Best Supporting Player 1999 | Kim Ostrenko | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Sam Shepard's characters are many things: schemers, losers, maligned heroes. But they're rarely female. When women are present, as in the case of Cecilia, a would-be love interest of the protagonist in Shepard's 1994 play Simpatico (produced this past summer by the Florida Shakespeare Theatre, now called GableStage), they're odd ducks, intruders in a strange male universe. Sometimes they get lost amid all the testosterone. That wasn't the case with cast member Kim Ostrenko. The actress may have been playing one of the oddest creatures in the Shepard menagerie, but she deftly embodied all of Cecilia's contradictions, moving from utter blankness to incisive maneuvering in the blink of an eye. She may not have been a star in this play, but Ostrenko's performance was indubitably a star turn.
Any stage designer can put his or her imprint on a show that no one's seen before. But what do you do when you've got to dress up the longest-running musical on or off Broadway? That would be The Fantasticks. The Hollywood Playhouse staged the chestnut as the debut performance under its new management, and nobody who's seen the off-Broadway version could recognize the set. A boy, a girl, and a wall were the basic elements, as they have been for 40 years, but in place of a bare stage and black-box aesthetics, designer David K. Sherman substituted cotton-candy pastels and whimsical costumes. Think the show can't work with an entire palette of cheerful light filters that changed the performance area from pink to blue to midday yellow? Think again. As this production demonstrated, just because a show is timeless doesn't mean it has to be stale.
There was a time when toy stores were small, friendly places where kids could dream and nag their parents for a couple of dollars' worth of playthings they might or might not receive. Now toy stores are sprawling, electronically engorged money traps where young people vie for coolness and make greedy demands. Sports, as the saying goes, is the toy department of life. And as with toys, traditions have been kicked to the curb. Rampant greed has practically become pro sports's selling point rather than the dirty little secret it should be. Athletes are celebrated, even worshipped, the way scholars and artists should be but rarely are. It's all hype. Downright nasty. The players simultaneously act like children and the eaters of children. The pecking order has broken down so that the employees are in charge and the customers (fans) always come last. These sad facts of life threatened to shatter the Miami Fusion soccer team this past summer when Ivo Wortmann came aboard as coach. Long-haired, long-in-the-tooth star player Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama took umbrage at the team's selection of Wortmann, and held his breath until he turned blue. Wortmann, obviously still living in a previous era, held his ground. El Pibe came crawling back. More recently El Pibe threw another hissy fit after Wortmann kept him on the bench longer than El Pibe deemed suitable. El Pibe now plays for Tampa Bay, and Wortmann has proven it's not whether you win or lose, it's who's in charge.
As a head coach, the Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson makes a great general manager. He possesses championship acumen for recruiting, organizing, and training. But when it comes to game day, he falters as a field coach. That, along with a few critical injuries, is why the Dolphins fade in the stretch after teasing their demanding local fans by looking good before early on. Wannstedt has been hired to alleviate the problem. A special position, assistant head coach, was created for the former Chicago Bears head coach. Wannstedt has spent more than half his 24-year career working with Johnson, including three seasons with Dallas, where Wannstedt, as defensive coordinator, took the Cowboys defense from twentieth in the NFL to number one, and where Wannstedt picked up a Super Bowl ring. He also assisted Johnson at Oklahoma State and at the University of Miami. His 'Canes teams of the late Eighties gave up just 10.9 points per game and held opposition runners to an average of 2.2 yards per carry. With Wannstedt handling sideline decision-making, that elusive Super Bowl looms enticingly.

Lovers of legerdemain, practitioners of prestidigitation, converts to conjuring, savants of sleight of hand. In short these folks dabble in the arts arcane. Since 1994 the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 45 (a sufficiently hocus-pocus moniker), has presented its annual convention each fall at the Hotel Formerly Known as the Radisson Aventura Beach Resort. Attendance at the two-day event is limited to the 200 or so semipro or amateur magicians -- mostly guys who bag groceries by day and palm coins by night. If you're serious about learning the tricks, and not putting on a dorky mask and exposing the tricks on Fox while the bald dude from The X-Files makes bad jokes, you're welcome to pay the $65 registration fee and partake of the booths, lectures, and seminars, and find out all about false bottoms, mirrors, wires, and twins. The general public is welcome to attend the Saturday-night gala event (twenty bucks, please), which takes place in the delightfully faded red-velvet splendor of the hotel's Persian Room theater. The big show features as many as six performers from as far away as Israel, Spain, Canada, and Kendall. This year it takes place October 15, 16, and 17, and if you really want to creep yourself out, watch the movie Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins and a dummy, the night before.

