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.

Although the Herald's Joan Fleischman remains the gold standard of gossip in these parts, José Lambiet is a welcome new voice. Since landing a column this past September, the Sun-Sentinel's "South Florida Insider" has broken plenty of juicy news nuggets: a paternity lawsuit filed against former Marlins slugger Gary Sheffield; a snit between (WFOR-TV) Channel 4 anchor Angela Rae and poet Maya Angelou; and actor Jamie Foxx filing charges against On Any Sunday costar LL Cool J after a fight scene in the production of Oliver Stone's new movie turned all-too real. A self-described "go-where-the-action-is kind of guy," Lambiet covers all of South Florida, from South Beach, where figure-skating pixie Tara Lipinski avoided the line at Tiramesu, to Palm Beach County, where boxer Michael Moore was sucker-punched at the Boca Raton Mezzanote. Lambiet even ventured down to a Little Havana outlet store to report on the purchase of a trash can by ballplayer Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Ever scrupulous, Lambiet disclosed that the can was a Rubbermaid.
"I've never done anything like this before," says Tina Osterling, a Tampa native visiting the Russian and Turkish baths for the first time. "It's so cool, or I guess, hot." She and a half-dozen others sat in bathing suits, sweating amid a swirling mass of steam said to reach temperatures as high as 160 degrees. Every few minutes she and the others seated on the top tier of the red-tiled Russian Radiant Room poured cups full of ice water over their heads to quell the raging heat. Visitors can also inhale eucalyptus and peppermint herbs in the Aroma Therapy Room, soak in the 100-degree saltwater Jacuzzi, sweat in the redwood sauna or the dry steam of the Turkish Room, play tennis, swim in the Olympic-size pool, tan on the sundeck, and work out in the fully equipped gym. A freezing cold plunge pool and Swedish shower are sure to reinvigorate even the most sluggish soul. If all that activity is too much, a Relaxation Room offers bunk beds where patrons can catch a few winks. It's all included in the $20 entrance fee. Those in need of some fortification can make their way to the dining room for sandwiches, beer, wine, salads, or freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices. For a little extra gelt, visitors can indulge in a massage, herbal bath, colonic, or mud treatment. The baths are open to women and men daily from noon to midnight.
County Commissioner Katy Sorenson is a politician devoid of subterfuge. There are no hidden agendas with her. She is exactly the way she seems: honest, sincere, forthright. Others may not agree with her positions on civic issues, but no one questions her integrity. The past twelve months marked Sorenson's best year on the commission since her arrival in 1994. She successfully led the charge to pass a gay rights ordinance. She was the first politician to speak out in favor of saving the Miami Circle. And she was one of only two commissioners brave enough to say the county needs to increase its sales tax as a dedicated source of transportation funding. Four years ago when she beat Larry Hawkins, Sorenson was an unknown. Voters weren't really voting for her as much as they were voting against Hawkins, who had become mired in allegations of sexual harassment. This past fall Sorenson won re-election, and this time the victory was all hers.
Not only do they own some of the hippest hotels in Miami Beach (the Albion, the Greenview, and the soon-to-open Beach House in Bal Harbour), but the Rubells -- Mera, Don, and offspring Jennifer and Jason -- together possess the finest private collection of contemporary art in Florida. "There are few collections of its equal anywhere in the world," insists David A. Ross, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "I'm jealous." Many of the works, too big or too daring for the average museum, reveal this family's taste for the strange, humorous, and irreverent. The paintings, installations, photos, sculptures, and videos by artists such as Paul McCarthy, Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente, Sherry Levine, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Charles Ray, and Cindy Sherman are exhibited in a former warehouse once used by the Drug Enforcement Administration. There is no fee for admission, but be forewarned: This stuff hasn't passed the censors. One depicts dozens of naked mannequins sprawling on the floor engaged in oral sex. In another a young boy is encouraged to get it on with a goat. Bring the kids at your own discretion. And risk. The collection is open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Best Boxing Figure To Die In The Past Year

Chris Dundee

Dundee, elder brother of legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, was himself revered by generations of fans and practitioners of the sweet science, especially here in Miami. From the Fifties until an incapacitating stroke in 1990, Dundee promoted hundreds of shows in South Florida, including the classic Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston bout of 1964. He managed four world champions and dozens of contenders. And he turned Miami Beach's Fifth Street Gym into one of the world's most vibrant boxing epicenters. That gym is gone now, and Dundee's energetic personal style and love of the sport is sadly obsolete in today's boxing industry, tightly controlled by promotional monopolies and rich television contracts. Dundee was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. He died of pneumonia on November 16, 1998, at the age of 91.
Resident folklorist at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Steve Stuempfle is the leading proponent of Miami's unique popular culture. An authority on Trinidadian steel pan music, the 41-year-old Stuemplfe arrived here two years ago from New York and immediately leaped into the pot of disparate cultures that makes Miami great. The Historical Museum, located with the main library and the Miami Art Museum at 101 W. Flagler Street (305-375-1492), has become a showcase for the artistic and cultural traditions of South Florida's native and immigrant communities, and for artists who are usually (and inexplicably) ignored by the local museum community. Various exhibitions and cultural programs at the museum ("Percussion Traditions in Miami," "Florida Folklife," "Miami: The Gateway City") have featured Santería drummers, vodou priestesses, carnival musicians, and many other previously unsung local heroes. "I'd like to see action here at the museum on an ongoing basis that includes a variety of voices," Stuempfle says. "I want to get a lot of people interacting and thinking about what it's like to live in Miami."
Sylk, a recent hip-hop transplant from Philadelphia, took to Miami like an alligator to the Glades: He slid right into our cacophonous subtropical airwaves and made them his own. Shortly after his arrival, people began talking about "The Roll Call," his twice-nightly homage to listeners. "What's up, y'all, so what's it gonna be? Now, who's on the line with your homey Al B.?" People of all ages call in, usually right in sync with Sylk's rap, and "shout out" to their friends. Caller: "Tasha's in the house." Sylk: "Oh, baby." Caller: "Mica's in the house." Sylk: "Baby, baby." When callers stumble and miss a beat, they'll be gently chastised by Sylk: "You're a dodohead!" Miami's most popular DJ, 29 years old, also instituted the nightly A-Team announcement. At the beginning of every grading period listeners fax in school report cards. Sylk then picks people at random and calls them at home to congratulate them on the air. Even when he's shouting "Whoooo do you love? 'Cause you got to looooove somebody!" to close his Friday-night show, Sylk doesn't preach so much as he invites his audience to have as much fun as he's having.
Lawton Chiles
David Lawrence's columns

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®