Entertainment will release SKYLINES in select Theaters, Drive-ins, on Demand and Digital December 18th.


(Vertical Entertainment.)



I’m late to the party as I didn’t realize the new science fiction action film “Skylines” was the third installment in the Skyline franchise. With the first film being released ten years ago and the second three years ago, the third film does work as a stand alone movie for the most part.


An elite team of soldiers are sent to an alien world in order to save the friendly version of the hybrid alien-human creatures from a deadly virus. To be honest that’s about all you need to know.



(Lindsey Morgan as Rose Corley in the Sci-Fi/ Action film, SKYLINES, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



The action starts from there and it really is well dispersed throughout the film. I’ve said this before but with science fiction films, they are at a distinct disadvantage as there is so much that needs to be created to make the future world(s) look right, make them and their inhabitants believable, etc. With “Skylines” they definitely made the most of what they had to work with. In other words it looked good.


Lindsey Morgan as Captain Rose did a great job of leading the team into battle. There was enough witty banter during the film too that kept her character well rounded but still bad ass.



((L-R) Jonathan Howard as Leon, Lindsey Morgan as Rose Corley and Daniel Bernhardt as Owens in the Sci-Fi/ Action film, SKYLINES, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



The creature visual effects looked good and the action sequences were well done, too.


“Skylines” is an entertaining romp through other worlds all while laying waste to the bad guys. Good fun!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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HUNTER HUNTER Film Review December 15, 2020


Hunter Hunter

Reviewed: 12/15/2020
IFC Midnight
Rating: 4 / 5

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND - DECEMBER 18, 2020


(IFC Midnight)



When I saw the trailer for the new thriller “Hunter Hunter” from IFC Midnight, I was intrigued. I am a sucker for a person against nature films - or in this case a person against animals in nature. I ended up being a sucker in more ways than one (in a good way).


The film revolves around a family living off the land in the wilderness. Dad, mom, and daughter. They are a throwback to times gone by. They are hunting, trapping, and doing what they need to do in order to survive. Things are looking bleak as the winter approaches as the market isn’t paying what it usually does for furs and other staples the family relies on to make a living.



((L-R) Summer H. Howell as Renee and Camille Sullivan as Anne in the thriller / horror /suspense film HUNTER HUNTER, an IFC Midnight release. Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.)



A lone wolf’s trail is spotted during their daily work in the wild which puts the family on edge. It is decided that dad Joe (Devon Sawa) will go out and hunt the beast down. His daughter Renee’ (Summer H. Howell) insists on tagging along with dad which he allows but only to bait the traps. Mom Anne (Camille Sullivan) is concerned about this hunt but wakes up to find they have already left without her blessing.


The name of the film is apt. What I originally thought I was going to get as a film eventually turned into something else. No spoilers here but I was pleasantly surprised by the turn and that’s what I meant by I was a sucker as I didn’t see this turn coming at all.



(Devon Sawa as Mersault in the thriller / horror / suspense film HUNTER HUNTER, an IFC Midnight release. Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.)



Eventually as the film unfolds who is the hunter and who is the hunted starts to take on all sorts of different meanings.


“Hunter Hunter'' was a well done thriller with an ending that fits right in with the IFC Midnight library of films. That’s all I’ll say without giving anything away.


Worth checking out!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!


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Monday, December 7, 2020

ARCHENEMY Film Review December 7, 2020


Archenemy

Reviewed: 12/7/2020
RLJE Films
Rating: 2 / 5 

RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 


(Archenemy - RLJE Films)



Like many people, I grew up with comic books (or graphic novels as they’re called these days). I remember the adaptations to television and film long before the Marvel boom from the late 2000’s to now. The genre has become a money making staple for Hollywood.


“Archenemy” is a superhero film featuring the character of Max Fist (played by Joe Manganiello) who fell to Earth and no longer has his superhero powers. A local brother and sister duo of Hamster (Skylan Brooks) and Indigo (Zolee Griggs) are hustling to survive. Only Hamster believes Max’s superhero power story. 


(Joe Manganiello as Max Fist in the action/thriller film, ARCHENEMY, a RLJE Films release.  Photo Courtesy of RLJE Films.)
 


Of course there is an antagonist called The Manager (Glenn Howerton) who creates the problems for all involved.


There isn’t much to say about this film that is in a positive light. The story, the characters, and the execution are all lacking. I really wanted to like this film or at the very least see it improve by the finale. It never really resonated with me at any point.



(Zolee Griggs as Indigo in the action/thriller film, ARCHENEMY, a RLJE Films release. Photo Courtesy of RLJE Films.)


Perhaps it will resonate with you.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, December 4, 2020

THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER Film Review December 4, 2020


The Last Blockbuster

Reviewed: 12/4/2020
1091 Pictures
Rating: 5 / 5 


(1091 Pictures)


There was a time when if you didn’t see a movie in a theater, you just didn’t see it. Sure you might see a blockbuster five years later edited for network television but that was it. Then cable came along and you’d see the same three movies on a loop 24/7.


Eventually the Beta Max and VHS wars started in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Films were available for purchase to view at home for only $99.99. And, as it shows in the new documentary “The Last Blockbuster” a few business minded folks decided to rent films to viewers and the at home movie craze took off from there.


Anyone that is nostalgic for those times will love “The Last Blockbuster”. The era of going out on a Friday or Saturday night to the video store to pick up a movie or three to watch at home. The mom and pop video stores that eventually faded away due to the revenue sharing that Blockbuster (and similar large chains) worked out with the movie studios. The new year’s eve run to the video store before the shelves were barren. All of those memories will come flooding back when watching “The Last Blockbuster”.


(Sandi Harding - General Manager in "The Last Blockbuster" from 1091 Pictures.)