How do you improve what is already one of the top stations in Miami? What can be better than having Dwight Lauderdale and Kristi Krueger as anchors, than Rad Berky on the Eye-Team and Michael Putney filing solid political reports? How about adding Kelley Mitchell to the Night Team? Nah, there's no way that would happen, what with her being permanently linked to Rick Sanchez, at least in the public's mind. Yet somehow it has come to pass. Even months after she joined the Night Team, it's still startling to see her filing reports from the WPLG newsroom. Her jarring presence alone makes Channel 10 truly the one to watch.
He's young, he's Cuban, he's got a new book. And he's well worth hearing as well as reading. At one evening reading Blanco showed slides from his childhood in early-Seventies Miami, and read poems that were at once funny, sentimental, and sad. He represents a new generation of Cubans in Miami, who feel Cuba through the memory of their parents rather than the raw exile emotion itself. Blanco writes poetry of an era when his parents' nostalgia for their native home was all-consuming and when Cuban-American life was in its infancy. "None of my brothers or cousins/were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia," Blanco writes in his 1998 debut book, City of a Hundred Fires. And those Brady Bunch neighbors in the new land, "they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving." Blanco remembers smuggling cremitas de leche into the movie theater on Calle Ocho, and the older men outside "clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth/ashamed and empty as hollow trees." The second half of the book consists of Blanco's poetic impressions of the cause of all this passion: Cuba. Lucky for us, Blanco will have more time to explore youth and adulthood in Miami. The Miami Beach resident just quit his job as an engineer to work on his poetry full-time.
"It's the most exciting thing happening on South Beach," Commissioner Nancy Liebman says about the renovation of the once-decrepit Miami Beach Botanical Garden adjacent to the city's convention center. Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but this pocket-size garden is certainly going to be a fun thing to watch grow. Over the past year, more than 100 volunteers have weeded, hauled, pruned, potted, and planted an overgrown four-acre plot, which includes a Japanese garden, a glass conservatory, and ponds, turning it into a lush little attraction that even most locals don't know exists. Now that the garden is being spruced up, more events have been scheduled, including plant sales, classes in orchid and palm growing, concerts, and workshops sponsored by the Florida Master Gardeners. Another draw is the intergenerational vegetable garden, which joins kids with old folks to harvest peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs. A charming gift shop features homemade jellies, jams, flavored vinegars, and other edibles in addition to postcards and books. The best part is that while the renovations continue (at least until the new millennium), admission is free. The garden is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m.

"Damn you all!" Channel 6 (WTVJ-TV) anchor Tony Segreto nearly shouted as much when he delivered the news on January 13: Jimmy Johnson was expected to resign as Miami Dolphins head coach. Word would come at a news conference the next day. The bombshell had dropped without any context (why in the world was the successful and popular Johnson quitting?) so Segreto and, to be sure, several other broadcasters, groped for their own. The fans, he speculated with a frowny face, were responsible. The fans who didn't show J.J. enough love. The talk-radio callers who had the temerity to criticize Johnson for losing by five touchdowns to Denver and for failing to win that Super Bowl championship he had promised. It was a strange attack. Criticism of Johnson was certainly no fiercer than any other coach receives elsewhere in the NFL. And since when do "Bob from Plantation" and "Chuck on a mobile" wield that much clout? When Johnson finally took the podium at Dolphins headquarters in Davie, he explained that he was merely a 55-year-old workaholic struggling to balance work and family. He was not quitting as a coach, he said, only ratcheting down his workload. As for the talk that fan criticism threatened to run him out of town? Groundless. That night Segreto delivered the news with a big smile.
Six major studios, owned by global conglomerates such as Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch's NewsGroup, control Hollywood, determining what films get made, how they're made, and how they're made available to the public. This nation's film industry is driven by one thing and one thing only: market share. If the stock prices drop, so does the other shoe. Which is why the chances of a mainstream movie being worth seven bucks admission are about as likely as François Truffaut springing from the grave to remake Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Which is why there are film festivals.

Spawned at Cannes and reinvigorated by Sundance, film fests now number in the thousands. Besides gathering together cineastes and celebrating the medium, these events should provide the opportunity for ordinary Joes and Janes to see films inspired by artistic vision rather than by test screenings, tracking indicators, and gross-after-negative point returns. The Miami Film Festival falls short by drawing heavily on movies that are either corporate releases or prize winners from other festivals, and by overloading its schedule with Latin fare.

The much less calculated Fort Lauderdale event follows a populist policy, disregarding potential carping by critics and taking an aggressive approach. Films shouldn't be made for critics, and growth maintenance may be good for events, but it's not good for filmgoers. FLIFF's Gregory von Hausch has defined his event's mission as giving opportunity to young filmmakers and bringing films to South Florida that would not otherwise show here. At this past fall's FLIFF, one-third (43 out of 120) of the movies were by first-time directors. Features were acquired from Iran, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Algeria, as well as North and South America. FLIFF also has reached out with sidebar events, called minifests, in Miami, Hollywood, and Boca.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®