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Our "Best of" voters show us the city through a different lens

Pittsburgh has always been a little obsessed with how it's portrayed in the movies. And who can blame us? The rivers in Striking Distance are much cleaner than they are in reality, which may be why our readers chose it as the best Pittsburgh-based film. But any movie has the power to transform. Your average welder doesn't look anywhere near as good as Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. And the zombies populating Monroeville Mall? They look far more sophisticated in George Romero's movies than they do in real life.

But maybe there's another reason we get so excited when the film crews descend. The script we originally wrote for ourselves -- the story about gritty people making their way in America's industrial heartland -- has undergone a dramatic rewrite in recent years. And whenever a movie comes to town, we see how easy it could be to reinvent ourselves, even if just for a couple of takes. Even if a preening actress refers to us as "Shitsburgh" while pouting in her hotel room. Even if the movie itself turns out to be a bit of a dog.

So for this year's "Best of Pittsburgh" issue, we asked several winners to cast themselves in the kind of movie they'd want to star in. You might not recognize them at first, and when you do, you might have to suspend a bit of disbelief. But hey, that's how films get made -- and sometimes cities too.

And if nothing else, they -- and the rest of this year's finalists -- prove that Pittsburgh really is ready for its close-up.

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