Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace! (2012) by Mike Messier

Theatrical poster for BLOOD! SUGAR! SID! ACE!

Theatrical poster for BLOOD! SUGAR! SID! ACE! – image source: https://bloodsugarsidace.wordpress.com/

“I am not a prophet. I’m a filmmaker!”

Like a stage play written for a small ensemble cast, Mike Messier’s “Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace!” (2012) is replete with such throwaway lines as the one featured above. Produced by Man and a Camera Films in association with Stand Still Pictures, the film features Messier’s writing and directing talents. Tim Labonte handles both cinematography and editing, while also producing along with Messier.

“This is my attempt at a low-budget, character-driven, psychological drama.”

As the title suggests, the film has four characters. The protagonist, Sid (Lawrence O’Leary), is an aging writer and filmmaker who struggles internally to overcome the ghosts of his past, who constantly remind him of the specter of failure that looms over his career. Hence the film is a psychological drama.

Given the other characters, it plays more like a dark comedy. The closest metaphor for their internal roles in Sid’s mind is psychoanalytic. Sugar (Stacey Forbes Iwanicki) functions like his superego, constantly reminding him of his high standards and his failings. Blood (Jami Tennille) is all id. She reminds him of his past relationships, especially those with women. She also challenges his artistic and spiritual aspirations and failings.

Understandably, Sid does not like what he hears from Sugar and Blood. At one point, early in the film, he exclaims, “The voices in my head piss me off!” Hence he creates Ace, a younger version of himself, to be his fictional mouthpiece. The tables are turned, however, when Ace rebels and, like Lucifer, claims to have surpassed his creator.

The Biblical reference is intentional. There is quite a bit of spiritual and religious content in the dialogue. While this likely represents (at least in part) Messier’s personal spiritual journey, it is also a commentary on the more mundane process of creating a fictional world as a writer. Sid finds that it is hard to be the God of his own creation. It seems to be more like herding cats than controlling destinies. In this way, Sid’s relationship to his characters is more akin to that of a deity to a mortal in Ancient Greek mythology than to any Judaeo-Christian metaphor.

“Metaphors are the ‘easy lays’ of language.”

All of the above makes it seem as if I, the reviewer, have some kind of handle on this film. In truth, there is a lot that I do not understand. It is likely that there are inside jokes that I do not “get.” Also there are probably idiosyncratic meanings in the film that are best interpreted by Messier himself.

However, it seems as if the cast and crew of the film have a clear understanding of Messier’s vision for the film and their roles in it. Each part is confidently presented; the relationships among the characters ring true. The cinematography makes creative use of light and shadows and a deceptively minimalist production design in shooting the film’s monologues and dialogues. The music, which includes original compositions (including the song that plays over the closing credits, which is performed by O’Leary, its composer), nicely complements the visuals. The sound captures the actors words as if they are on a stage, which seems to have been intentional. The editing is well done in terms of cuts, although I feel that the overall result runs a bit long.

Overall, “Blood! Sugar! Sid! Ace!” (2012) is a wry, sardonic look into the psyche of a middle-aged writer-director. It has an art-house flavor, leaning heavily on monologue and dialogue to carry its story-line, with help from thoughtfully-rendered lighting, set design, and music. As such, it will not appeal to the average film fan. However, it is likely to play well in the indie film community and in the world of contemporary theater. It is a film for filmmakers, writers, and other creative types.