ECLECTIC ARTS

Monday, January 31, 2022

EVOLVE (docu series) January 31, 2022 Eclectic Arts


EVOLVE (docu-series)

Curiosity Stream

Reviewed: 1/31/2022

Rating: 4.5 / 5





The new series on Curiosity Stream “Evolve” is a wonderful six part docu-series where adventurer and documentary filmmaker Patrick Aryee travels around the world to show how nature has evolved in six distinct areas or themes.


The themes range from cure, restore, and protect to name a few.


Patrick is an engaging host and his enthusiasm for the topics is infectious. From the deserts of Namibia where he learns about a beetle that can pull moisture from the morning fog on its own body to the oceans where the camouflage technique of the octopus is examined, the educational component is presented in such a vibrant way, it’s fun to learn and watch at the same time.


The g force concept along with the g force suit was really fascinating as was the venom from a scorpion that can break through the brain mask of humans.


The graphics when information is shared are top notch. The amount of time put into each one hour episode really shows. These are not long, drawn out, one camera affairs. These are multiple narratives with plenty of cutaways to computerized graphics that pop off the tv screen.


Ultimately, the series is looking at the human race and the problems we face. Nature has found ways to evolve and thrive in the world and yet humans are still looking for answers to cure cancer, fuel alternatives, and other prominent issues.


“Evolve” is an amazing series and I hope they consider doing another set of episodes.


Recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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TORN Film Review January 31, 2022 Eclectic Arts


TORN

National Geographic Documentaries

Reviewed: 1/31/2022

Rating: 4.5 / 5


The new film “Torn” is a compelling documentary about mountain climber Alex Lowe. The film chronicles Alex’s achievements around the world as well as the sacrifices he made with his family to do so.


Directed by one of Alex’s sons, Max, the film is a harsh reminder that sometimes the sacrifices people make come at a cost much greater than the reward.


As the story unfolds (no spoilers here), there is such a dichotomy of emotions for the viewer. On one hand it is always inspiring to see someone follow their passions in life. On the other hand, when a family suffers due to a husband and father that is away traveling for months out of the year, the good/bad discussion raises its head.


The film is thorough, heartfelt, and direct. It doesn’t create a singular narrative, it creates several. Max Lowe really brought all the perspectives together which is to be commended. That couldn’t have been easy.


“Torn” is a documentary that will create discussion with those around you.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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TO THE END Film Review January 31, 2022 Eclectic Arts


TO THE END

Directed by: Rachel Lears (Knock Down The House)
Produced by: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

Reviewed: 1/31/2022

Rating: 4 / 5


The new documentary film “To The End” captures a three year period in our history when the New Green Deal was the focus as the upcoming 2020 presidential election was taking shape.


It’s interesting to see just how chaotic the world was (and some would argue still is) during the start of the pandemic. The politics, the social injustice, and Covid-19 itself permeate the film’s vibe throughout.


But this is a film about climate change and racial injustice. It follows four leaders of color: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas and Rhiana Gunn-Wright as they push to pass the New Green Deal.


The film does a solid job of showing the behind the scenes work that each leader (and their followers) put in to make the New Green Deal a reality.


It also shows how racial injustice is tied directly into climate change and how the opportunities something like the New Green Deal would help to reverse said injustice.


Like many documentaries that focus on political issues, “To The End” can be exhausting at times to watch. If you have a vested interest in the topic, then you’ll be engaged from the beginning to the end. If you’re not, then you may find the film tedious but that’s only due to the topic, not the filmmaking itself.


Overall, “To The End” is a timely film and also a necessary one.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Sunday, January 30, 2022

EO9066 Seattle Symphony Event Review January 29, 2022


EO9066

Seattle Symphony
Benaroya Hall

Performance Reviewed: 1/29/2022




My first performance back “after” the pandemic at Benaroya Hall featuring the Seattle Symphony was this past Saturday evening. Executive Order 9066 was the program as it is the 80th anniversary of the Executive Order that sent thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps around the USA during WWII.



Accompanying the concert was the short film multimedia experience at the nearby Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center called “Pictures of Executive Order 9066”.



The multimedia experience was more emotional than I thought it would be. It was just over ten minutes long with images, video clips, and narration that gave a brief glimpse into the world of the internment camps. The narration was from various survivors of the camps and the images in particular were upsetting.



