Malignant (James Wan, 2021)

I met James Wan once. He came to the Metro for a pre-release screening of Saw some 15-20 years ago, whenever it was that movie came out. He seemed like a nice enough guy, not all the filmmakers who came through the Metro in my time there did. So, having seen him in person, I can be sure he is, in fact, real. I’m not so sure about anything else related to the movie Malignant. It claims to have been written by people, performed by actors, and filmed in places. But I do have my doubts.

I thought a lot about fakeness when watching Malignant, and about how it’s not exactly the same as phoniness. None of the environments in the movie look real, and certainly not much of it was filmed in Seattle, where its story is set. There’s a series of establishing shots midway through the movie, aerial footage of the city skyline during a rainstorm. Except it’s very obviously not raining in the footage: it’s been added digitally. Way too much of it in fact. Hollywood usually gets Seattle rain wrong, of course. Torrential downpours are rare here–it’s more that we have a constant light drizzle and overcast skies. But this isn’t just that amount of rain, it’s the fact that it doesn’t seem to interact at all with the environment that makes it look so fake. Similarly, there’s very little effort put toward making the city seem like an actual city. Sure, there are establishing shots and location name drops and even a little bit of the Seattle Underground Tour (another thing which I know is real, because I’ve been on it), but like the rain with the land, the locations don’t appear to interact with the actors or the story in any real way.

Of course, the Underground at least does interact with it metaphorically, with the (historically correct) idea that the current city was built on top of the damaged remnants of the original Seattle, which still exists, dark and forgotten, below the city’s downtown areas. What makes Malignant more than just a bad movie is that its fakery is real, whereas the fakery of something like an MCU action sequence is phony. Phony is fake that is also a lie. Malignant‘s heroine’s life (at least parts of it for sure, but I’d suggest that maybe a lot else besides, include the gorgeous house that looks like no one has ever lived in it and the mysterious haunted castle that was supposedly a hospital are fake too) is revealed to be a simulation, induced by her subconscious (or evil twin or whatever) to pacify her while it runs around doing all kinds of awful things (many of which are literally physically impossible, but not metaphorically, and look fake, but still plausible, and are therefore not phony). Her id, if you will, is released by a physical trauma (her abusive husband–reminder that head injuries are always serious and should be treated as such, especially if they’re bleeding: check for concussion, insist that your doctor order a CT scan!), but it was there all along. A fake world terrorized by a backwards monster running around creating chaos and distorting reality with reckless abandon. It’s the true story of America in the 21st century.

The 2016 Seattle Film Poll


Once again this year, we here at Seattle Screen Scene asked a selection of local critics, programmers, and filmmakers to send us their Top Ten lists for the year and in an extremely close race, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle just edged out Barry Jenkins’s MoonlightMountains May Depart, from Chinese director Jia Zhangke tied with Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship for third place, while Kirsten Johnson’s documentary Cameraperson took fifth.

Here is our Top Ten:


1. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)


2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)


3. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)


3. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)


5. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)


6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)


6. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)


8. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (aka Kill Zone 2) (Soi Cheang)


9. The Love Witch (Anna Biller)


10. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)


10. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo)

Full results are listed after the break, along with each voter’s individual ballot.

Continue reading “The 2016 Seattle Film Poll”

SIFF 2016: Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell (Martin Bell, 2016)

Screenshot 2016-05-27 at 12.58.39 PM

Not quite sure what the purpose is of this 30-year return to one of the subjects from Streetwise, the essential documentary on homeless youth. Turns out life sucks when you have ten kids, some born from prostitution and raised by the state, and are on methadone. Feels like more of a supplement than its own standalone feature, especially since much of it consists of Erin watching and commenting on moments from Streetwise but hey, if it gets Streetwise back into circulation, I’m for it.

