Gaga in Gotham -- 10 reasons why we loved Batman in the 'Burgh


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Earlier this month, a writer for the sports and pop culture website Grantland addressed how Pittsburgh tumbled for the Tumbler and all things Batman.

After showing Pittsburgh some love and lamenting the Pirates' downturn, Andy Greenwald wrote: "We understand the last thing yinz need right now is a whole nother thing. So please take the following with a grain of salt and a sandwich with french fries jammed in the middle but it needs to be said: Pittsburgh, you have got to put the cell phones down."

He suggested we all "do as the Steelers do in the Super Bowl and act like you've been here before." Although plenty of Steelers had phones or cameras in hand, making their own record of their glory days.

PG VIDEO: IT'S A WRAP

The Pittsburgh region has been a hub of filmmaking for nearly a century, but if people got giddy over "The Dark Knight Rises," they had good reasons. Here's one last list and final batch of photos:

1. It's Batman -- He's been around since 1939, and even if you have never picked up a comic book or seen a cartoon or movie, you probably dropped a Snickers bar in a Caped Crusader's pillowcase on Halloween.

2. Face time -- Not since director-actor Danny DeVito entertained questions in 1992 about "Hoffa" has a production held a formal press conference or briefing.

Mr. DeVito didn't bring Jack Nicholson, but director Christopher Nolan appeared with star Christian Bale and two producers, plus the mayor, county executive and governor. The leading man spoke for about a minute, but it was more than Taylor Lautner said on the record during "Abduction."

3. Cinematic certainty -- Anyone can make a movie today, but not everyone can get it into theaters locally or globally. Remember the Julianne Moore movie "Shelter" that never surfaced? "The Dark Knight Rises" will open July 20, 2012, and could follow its predecessor to the list of top-grossing movies of all time.

4. Snow days! -- When Sally Field came to Pittsburgh in 1996 to direct ABC's "The Christmas Tree" at Hartwood Acres, crew members created the white stuff with ice, soapy foam, cotton and an orange tank of "Unreal Snow" that dispensed a white powder that could be washed away.

It was good but the chopped-up combo of reclaimed paper and nonwoven fiber, courtesy of Snow Business Hollywood, was better. It clung to hair and clothes, but no one scooping souvenir handfuls into Ziploc bags seemed to mind.

5. Hiding in plain sight -- Other movies have been here for longer stretches, but none has worked in the heart of Downtown for days at a time during picture-perfect weather. So if a few hundred people strolling down Smithfield or Wood Street took out their camera phones, who could blame them?

6. Field trip, part one -- Take the chance to be in a Batman movie, add free entry to Heinz Field and throw in some Steelers and former coach Bill Cowher and you, my friend, just won the lottery. True, many unpaid extras wilted in their seats, but others slurped enough free water to keep themselves hydrated and happy, if still hot.

7. Field trip, part two -- Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, baby sitters and nice neighbors brought children of all ages, some in Batman T-shirts or capes, to Oakland or Downtown to catch a glimpse of the Tumbler or Batman. Many made a day out of it, splashing in the PPG Place Plaza fountain, posing next to the nearby dinosaurs and stopping for lunch or a snack.

8. Brawling bonanza -- Days were spent with Batman, the villainous Bane, cops and crooks fake fighting on the steps of the Mellon Institute, doubling as Gotham City Hall. IMAX scene, here it comes.

9. Cool vehicles -- The old-school Batmobile wasn't in view and a Lamborghini that everyone rushed to photograph in Oakland was, it turned out, just visiting and not part of the set. But there were camouflage Tumblers, police cars, SWAT vans, Batwings, military trucks, taxi cabs, a school bus, cement mixers and the two-wheeled Bat-Pod on hand, along with choppers in the air.

10. Cooler cast -- The Batman team, both in front of the cameras and behind, is as rich in talent as the 1960 Pirates, the Stanley Cup-winning Pens or Super Bowl Steelers (pick your year for each).

Director Nolan is a three-time Oscar nominee for writing "Memento" and producing and writing best picture contender "Inception." Cinematographer Wally Pfister won an Academy Award for "Inception" and was nominated three other times.

Mr. Bale is an Oscar winner for "The Fighter," Marion Cotillard for "La Vie en Rose," Morgan Freeman for "Million Dollar Baby," Michael Caine for "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "The Cider House Rules," and Anne Hathaway is a nominee for "Rachel Getting Married."


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her Mad About the Movies blog at www.post-gazette.com/movies .


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