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 LOCAL ZINE Ego Miami www.egomiami.com Since it was revived last year, the magazine formerly known as Ego Trip has grown into a guilty pleasure for readers who pick up the pocket-size monthly at restaurants, bookstores, and other locations. Like every other lifestyle glossy in town, Ego Miami is drenched in decadent fashion layouts, innocuous Q&A interviews with real estate moguls and socialites, the occasional profile piece about pop celebrities such as Gwen Stefani and the boys in Green Day, and a phalanx of picture pages capturing the prettiest and most stylish creatures of nightlife. But Ego Miami is craftily assembled with more panache than the others, owing to a clever graphic design and talented writers such as Anna Maria Diaz-Balart and Marcus Washington.

Readers´ Choice: Ocean Drive

BEST MARLINS PLAYER Miguel Cabrera On TV Miguelito seems so sweet, so young, so, well, soft. Then someone throws a ball at him, and suddenly that cherub's face is fronting an aggressive six-foot-two hitter with 210 pounds of power behind his swing. Though youthful, the Venezuela native is poised to become a superstar. Last year, his first full Major League season, he was an All-Star, joining a handful of players in the history of the game to have 100 RBI, 100 runs scored, and at least 30 homers in a season before the age of 22. In 2003 the rookie helped the Marlins win the World Series as a midseason addition. The Marlins snatched the then-sixteen-year-old prospect out from under the Minnesota Twins with a surprising $1.8 million signing bonus in 1999. But the team's high bid became a bargain: Cabrera works cheap (a mere $370,000 last year) and won't get his chance to negotiate for big money until 2007. Now, with the more seasoned super-slugger Carlos Delgado in the lineup, expectations are that Cabrera will get even better, not only because he'll learn from a great, but also because opposing pitchers will have a tough time deciding when to bring the heat.

Readers´ Choice: Miguel Cabrera

BEST MOVIE SHOT ON LOCATION Code 33 The filmmakers behind this crime documentary prove that footage of reality can be more dramatic than some overblown fictional Hollywood production that requires shutting down major traffic arteries. Code 33 is an ode to Miami's cultural diaspora pegged to one of the biggest local stories of 2003: the Shenandoah rapist. New York-based auteurs David Beilinson, Zachary Werner, Suki Hawley, and Michael Galinsky gathered more than 150 hours of footage from which to edit a raw, gripping film that transports the audience to the world of Cuban-American homicide detectives Fernando Bosch and Elio "Chills" Tamayo as they patrolled the streets of Little Havana, pulling over men who matched Miami-Dade Police Department forensic artist Samantha Steinberg's sketch of the suspect. The movie does a fantastic job of capturing a wide array of viewpoints, from the cannibalistic television coverage to the terror residents felt during the rapist's spree.

BEST MOVIE THEATER Bill Cosford Cinema University of Miami

Dooley Memorial Building

1111 Memorial Drive

Coral Gables

305-284-4861

www.miami.edu/cosford Built in 1947 as the Louis D. Beaumont Lecture Hall, after a Palm Beach retiree gave $50,000 toward its construction, this theater was renamed to honor the late Miami Herald film critic Bill Cosford, a member of the school's faculty until his passing in 1994. Classically styled and housed on the second floor of the Dooley Memorial classroom building, the Cosford has served as the city's most dependable repertory house, a comfortable place to see art films, political tracts, documentaries, and other esoteric fare from around the world. Recent screenings, programmed by the university's School of Communication, have included Postmen in the Mountains, a Chinese effort that explores the bonds between father and son; the Venice Film Festival-winning Vodka Lemon, a September-December romance from Armenia; and another Venice Film Festival award winner, Light of My Eyes, an exercise in Neo-Realism. These films, screened from DVD and stock prints, are affordably priced -- a mere six dollars for admission -- and a welcome respite from predictable Hollywood spectacles.

Readers´ Choice: Regal South Beach Stadium 18

BEST MUSEUM Miami Children's Museum 980 MacArthur Causeway

Miami

305-373-5437

www.miamichildrensmuseum.org Finally housed in a permanent location, the Miami Children's Museum has been able to turn its attention to developing a world-class educational playground for youngsters. Permanent and temporary exhibits, day camps, and classes are the main draws, but there is also an intriguing film program for budding auteurs that is perhaps the crown jewel (and boasts its own festival). Some parents have complained about the excessive branding from corporate sponsorship. That just sets up the opportunity to teach the little ones an important lesson about tuning out intrusions.

BEST NATURE CENTER Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center 6767 Crandon Boulevard

Key Biscayne

305-361-6767

www.biscaynenaturecenter.org South Florida's splendid weather encourages people to play hooky, and it's a clever Miamian who figures out a way to do it without guilt. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is a grand schoolhouse integrated with the great outdoors. The wonderful complex is set against mangroves, nature trails, and even a fossilized reef that make this not-for-profit facility a unique learning center instead of merely a playground. (If you are learning, can skipping a regular class or a day at work be all that wrong?) Guides lead tours through the various environments native to the area while instructing visitors about topics mostly having to do with conservation of natural resources. Some educational displays, exhibits, and art are housed inside, so even bad weather isn't a problem.

BEST NEW DRAMA Does Jesus Drum? Sometimes great gifts come in small packages. Set during the Civil War, Robert Linfors's brief playlet packed a real punch by examining the anguish and fear of parents whose fired-up young son is ready to enlist in the Confederate army. Linfors's timeless dramatic dilemma clearly resonated in today's wartime environment, and City Theatre's cast, featuring Elizabeth Dimon as the grieving mother, made a lasting impression.

BEST NIGHT TRIP Annual Winter Star Party 386-362-5995 Named after the constellation, the venerable Southern Cross Astronomical Society has brought gazers the Winter Star Party for twenty years, usually at West Summerland Key during the new moon in February or March. Why the Southern Cross moniker? For the hundreds of starry-eyed visitors who trek down for the party, the southern tip of Florida is the only place within the 48 contiguous states where it is possible to see this looking-up favorite. The party lasts for several days and attracts both amateurs and professionals who appreciate the big, dark skies of the Keys. There are speakers, workshops, and vendors galore. Camping is available, and there are even day events for those smart enough to plan an extended stay. Yes, locals love it too.

BEST OUTDOOR ART Dead Mouse by Billie Grace Lynn The ladies and gentlemen up north whose view of Miami has been shaped by magazines may wonder how one could possibly make this fair city any more beautiful than the tropical paradise portrayed in glossy ads for luxury condominium towers. Art is not all about beauty, nor is blight always devoid of art. To wit: Dead Mouse, a 40-foot-long inflated vinyl sculpture of the Disney character dressed in military fatigues, supine next to a pool of blood and a semiautomatic rifle. Billie Grace Lynn dreamed it up and then blew it up for Omniart at Art Basel 2004 in December. The incident, which occurred outside one of several warehouses that a large gang of hard-core Miami-based artists transformed into gallery spaces, caused shock and awe. Tina Spiro, who co-curated the show, notes that in the context of current affairs the work was simultaneously humorous and "a serious antiwar piece." Lynn pumped up an encore installation inflation for Art Miami in Miami Beach in early January, where she proved once more that some art is bound to beautify, while other art is destined to incite. This time the sculpture caused a band of apparent Islamic extremists to jump up and down on one of the giant infantry-mouse's arms, puncturing the poor rodent. When the interaction ceased, the appendage was deflated and the perpetrators revealed to be instead a group of intoxicated aesthetes from right here in Babylon.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®