For those with no personal connection to EO9066, the experience shown should have still elicited an emotional response of some kind - disbelief, anger, sadness, etc. For those with a personal connection, ugly wounds may have been re-opened or, in my case, anger bubbled to the surface. Seeing the horse stalls, the manure, the blatant racism - all of it, while not new, was hard to look at. But it was necessary to look at it for sure.



Kudos to filmmaker JJ Gerber, musician Kishi Bashi, photographer Dorothea Lange, and oral histories by Densho. They created a powerful multimedia experience that honestly set the tone better than the concert that was to follow.



The program for the evening consisted of Japanese American composer Paul Chihara’s world premiere of “Beyond the Hills:, Seattle born musician Kishi Bashi performing his “Improvisations on EO9066”, and ending with Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4”.



“Beyond the Hills” was a Seattle Symphony commission with Mr. Chihara in attendance Saturday evening. It was a strong, moving piece that reflected Mr. Chihara’s own experience being in the camps at the age of 4. I really appreciated this piece as it touched on all of the bases of the program.



Kishi Bashi’s “Improvisations on EO9066” was performed in 6 chapters or movements. While stating that he did not have the direct connection to the internment camps like some did, his parents getting together in the mid 60’s post war, he approached the material from a social justice angle along with one of assimilation for immigrants (loss of native language and customs for example).



Using the violin, guitar, and voice through the movements, the music really brought the listener along on the horrible rollercoaster of the start of the internment camps up to the end where the music ended on a brighter note.



After a brief intermission, Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4” concluded the program.



While the multimedia film was a focused and clear affair, the concert program was a bit off. I personally would have loved to have heard something by another Japanese American composer (or even Japanese composer) after the intermission. Even as a stretch, something from a Japanese band would have been more fitting than the “Symphony No. 4” that was performed. Perhaps having the Seattle Symphony perform one of Yoshiki’s many classical interpretation pieces would have been a perfect addition.



Due to the current conductor situation, guest conductor Norman Huynh stepped in and did a fine job. He was energetic with his conducting and perhaps a bit rushed at times but overall he was a fine choice to lead the Seattle Symphony.



The Seattle Symphony itself sounded stunning. When they are in the right conductor’s hands, magic is simply created. We are lucky to have such an excellent symphony in our backyard so to speak.



Kishi Bashi is a multi talented performer. I appreciated his care in doing the initial research into EO9066 and my understanding is he has a documentary coming out about the same subject matter. It has clearly impacted his work and I’m looking forward to the upcoming film.



Overall, I thank the Seattle Symphony for putting on such a program. Art must confront and educate at times and EO9066 was one of those times.



Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, January 28, 2022

CLEAN Film Review January 28, 2022 Eclectic Arts


CLEAN


IFC Films
Reviewed: 1/28/2022

Rating: 3 / 5


IN THEATERS, ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL JANUARY 28, 2022!



(IFC FILMS)



The new film “Clean” stars Adrien Brody in a dark thriller that he also produced, co-wrote, and composed the score for.


“Clean” is one of those films where all the components are there but they don’t quite come together.


Adrien Brody brings his best to the role but I have to admit the brooding voice was a bit much (think Christian Bale’s Batman voice).


There’s a decent amount of action as the finale unfolds but “Clean” is more about the narrative than anything else.


I could see Adrien turning this into a stage play and it potentially working better than in the film arena.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

JAKE SHIMABUKURO Kirkland Performance Center January 26, 2022 Eclectic Arts



Jake Shimbukuro

Kirkland Performance Center
Kirkland, WA

Wednesday January 26, 2022


(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



It was a slight bit of deja vu on Wednesday evening as Hawaii’s own Jake Shimabukuro returned to the greater Seattle area. Having just played here last month in Edmonds, the market showed that Jake’s popularity is as strong as ever. He played both venues in 2019 back to back and sold out both which was unheard of for the area.


This show was much more intimate as the Kirkland Performance Center is designed differently than the larger Edmonds Center for the Arts. Accompanying Jake was bassist Jackson Waldhoff who has been laying down the low end for the previous tours for a while now.


Jake and Jackson walked out on the stage to much applause and they launched into a series of tunes from Jake’s vast catalog. As always, Jake feels the music and his body moves accordingly. He rarely stands still. Jackson was also grooving along on the bass which was nice to see.



(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



Based on some of the whispers around me, there were first timers in the audience which was great. You always want to get new fans to a show for any artist.


