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In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.

American Heart (1992)

Hollywood has its way with cities, especially ours. It is funny to think how most movies that feature Seattle have a tendency to gloss over the grungier side of our city (that is what made us famous, right?) in favor of a romantic, color-rich, tourist brochure of all the fancy places you could visit and all the quirky people you could meet. When I first moved to Seattle in 1996, I only had one city in mind, and that was the Seattle I had seen two dozen times in the movie American Heart. Made in 1992, back in grunge's heyday, filmmaker Martin Bell knew Seattle's mean streets, the colors (gray, gray, gray!), the concrete places and buildings, and the heroin haze that had soaked into the city's sleepy atmosphere. And that he should know, after having made the amazing documentary Streetwise about a group of street kids growing up in a dour early 80s Seattle back before Starbucks and the dot com boom breathed life back into the region's economy. American Heart is loosely based on a father/son relationship established in Streetwise: Jeff Bridges (virtually unrecognizable, sporting a fat moustache, waist-length hair and a serious prison six-pack) plays an ex-con recently released from prison who is re-united with his young son (Edward Furlong). They travel along the Washington highways and byways to reach Seattle, and after some good old father and son squabbles, they decide to make a life of it together in the city. There's plenty of the old rag-tag Seattle in here, and a lot of it ain't too pretty, but oddly nostalgic for those of us who have lived here long enough to know it. All the street kids hang out at the "sunken ship" parking garage down on Yesler and 1st. Downtown is, well, Downtown, replete with the gospel street singers and the sad Yuppies shopping at Westlake. Bridges gets a job as a window washer, so you get some magnificent shots of Elliott Bay and the Washington State ferries criss-crossing through the water. There's even a rain-soaked hot-dog picnic over at Alki Beach. My favorite stuff though is seeing couples drunkenly swaying to Tom Waits at Eastlake's historic Zoo Tavern, and we get a grand tour of the now-defunct but always fondly remembered Lusty Lady and all the glories she held within her darkened doors. I watched the movie recently with some friends and I got really excited when my friend recognized her house in Wallingford. I learn something new, and old, about Seattle every time I watch American Heart.
--Jason Dodson

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