The film centers around literally the last Blockbuster store which is located in Bend, Oregon. It started out as a family run video store (eventually three stores) called Pacific Video. They became Blockbuster franchises once the big B entered their town. The film shows the rise and fall of the Blockbuster chain. I had forgotten some of the changes Blockbuster instituted to stay competitive in the early streaming and DVD by mail marketplace (enter Netflix). They had Blockbuster by mail. They had removed the late fee structure (remember those) which became a big issue. But the biggest issue was the financial loss during the crash of 2008. Once that happened, the writing was on the wall.


Yet there is still one lone store in Bend, Oregon. The name is owned by the DISH Network who have been renewing the store’s name on a yearly contract (not much peace of mind there). It’s eye opening to see that this is basically still the family owned business it was before they became a part of Blockbuster. Relationships have been built by the general manager Sandi Harding over her fifteen plus years of running the store. When the store doesn’t have certain titles that customers request, she goes out and buys them. She goes to a club store to buy the candy and other concessions that are on sale at the store. She has numerous computers from other Blockbusters that have closed that she uses for parts when her machines need repair (everything is obsolete at this point).


Fans from all over the world have made pilgrimages to the store in Bend, Oregon. News outlets from all over the world as well have interviewed Sandi. The day this store closes (which hopefully won’t be for years to come) will truly be the end of an era.


I have fond memories of the video age as do countless others. The interviews with celebrities and fans only adds to the bandwidth that I am not alone in smiling fondly when it comes to renting a movie from a Blockbuster.


Highly recommended. And don’t forget - be kind, rewind.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

THE GODDESS OF FORTUNE Film Review December 2, 2020


The Goddess Of Fortune

Reviewed: 12/2/2020
Breaking Glass Pictures
Rating: 4.5 / 5 




(Breaking Glass Pictures)



I wasn’t sure what to expect from “The Goddess Of Fortune”. A Warner Brothers produced film from Italy, I was extremely surprised in the best way possible by this movie.


It only took maybe five minutes to transport me into the story. That’s saying something.


The story revolves around a couple Arturo (played by Steffano Accorsi) and Alessandro (played by Edoardo Leo) who look after their friend Annamaria’s (played by Jasmine Trinca) two young children while she gets medical testing done for an unknown condition.



(Breaking Glass Pictures)



The film goes from fun and whimsical to serious and dramatic. The fish out of water concept as parents is cute and appealing while the drama is heart wrenching and painful.


“The Goddess Of Fortune” is one of those films that absolutely immerses the viewer into the world of the characters. So, when the characters feel pain, we feel pain. When they feel joy, we feel joy.


The performances by Steffano Accorsi and Edoardo Leo were magnificent. Their choices and acting skills really make the film work. 



(Breaking Glass Pictures)
 


I would have given this film 5 out of 5 but the dancing scene in the rain felt completely out of place to me. There was such momentum being built up in the story that I wish that scene had been edited out. This is a minor quibble and the film is still exceptional.


Recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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POSSESSOR Film Review December 2, 2020


Possessor

Reviewed: 12/2/2020
Well Go USA
Rating: 4 / 5 

Available on digital right now.  DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra Blu-ray Combo on December 7th.



(Well Go USA)



It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen such a visually interesting film. It is easy to see that director Brandon Cronenberg knew exactly what he wanted in his latest film “Possessor”.


A science fiction thriller/horror film, the plot revolves around Tasya Vos (played by Andrea Riseborough who I just reviewed in “Luxor” as well) as an assassin who kills her targets via brain implant technology possession. She comes across one assignment though that fights her for his very being.


(Well Go USA)



“Possessor” really plays like a science fiction character study of the acting profession. Actors portray and become characters for their jobs. They can play good, bad, likeable, and unlikable characters. They may immerse themselves to a point where they find it hard to leave the character on the stage and become themselves at home.


The horror elements are direct and disturbing. I also loved that the majority of the effects were practical instead of CGI. I wish more filmmakers would take the time to employ practical VS digital effects professionals.



(Well Go USA)



Overall, “Possessor” is the type of film that requires repeat viewings. You won’t notice all of the details without giving it at least a second look. One of the most interesting and unique films this year.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

INTERSECTION Film Review December 1, 2020


Intersection

Reviewed: 12/1/2020
Breaking Glass Pictures
Rating: 4 / 5 




(Breaking Glass Pictures)



When a thriller uses the overly familiar cat and mouse theme, it can become redundant quickly. The usual threats, pushing someone to their breaking point, kidnapping, blackmail photos, etc. If the payoff is worthy, then the overall effect can absolutely work. If the payoff is nowhere to be found, then it can feel like wasted time. “Intersection” gives you a payoff that not only works but is pleasantly surprising.


Jake Galloway (played by Matt Doran) is a white collar extortionist. He is oblivious to the needs of both his teenage son and his wife. Jake is all about the money and whatever it takes to get it.



(Matt Doran in "Intersection" from Breaking Glass Pictures.)



One evening he is contacted by a mysterious antagonist who has kidnapped Jake’s son. Thus the plot begins as the unknown kidnapper sends Jake on a series of missions in an attempt to break him.


I will stop there as the film really needs to be seen to be appreciated. There is a twist at the end that brings things together nicely. I didn’t see it coming which was a welcome surprise.


The use of the electronic voice masking for the kidnapper got a little grating further into the film. I understand why it was used but it started to remind me of a thriller version of “Saw” or something. I could have done without it.



(Matt Doran in "Intersection" from Breaking Glass Pictures.)



Outside of that, “Intersection” is a compelling thriller that, again, delivers with an ending that makes the whole experience feel quite worthwhile.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here! 


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