Saturday, May 31, 2008


During my brother's last visit to Los Angeles, I was showing off my blog to him--specifically, the post on Dweeby TV Heartthrobs that I had just finished before he arrived. At first James demanded equal time with a list of TV's "Mary Ann" type hotties, but later he decided I should do a post (or more accurately, I should post HIS thoughts) on his favorite Pittsburgh set films. Home of the Pirates, the Penguins and the Steelers--as well as my brother James--Pittsburgh is far more picturesque than its name suggests. The Three Rivers, the Triangle, the renovated downtown, the quaint and ethnic neighborhood all make for a visual feast for cinematographers.

So here is his list of favorite hometown flicks (Disclaimer from James: "Keep in mind a large portion of my ranking system is how well the movie showed off my beloved city of Pittsburgh!"):

#5 - INSPECTOR GADGET - Features Matthew Broderick and Dabney Coleman in a typical Disney kids movie. I vaguely remember the cartoon, I didn't enjoy the movie much, but it showed off the city of Pittsburgh (called "Rivertown" in the movie) extremely well. Our beautiful city scape, bridges and the PPG building (easily Pittsburgh's most beautiful building) was the main focus of the film.

#4 - INNOCENT BLOOD - Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Loggia, Angela Bassett, Don Rickles and more big names plus a ton Soprano cast members round out this Mafia Vampire movie. TOTALLY WORTH WATCHING! I loved it and it showed off the 'Burgh great.

#3 - KINGPIN - Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, Randy Quaid. Supposedly Pennsylvania Amish country, but was actually the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh - MURRYSVILLE TO BE EXACT! Great movie filmed where we grew up. Roy Munson's home is actually in my now adopted home town of Trafford. This housing is not indicative of Trafford and even though it looks slummy, it's now very famous. Roy Munson was suppose to be played by Chris Elliot but contract complications with Tostitos prevented that.

#2 - STRIKING DISTANCE - Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Pastorelli, Dennis Farina,Tom Sizemore, Andre Braugher, Brion James and more... WOW! This is what I call bad film, good movie. Fun to watch, excellent car chase scene in the beginning. I spent a lot of time watching the filming from my own boat at the time. This movie really shows off my city great.

#1 - DOMINICK AND EUGENE - Ray Liotta, Jamie Lee Curtis and other big names. Shot in the late 80's, a heart warming type of "Of Mice and Men" type tale. If you don't cry at the end of this movie, you have no soul. Filmed almost entirely on Pittsburgh's South Side, it really catches the blue collar essence of Pittsburghers the way most of outside world thinks of us.

Honorable Mentions:

MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS both filmed in Pittsburgh instead of West Virginia where the stories actually take place.

MONEY FOR NOTHING -Starring John Cusack--was filmed in Pittsburgh instead of Philadelphia.

SCREWED - Features Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito and is surprisingly funny, but you can barely tell it was filmed in Pittsburgh.

THE DEER HUNTER, of course and here's a shocker I hope you see:

THE BREAD MY SWEET- Are you ready? Scott Baio!!!!! Yes, you heard me--Chachi (or Charles in Charge if you prefer...)! Honestly, a surprisingly decent performance in this heart warmer about a successful business man (Baio) who likes to work in an Italian Pastry store in Pittsburgh's Strip District as a chef more or less for fun (like hobby type of fun). When the affable elderly Italian women who owns the store is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he scrambles to find her estranged daughter. The Pittsburgh strip district again synonymous with the blue collar ethnic tradition of Pittsburgh.

And later today I got a voice mail from James saying he forgot this last pick:

#6 - GUNG HO - Ron Howard film starring hometown boy, Michael Keaton. Doesn't really show off the city of Pittsburgh all that well. Most of the recognizable shots are in nearby Beaver--especially the park scene. The film crew built the gazebo especially for the film, and left it as a gift to the city, where it remains today.

And then he called AGAIN to say he forgot a very important entry: George Romero's classic DAWN OF THE DEAD which was filmed on location in the Monroeville Mall. I remember going to the Monroeville Mall often while growing up in Murrysville--thankfully I didn't run into any zombies! James pointed out that the mall was one of the first of its kind in the country--being the largest shopping mall in the United States at the time it was built in 1969. It also had an ice skating rink in the atrium of the bottom floor--although it was converted to a generic mall food court in later years. And Romero was a Carnegie-Mellon University graduate.

Also during our conversation, James remembered ANOTHER flick he left off his list -- HOUSEGUEST starring Sinbad, portions of which were shot at Longview Country Club where James on occasion has played golf. Fortunately, he had to get back to watching the Penguins-Flyers Stanley Cup game or else this post would be even LONGER! James didn't include one of my favorite Pittsburgh-based movies, Wonder Boys. While the movie features excellent performances by Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr. and France McDormand, its real star is the beautiful city of Pittsburgh.

I also stumbled onto some other sources for movies featuring or shot on location in Pittsburgh: the Pittsburgh Film Office which lists 123 films and TV programs that were filmed in James' beloved hometown and Pittsburgh in Hollywood, an organization formed to encourage the interaction between the entertainment industry and the University community (including University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon University, Duquesne University and Point Park College).

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