Jake had plenty of heartfelt banter between songs. He told a few jokes as well - one of which was borrowed while the other two were originals. The laughs just endeared Jake that much more to the fans.


A few tunes from the new album, “Jake & Friends” were aired to much applause.


Jake then performed a few songs solo starting with one of my favorites, “Blue Roses Falling”.



(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



Jackson rejoined Jake and they tore through song after song, ending the set with the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that started it all for Jake many years ago.


Jake and Jackson received a standing ovation and they triumphantly walked off the stage leaving everyone wanting more.


They are off to perform three shows in Alaska. Go to http://jakeshimabukuro.com/ to purchase tickets.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


Connect with Eclectic Arts here:  Social Media Links Here


Special Thanks: Jake, Jackson, Brett, and Nichole.


(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)









(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)


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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

ANASTASIA Musical Theatre Review January 25, 2022 Eclectic Arts



ANASTASIA
The New Broadway Musical


Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount
Seattle, WA



Opening Night Review: 1/25/2022



(Kyla Stone (Anya) and The Company of The North American Tour of ANASTASIA - Photo by Jeremy Daniel) 



I started reviewing the Broadway At The Paramount shows in 2018 as a new opportunity for my media outlet that I’m very grateful for.  Over the years I’ve seen every show with a few exceptions due to illness, weather, etc.


When a musical resonates with me, it makes me want to see it again. Plain and simple. It makes me want to tell others about how good it was so they go see it.


“Anastasia” was one of those musicals.


Before anything else, even before finishing this review, consider going online and buying a ticket. It’s that good.


For those that love the classic animated film, there is much that is familiar (the songs) while there are new additions. For the unfamiliar (like myself), the story is full of heart, laughs, and spectacle.


The focus of course is on Anastasia (Anya) - portrayed expertly by Kyla Stone. Ms. Stone sang, acted, and had the audience laughing with her timing, poise, and artistry. Her voice was amazing and she was definitely connecting with the audience. The musical honestly rises or falls on her performance and it rose as high as it possibly could with her in the role.


There were no weak links in the cast. They were all simply stellar.


The use of projections on stage, while common these days, was really mesmerizing. The constant use of 3D imagery helped create the depth of field not normally seen in a musical of this magnitude. The audience was immersed in the world of “Anastasia”.


Judging by the audience's reaction, my guest’s reaction, and my own - we all agreed “Anastasia” was a superb production.


“Anastasia” runs through Sunday January 30th. Tickets are available:  HERE!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here




Monday, January 24, 2022

I’M NOT IN LOVE Film Review January 24, 2022 Eclectic Arts



I’M NOT IN LOVE


Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 1/24/2022

Rating: 3 / 5


Available On Digital Platforms January 25th.





The new film “I’m Not In Love” is the final film in a trilogy about relationships between men and women.


The plot revolves around the old “don’t know what you got until it’s gone” scenario. The main character Rob has been in a relationship with a woman he’s not sure he’s in love with. She wants a commitment of marriage and that sets up the crux of the story.


The acting was very believable, very much like regular people you woud know in your own life. However, the story just meandered on and on. I found myself not really caring about the characters or the outcome.  The film is dialogue heavy and reminded me of a play.


Overall, “I’m Not In Love” was an average film with a cast that was capable of so much more.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Saturday, January 22, 2022

JESSE COOK Live Review Edmonds Center for the Arts Edmonds, WA January 20, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Jesse Cook

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

1/20/2022


(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)


It has been a long two years since Jesse Cook has been able to tour. As all artists were forced to record, live-stream, and do anything they could think of from their homes during the pandemic, it was with high anticipation that both the band and the fans awaited Thursday evenings performance at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, WA.


The second stop on the 2022 tour, Jesse Cook and his bandmates (Marito Marques, Matt Sellick, and Fethi Nadjem - bassist Dan Minchom will join the tour later) performed an amazing set of old and new songs to an enthusiastic audience.



(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



Emotions ran high as the band walked out onto the stage and launched into “Havana”. Followed by the one-two punch of “Jaleo/Gravity” and “To Your Shore”, the band was in top form and you could tell they were so happy to be back on stage in front of a live audience. And the audience was eating it up as well.


“Wednesday Night at Etrics” with it’s beautiful upbeat melodies sounded stunning as Jesse’s trademark flamenco influenced guitar playing was in fine form. Having seen him perform in 2018 and with these musicians in 2019, the level of talent in the band is of the highest order. The world aspect of Portugal, Algeria, and Canada being represented just adds to the wonderful energy of the performances.


