Best Actor 2009 | Meshaun Labrone Arnold | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Meshaun Labrone Arnold both wrote and starred in The Hate U Gave, but the piece had little of the self-indulgent flab most writer/actors can't bring themselves to shear from their own work. His acting and writing were wise, while his subject — and character — was just a savant: a man who saw the whole world clearly except for his own place in it. Watching Arnold, as Tupac, rage against the chasms that divide us (by gender, class, or anything else, but especially by race) — even as he bore helpless witness to his own inability to do anything but widen them — was to see right into the hidden heart of alienation. Arnold's tense, kinetic body and tortured face were pictographs, notating its cost.

Phillip and Patricia Frost aren't exactly new to the Miami philanthropy game. Phillip, chairman of a Miami-based pharmaceuticals company, and Patricia, a retired elementary school principal, have given millions to local nonprofits and served on the boards of the Florida International University Foundation and the Smithsonian. Hell, they even already have a whole school named after them at the University of Miami, after they gave a record $33 million to the School of Music in 2003.

But it's their latest contribution that might leave the longest legacy in the Magic City — and that marked them as our power couple of the year. With an undisclosed gift, they helped make the FIU's Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum — which opened in November — one of the most artistically and architecturally significant newcomers on Miami's arts scene in years.

The crescent-shaped museum, built from Chinese granite, steel, and glass by Tampa's HOK Architects, is an instant icon at FIU's Tamiami campus — and it serves as a much-needed centerpiece for Latin American and modern art in Miami.

The name says it all — without the Frosts, the newest jewel in a city rocketing into the national arts conversation simply wouldn't have happened.

Delta was a play with three leads, each of whom would briefly assume the role of Indesha Ida Mae Holland before passing it off to a costar. Those not playing Indesha in a given moment would play secondary characters — Indesha's mother, a gin-addled crank, a minister, the voice of God. Interspersed with the vignettes of Indesha's youth were song snippets, sung a cappella — eerie and full of blue notes or, in happier moments, as bright and spit-polish perfect as the latest single from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Within this free-flowing structure, Brandii Edwards, Carey Hart, and Carolyn Johnson galvanized each other, and all three soared to heights of gutsiness and invention seldom seen on any stage. Each had at least a single moment so delightful that it literally stopped the show — when Carolyn went into some kind of hoodoo trance during a baby-birthing scene; when Hart narrated the scene as a giddy, motor-mouthed tween; and when Edwards staggered onstage as the gin monster and began woozily gnawing the scenery. The audience erupted, the actresses paused, and a bar was quietly raised in Miami.

Mickey Rourke's redemption has been the stuff Hollywood makes movies about. Only an independent filmmaker made it and it starred Rourke himself. Rourke's portrayal of washed-up wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson earned him a Golden Globe Award, a British Academy Award, an Academy Award nomination, and has put him back on the A-list map with more roles in future big-budget releases. It's a far cry from the cautionary tale he had become.

A student of the Actor's Studio, Rourke was loved by critics for his rugged and raw portrayals when he burst onto the scene in 1981. Other actors, such as Sean Penn, would visit his sets just to watch him work. But then the personal demons took over. Drug abuse, bizarre career choices, and his decision to become a professional boxer derailed him. One moment he's being called the best actor since Marlon Brando, the next he's getting his cheekbone and nose obliterated in boxing rings and being arrested in South Beach for driving a scooter while under the influence.

Mirroring Rourke more than any character he will ever play is The Wrestler's Randy the Ram, a once bright star who fades into obscurity while abusing drugs and suffering irreparable harm to his body. It was the right role at the right time. It's almost as if Rourke's life had been one long Method-acting prep for that role. And now, thanks to that film, Mickey Rourke is back.

There was a time when Miami-born Debbie Attias of the now-defunct Brooklyn duo Avenue D wrote and sang techno rap songs that were, um, too explicit even for New Times to quote. Think 2 Live Crew with tits. These days, Attias is doing something a bit more constructive than coming up with catchy jingles about sitting on her boyfriend's face: She's riding a bike across America to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. Sure, it ain't curing cancer, but this is Miami. Baby steps, people.

