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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 16, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Vancouver as Seattle (almost)

I try hard not to talk back to movie characters; they’ve got their own issues, and don’t need me muddying things up. But last night I almost did, at an otherwise good movie I won’t name (it was screening many weeks ahead of opening, and reviews are embargoed) that was set in “Seattle,” which I’m putting in quotation marks because it was that movie version of Seattle that’s otherwise known as Vancouver, B.C. A character, speaking of things in his life that he hasn’t gotten around to doing yet, said melodramatically, “I’ve never even been to Canada!” He says this while sitting in a Vancouver park, and it took all the restraint I have to not say, um, dude, yes you have.
Those of us who live in Seattle have gotten used to seeing Vancouver dressed up as our city on the big screen, with just enough real Seattle thrown in so as to fool the non-natives, such as Al Pacino driving along the Alaska Way Viaduct and emerging onto the University of British Columbia campus moments later in “88 Minutes,” or the rain-soaked Seattle skyline in TV’s “The Killing.” This may be something I’m especially sensitive to, as I’ve lived in both cities (grew up in Vancouver; lived in Seattle since college) and enjoy playing spot-the-landmark. But, as a tip to all the production companies saving money (supposedly) by shooting north of the border, here are just a few things you might want to avoid (all of which I saw on screen last night):
— Any sign with the word “Washroom.”
— A sign referring to a lane rather than an alley
— A residential lane, for that matter, with speedbumps. (I have seen these in Vancouver, but not Seattle as far as I know — anyone?)
— Street signs in Vancouver’s standard white on black, rather than Seattle’s white on green. Mixing these up just looks disorganized.
These are, granted, subtleties, and I’ve seen far worse offenders. (Can’t remember the name of the movie, but I know I saw one that had signs in French — something we don’t see often in Seattle.) But they distract me and take me out of the movie. Any other Northwest movie watchers feel the same way?

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