Jesse has a great self deprecating sense of humor so his in between song banter was great light comedy relief before the band finished out the first set with four more songs.



(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



After a brief intermission, the band returned to perform another set of songs. By the time they got to the big rumba medley the crowd thankfully rose to its feet and danced, grooved, and applauded to the music. This is what live music is all about!


The encores consisted of “Mario Takes A Walk”, the unplugged Jesse sung cover of “Fall At Your Feet”, and finished with “Cancion Triste”.


Jesse Cook is a master musician and composer and he always delivers live. He showcased the talents of Matt, Marito, and Fethi several times during the concert and they are all master level musicians as well.



(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



The concert was as perfect as could be. Beautiful music, an enthusiastic audience, and one happy reviewer.


Don’t miss the tour when it comes to your town!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts here:  Social Media Links Here


Special thanks to Jessica, Mike, Liz, and of course Jesse Cook and his amazing band!




(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)












(All Photos (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)

Friday, January 21, 2022

WARHUNT Film Review January 21, 2022 Eclectic Arts

WARHUNT


Saban Films
Reviewed: 1/21/2022


Rating: 3 / 5


WARHUNT, available in theaters and on VOD and Digital Jan. 21, 2022 from Saban Films.




(Saban Films)



The new film “Warhunt” is an action thriller war film that ventures into the supernatural. Based in 1945, a platoon is sent to retrieve top secret material from a plane that crashed. Along the way many things happen that are both supernatural and horrific.


“Warhunt” has the premise but the execution was lacking. It started to venture into straight-to-video territory which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, it could have been better for sure.


Mickey Rourke has a small part in the film and his character is rather odd looking. Whether this was done on purpose as tongue in cheek fun I don’t know. But, it came off as a payday appearance.


Overall, “Warhunt” may work on a night when you’re looking for some entertainment that you don’t need to think about. These days in 2022 that kind of film can be much needed.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE TIGER RISING Film Review January 21, 2022 Eclectic Arts

THE TIGER RISING


The Avenue
Reviewed: 1/21/2022


Rating: 3 / 5


Available in Theaters on January 21st and On Demand and Digital February 8th!






The new film “The Tiger Rising” is an interesting tale told from a child’s point of view. Without giving away the plot points, the movie isn’t necessarily a children’s film or even a family film. It is a family drama with some of the artistic idealism that only a child has.


There are some known actors featured in Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah but the main character is played convincingly by Christian Convery.


At the end of the day, the film, while done well, is a bit odd. It didn’t resonate with me and while it had its moments, it left me unsatisfied. Perhaps you’ll feel different when you see it.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock Apple TV+ Season 1 Review January 19, 2022 Eclectic Arts

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock

Apple TV +
Reviewed: 1/19/2022

Rating: 5 / 5


(Apple TV +)



The return of the beloved 80’s series Fraggle Rock is nearly upon us. On Friday the 21st the Fraggle Rock universe returns with thirteen fun loving 2022 style episodes on Apple TV +!


If you remember the original Fraggle Rock series that ran for five seasons back in the day, you are already salivating at the chance to see your beloved characters again.


While I do remember the show, I was already in my “too cool for school” phase so I never watched the original series. Like millions, however, I was a fan of The Muppet Show before it.


The new show takes the best of Jim Henson’s creations and adds a balanced dose of today’s technology to create a truly fantastic show. As I watched the first two episodes, I smiled, I laughed, and I actually had to ask myself am I just a big kid? Yes and no. I may be young at heart but “Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock” is quality entertainment for any age.


As the series progressed, it not only maintained the creative quality, in some of the later episodes, it even surpassed it. I feel a lot of people are going to binge the series again and again once all thirteen episodes are available.



(Apple TV +)



I have to add the musical numbers may or may not turn off some viewers. If I had seen this show ten years ago, I most likely would have a different opinion of it. But, now that I’ve been covering live musical theatre for a few years now, I found the music numbers fun and creative without being too over the top or annoying for the non-musical loving viewer. In other words, it should work for most folks.


The nostalgia part does kick in seeing anything from Jim Henson’s Company. The characters with eyelids, the ones with just eyeballs, the eye-catching colors, the crazy hair, etc. If you grew up during the Jim Henson years, you know what I’m talking about.


