Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
BEST LOCAL WRITER Thomas Harris The creator of one of modern fiction's most deeply etched, enduring, and beloved -- if that's the right adjective to describe a cannibalistic serial killer -- characters lives right here, somewhere in Miami-Dade County. Thomas Harris, the author of four novels, three of them devoted at least in part to the escapades of murderous psychiatrist Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, is extraordinarily reclusive. What is known is Harris's painstaking attention to realistic detail; he spent nearly six years trailing FBI profilers in Quantico, Virginia, and studied the case histories of hundreds of criminally insane killers before Red Dragon was published in 1981. Less widely praised is the author's vivid, expressive wordsmithing, which far exceeds the standard of even good police procedurals and is less evocative of the hardboiled street toughness of James Elroy than it is the nightmarishly gory surrealism of Edgar Allan Poe and Clive Barker. It's a prose style made outstanding by an omniscient narrator's keen observation of personal details and nuanced behaviors -- the very foundation of the study of abnormal psychology. Jonathan Demme's cinematic adaptation of the second Lecter tale, 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, cemented the psychopath's role as an American horror genre figure. Ted Tally's script was awesome, but some of its most lingeringly piercing phrases came directly from Harris. When Hannibal Lecter first meets the fledgling but capable FBI agent Clarice Starling, his insult isn't macabre, merely cruel, but nearly feminine in its precision: "You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste ... you're not more than one generation from poor white trash." Starling eventually earns Lecter's support in her casework and even his affection -- a dubious achievement -- but Harris eschews happiness for his protagonists. At the conclusion of Hannibal, Starling ends up dining on fava beans, Chianti, and a human liver with Lecter; an earlier hero, Jack Crawford, is also driven to a desperate breakdown. Peter Webber, who made Girl with a Pearl Earring, is preparing to shoot Young Hannibal in Prague while Harris is writing the novel Behind the Mask, which will be published this fall. The characters in the Lecter series have no connection to Florida. However, in Harris's first book, 1975's Black Sunday, Palestinian terrorists and a disgruntled military veteran create chaos at a Super Bowl held at the Orange Bowl.
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE The Constant Wife Coconut Grove Playhouse The Playhouse's hit revival had so many fine performances, it is only fair to fully credit them all. Alicia Roper was regally serene in the title role, beautifully matched by Greg Wood as her duplicitous husband, Nancy Dussault as her wisecracking mother, and Dan Olmstead as her once and future swain. Take those delicious ingredients, stir in Ian D. Clark, Susan Wilder, Ursula Freundlich, Pilar Uribe, and Dan Schiff, and out pops one tasty soufflé of an ensemble show.
BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WHILE INTOXICATED Beer Pong Hooligan´s Pub & Oyster Bar
9555 S. Dixie Highway
www.hooliganspub.com Every Thursday night at 9:00 Hooligan's offers a chance for everyone (yes, the distaff included) to get their balls wet. On one of the Ping-Pong tables brought into the pub for this event, each contestant is required to arrange ten cups of beer (sort of like bowling pins). Opponents then get on either side and attempt to bounce a table-tennis ball into the other team's hops. Each time a player scores, the other team must drink. Because a person has to be pretty much drunk before indulging in such a game, a few misses are to be expected. This makes it even more fun, seeing as the ball will no doubt end up landing on the grimy floor a few times before plopping into its intended target. The object is to make the opposing side drink all ten cups of beer -- including any carpet lint, dust, and other fluff. Yummy.
BEST ACTOR David Kwiat Kwiat's performance as the dying oddball physicist Richard Feynman in QED (at GableStage) was in production a full year ago. Award competitions such as the Oscars often have short memories in such cases, but all these months later Kwiat's funny, touching portrait of one man's search for peace and meaning still resonates, an exceptional example of an exceptional actor's style: understated, deeply felt, and fully alive.
BEST ACTRESS Angelica Torn No doubt about it. This year's nod goes to Angelica Torn, who tore up the stage in her fierce, memorable portrait of poet Sylvia Plath in EDGE at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Torn used a deliberately off-putting, disconnected persona to portray the troubled writer. But her flat, atonal vocal delivery and disheveled demeanor masked a volcanic emotional life that erupted in brief spasms of sudden anguish. The result was indelible: frightening, sarcastic, pitiable, courageous.
BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY Bishop Victor T. Curry WMBM-AM (1490) Imagine your average radio talk show. A couple of hosts prattle on about the news, sports, and entertainment while occasionally taking calls from agitated listeners. Now imagine that wrapped in scripture and gospel music, and you'll have the wonderful Morning Glory show, which airs weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with an extra two hours added on Tuesdays. Especially when it comes to controversial subjects, it's easy to get riled (a number of callers certainly do) and say to yourself, I wish I knew more about scripture so I could actually argue with the good reverend. That's the point.