Episode 1: The Big Sleep and Fire Walk with Me


This is the debut episode of The Frances Farmer Show. Each episode we talk about an older movie and a newer movie and a bunch of other things besides, with a special, but by no means exclusive, look at cinematic goings-on in the Seattle area. This week, we discuss Howard Hawks’s 1946 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film noir The Big Sleep and David Lynch’s prequel to his acclaimed early 90s television series Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. We also take a look back at last week’s Oscars, a look ahead to what’s coming to Seattle Screens and a look all around the career of David Lynch.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

Our Top Ten Films of the Seattle Year (So Far)

We are halfway through the year 2015, and as our our national tradition, let us celebrate with a list. Normally, we are strict believers that a film’s date should be determined by the time it first played before an audience anywhere in the world (we use the imdb for this purpose). But here at Seattle Screen Scene, we are, of course, focused primarily on Seattle, and so we will deviate from policy and present our lists of the Top 10 Films of 2015 as determined by the date they first premiered before a Seattle audience. Here they are.

Mike’s Top 10:


10. The Clouds of Sils Maria (podcast review)

little forest

9.  Little Forest (Summer/Fall/Winter/Spring)


8. R100 (review)


7. Buzzard (review)

tiger mountain

6. The Taking of Tiger Mountain (review)


5. A Matter of Interpretation (review)

film critic

4. The Film Critic (review)


3. Blackhat (podcast)

big father

2. Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories (review)

Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), the main and most important of 11-year-old Riley’s five Emotions, explores Long Term Memory in Disney•Pixar's

1. Inside Out (podcast)

Sean’s Top 10:

10. The Taking of Tiger Mountain (review)


9. Selma


8. A Matter of Interpretation (review)


7. Phoenix


6. Jauja (review and podcast)


5. The Royal Road (review)WorldOfTomorrow-970x545

4. World of Tomorrow


3. Mad Max: Fury Road


2. Mistress America (review)


1. Blackhat (podcast)

Spotlight on Cinema Books

Update June 11th, 2015: Last week, Stephanie Ogle announced she would be closing her beloved store, Cinema Books, later this summer. We’ve long been fans and patrons of the store (it was, in fact, the very first place I went the day I moved to Seattle almost 17 years ago), and Stephanie has always been helpful to us in our various projects, either in finding books on Hou Hsiao-hsien, photos of Hollywood starlets or in providing prizes for our old Metro Classics trivia contests (she mentioned that one of those old gift certificates was used this week, in fact). We’ll be sad to see the store go, the latest in a string of closings and transformations that has turned the Seattle movie scene I knew into something else entirely. Shortly after we launched the site here, Mike interviewed Stephanie, and we’re rerunning that below in place of our Featured Film this week.

cinema books logo

Seattle is a unique and vibrant film town. We have the best video store in the world in Scarecrow, which carries over 120,000 titles. Our film festival began in 1976 and is now the largest in the country, playing more films per year than any other. A year after SIFF premiered, our local film noir series debuted and it is just as popular now as it was four decades ago. Also in 1977, a specialty bookstore opened on Capitol Hill that was dedicated solely to film.

Cinema Books Sign
Photos by stupidhead

Now located in the University District, Cinema Books is owned and operated by the invaluable Stephanie Ogle. Stephanie is the key to the glorious, overflowing stacks of her store. Classic stills of John Wayne in Red River are buried in a backroom and only Stephanie knows where. Little Totoros pop up here and there. There are posters, postcards and imported magazines but most of all, there are books. Cinema Books carries every conceivable type of writing on film. There are screenplays, coffee table books on Disney animation, and in-depth interviews with directors.

Cinema Books Stephanie

Stephanie graciously agreed to sit down with Seattle Screen Scene to talk about her shop’s history, the diversity of film obsessions, and of course, submarines.

Continue reading “Spotlight on Cinema Books”

Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993)


The middle film in the Ephron/Ryan trilogy that defined the romantic comedy from 1988 (When Harry Met Sally…) to 1998 (You’ve Got Mail), is back on the screen this week at the Central Cinema. Meg Ryan plays an affianced journalist (Bill Pullman is her Bellamy) who happens upon a late night talk show where she hears the sad story of recently widowed Tom Hanks and his precocious son. Instantly in love, Ryan struggles for most of the film with the weirdness of her feelings, ultimately leading to a meeting at the top of the Empire State Building.

Continue reading Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993)”