But, as I mentioned earlier, the show is truly fun for any age. I think kids today would still get a kick out of it as there’s something for everyone. If you don’t like one character, you’re bound to find at least one other that you do like.


I think the next step besides another season of the show is to consider doing a feature length film. After the last two years and some change that we’ve all been through, we need something that is just plain fun. “Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock” delivers on the fun in spades.


Highly recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

NOCTURNA: SIDE A NOCTURNA: SIDE B Film Reviews January 18, 2022 Eclectic Arts

NOCTURNA: SIDE A
The Great Old Man's Night

NOCTURNA: SIDE B
Where The Elephant's Go To Die


Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 1/18/2022


Rating: 4.5 / 5



(Breaking Glass Pictures)



The new foreign film “Nocturna: Side A” and its companion piece “Nocturna: Side B” are fascinating “what’s going on here” type of movies.


A man in his golden years (played expertly by Pepe Soriano) and his wife (the equally wonderful Marilu Marini) live in an apartment that seemingly is either haunted or possessed. There are many scenes where the viewer isn’t sure if the characters are struggling with memory issues or if they’re actually taking place.


Without giving too much away, the film is a wonderful character study between the two characters, with the emphasis on Pepe Soriano. He makes the film work and it’s easy to see how he has had a 50 year plus career. I would love to see more US films utilize the great talent pool that are in their senior years.


The music score is also highly effective and must be mentioned.


“Nocturna: Side B” is more of a companion piece you would find as an extra on the physical release. It is very abstract and tells the same story from a different point of view.


“Nocturna: Side A” is an emotional film that is extremely well done. Recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, January 14, 2022

SHATTERED Film Review January 14, 2022 Eclectic Arts


SHATTERED

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 1/14/2022

Rating: 3 / 5


Available in Select Theaters and On Demand January 14th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 22nd!



(Lionsgate Films)



The new film “Shattered” is a thriller that takes a stab at the “crazy psycho character” genre.


The story is like something from a straight to video movie (remember those back in the day). However, once the two lead characters are established, which happens rather quickly, things progress and the thrills begin.


The shining bright point is Sky (played by Lilly Krug). Lilly Krug commands the screen and watching her character go to crazy lengths is something to behold. Lilly Krug makes this film worth watching for her talent alone.


The rest of the cast and film is either non memorable or throwaway appearances by known veterans (like John Malkovich and Frank Grillo).


“Shattered” could have been a lot more than what was served up in the end. Thankfully, Lilly Krug is not only one of those parts, but easily the best part.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, January 3, 2022

AMERICAN GADFLY Film Review January 3, 2022 Eclectic Arts


AMERICAN GADFLY

Sunpunks Productions
Reviewed: 1/3/2022

Rating: 4 / 5





The new film “American Gadfly” is a well done documentary about a group of high school students that convince Senator Mike Gravel to come out of retirement and run for President of the United States in 2020.


These are no ordinary teens. They are bright, sophisticated, and gung ho about the democratic process. They utilize the best of today’s technology (such as social media) to bring a grassroots campaign into the modern day.


When viewing the film one can’t help but marvel at the creativity the teens bring forth to get this far fetched idea into a very real reality. Idealism be damned as they bring up great points along the way of why Senator Mike Gravel should not only be on the debate stage but in the White House.


It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if one or all of the teens end up involved in politics themselves as they graduate college and start their own careers.


“American Gadfly” is a solid viewing worth your time.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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WHO IS AMOS OTIS? Film Review January 3, 2022 Eclectic Arts


WHO IS AMOS OTIS?

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 1/3/2022

Rating: 4 / 5





The new film “Who Is Amos Otis?” is a compelling courtroom drama with a twist. The plot centers around the trial of Amos Otis who is charged with assassinating the President of the United States.


The bulk of the drama is filmed in the courtroom as the trial is shown from beginning to end. There are some twists to keep things interesting and there will be no spoilers here.


What I immediately thought about “Who Is Amos Otis” was that it would make an interesting play. It was even reminiscent of a play in terms of how it was filmed. So it didn’t come as a shock to find out the source material is a play that the director/writer/producer of the film, Greg Newberry, also wrote and directed.






The film does its best to show just how divided a society we in the U.S. had become during the last presidency. At least that’s what some viewers will assume. So, depending on which side of the aisle you consider yourself, the film may make you nod your head in agreement or shake your head in disbelief.


Any which way you slice it, “Who Is Amos Otis?” is a worthwhile viewing.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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