Readers´ Choice: Neil Rogers, WQAM-AM (560)
BEST ART CINEMA Miami Beach Cinematheque 512 Española Way
www.mbcinema.com This intimate venue offers exhibitions, performance art, photography, dance, combinations thereof, and of course film. Loads of quirky, interesting film festivals touch down here: the Next Gen International Film Festival; the Subtropics Film Festival; Resfest 2005; and Microcinema International's series of edgy, avant-garde short shorts, Independent Exposure X. While The Aviator was gathering Oscars, this place was showing actual Howard Hughes productions. A given month at the Cinematheque provides fans of short, classic, and foreign films much to cheer about. And at the end of each month there's Miss Shelley Novak, the fabulous, knowledgeable drag queen who presents an entertaining and frequently bawdy screening as an apt precursor to crobar's sexy Back Door Bamby shindig.
BEST ART GALLERY Bernice Steinbaum Gallery 3550 N. Miami Avenue
www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com It is getting difficult to choose from among the growing array of high-quality art galleries gracing our strip-mall-and-condo town. If the mega-event Art Basel is any barometer of gallery hierarchy, then the royal court is composed of Fredric Snitzer, Diana Lowenstein, Genaro Ambrosino, and Bernice Steinbaum, the four locals whose galleries were accepted to the main fair this past December. Steinbaum has been in Miami four years, barely long enough to discover the mix of opportunity and immaturity that dominates all aspects of life here. Yet in that short time the New York art-world veteran has distinguished her gallery through consistently strong offerings from some of Miami's most intriguing artists, such as Edouard Duval-Carrie, Glexis Novoa, Peter Sarkisian, Elizabeth Cerejido, and Hung Liu. Her Website touts the BSG's emphasis on female and minority artists: The roster is half female and about 35 percent minority.
BEST ART MUSEUM Bass Museum of Art 2121 Park Avenue
305-673-7530 Two years ago Bass Museum executive director and chief curator Diane Camber was ready to go medieval on the engineers who oversaw the construction of the museum's current home one block west of Collins Avenue. From a leaky roof to broken floor beams to the climate control system that forced the Bass to shut down for several months in 2003, Miami Beach's storied art institution was in shambles. But the City of Miami Beach, which owns the museum building and splits operating costs with Bass support groups, got its act together and fixed the problems. Camber can now proudly display the magical works of Renaissance and Baroque masters Sandro Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens, Ferdinand Bol, Jacob Jordaens, and others in the Bass permanent collection. Through June 26 the museum is also offering a look at the Central Park public art project The Gates by Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. The Bass is showing off a collection of preparatory drawings, collages, and photographs covering more than 40 years of the artistic couple's work, including a quarter-century of planning designs for their most recent project in New York. After taking a tour of the museum, grab a bite to eat at the indoor café. The Bass is open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. General admission is six dollars, four dollars for seniors and students.
BEST BOOK BY A LOCAL AUTHOR Come with Me, Sheba by Preston L. Allen Another convoluted Magic City tale, written in a style that lurches between Charles Willeford's blunt prose and Carl Hiaasen's hysteria, the story Allen has concocted is unmistakably Miamian. A mystery man, an oddball millionaire, and a violent criminal who goes by the unfortunate nickname "Lethal Coon" revolve around the title protagonist in this adrenalized revel by the author of Hoochie Mama and Churchboys and Other Sinners.
Readers´ Choice: Anything by Dave Barry
BEST BUS RIDE Route 102/Route B Riding the entire length of Metrobus Route 102 and its Key Biscayne connector, Route B, you don't see all of Miami-Dade County, and yet you do. This trip is expansive in geography and culture, traveling as it does from one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States (once home to Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, faithful pal of President Richard Nixon) to Hialeah (home to many Latin American immigrants who serve the needs of those in the 149). The circuitous, meandering route also passes by Government Center Metrorail Station in downtown Miami, Crandon Park, and Cape Florida State Park. But Route 102's true charm is its median destination, Miami International Airport. So there is, after all, a way to get to the airport that doesn't involve a taxi, private limo service, or being forever beholden to friend or neighbor. And it costs only $1.50.
BEST COMEBACK (ANIMAL KINGDOM) Miami Blue Butterfly Once more prevalent than cars on 836, the Miami Blue (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri) wasn't doing so well thanks to humans and, mostly, their always encroaching development. (Habitat loss, natural disasters, and mosquito-reduction spraying are the three biggest destroyers of little flying things in South Florida.) It was even thought to be extinct after Hurricane Andrew charged through in 1992, but the bug was still hanging on -- roughly 50 of them hiding out at Bahia Honda State Park. The tiny blue-winged insect was destined to be wiped out during the next big blow, but thanks to a University of Florida breeding program, the Miami Blue is on the rebound instead. Several generations have been bred in captivity and hundreds were recently released into the wild. To keep an eye on the high-minded effort to preserve a bit of nature's bounty, check with the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (www.miamiblue.org or 305-666-5727).