This writer has known Paul Tei, at least on a professional level, for almost three years. This writer has chatted with him in half a dozen theater lobbies, written half a dozen plays about his work, and has watched him star in at least as many shows. But when the tattooed, pierced, spiky-haired, sandpaper-throated Tei appeared as the paunchy, smooth-talking, oily-voiced Southern snake-in-the-grass named Chaplain White in GableStage's springtime production of Defiance, it took this writer 20 minutes to recognize him. It was the most complete and realistic transformation of an actor into his subject to hit Miami in this or any recent year. The part didn't have a lot of weight — Chaplain White was too shallow a being to inspire any audience reaction more complex than dislike — but he was a marvel nevertheless: a perfect triumph of technique.

"As you know, it's been a really quiet week for me, so it's nice to get out on a Friday night." Thus began Alex Rodriguez's awkward attempt at a joke to make light of the fact that Sports Illustrated had broken the news about his use of performance-enhancing drugs just days earlier. A-Rod made the comment on the night he was honored by the University of Miami at the unveiling of the Alex Rodriguez Park in Coral Gables. Even before the report broke, Rodriquez had not been well liked outside of Miami. To us, he was the local kid from Westminster Christian High who grew up to become baseball's greatest player. To everyone else, he was the narcissistic Yankee who worried a little bit too much about his image.

Still, even throughout Major League Baseball's BALCO steroid scandal, where it was revealed that many players were juiced up, and throughout Congress's attempt at ousting the perpetrators, A-Rod was seen as the one clean guy — a natural, a player blessed with God-given abilities with no need for steroids or HGH. He even told Katie Couric on 60 Minutes point blank that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. And we believed him. Sure Jose Canseco wrote that A-Rod was dirty in one of his books. But Canseco had long been a local pariah, so we ignored him. A-Rod, on the other hand, was a local golden boy. Not anymore. That's right. The craziest part about this whole scandal: Jose Canseco was right!

This award could easily have gone to a dozen other actors from Judas Iscariot, whose characters were as big, bright, and sharply drawn as only a three-hour play with an almost perfect cast can allow. But Lela Elam brought it with an intensity rare even for her (which is saying something), as she played both an eternally grieving mother and Saint Veronica. Her mother bit was moving, subtle, fragile, almost silent, but her Saint Veronica was another thing entirely. Veronica was the driving force of the play — an enactment of a long-overdue trial for Judas Iscariot, begun because Veronica believes Iscariot got a bad rap — and she was entirely credible: a personality of such blazing force that you figure, yeah, she could totally reverse a divine judgment. In a single breath, she was bawdy in an entirely 21st-century, hip-hop kind of way; hilarious; trenchant; and scary. It was a hard part that Elam handled with relish. An actress this good probably has a difficult time finding roles worth sinking her teeth into. Thank heavens for Guirgis.

Betrayed was a play about the Iraqis who dreamed of American rescue long before the War on Terror, who loved the West and studied Emily Brontë and watched English-language porn, who were neither Baathists nor especially religious. They were (little-l) liberals, (little-d) democrats, and arts lovers. In other words, they were people much like Antonio Amadeo, John Manzelli, and Ceci Fernandez, the actors who gave them life in Coral Gables. Watching them work, one could plainly see they felt the moral weight of their task: Their portrayals were dignified but not heroic, trenchant but not sappy. In the play, as in the war, these Anglophiles went to work as translators for the Coalition forces, becoming targets of violence in their own neighborhoods and, as the war went poorly, objects of suspicion in the Green Zone. Many were turned out, and many died. When Fernandez, Manzelli, and Amadeo assumed their roles, they spoke their convictions softly and accepted their fates stoically. It was a fitting memorial to those who didn't make it, and a moment of unexpected fraternity with those who wait to make it still.

Tania deLuzuriaga was mixed up with married school board dude Alberto Carvalho while covering school politics for the Miami Herald. Emails that proved the affair were leaked to the media, and our own Frank Alvarado released them to the public. They documented the sexual nature of deLuzuriaga and Carvalho's relationship and the conflict of interest it created in her reporting. When the news hit, deLuzuriaga was working as a general assignment reporter at the Boston Globe. She resigned amidst the hoopla and now works as a senior account executive at a PR firm in Boston. Whatever happened to Alberto Carvalho? Oh, he became school superintendent for Miami-Dade County. He's a politician, so we already knew he'd screw anybody over for his own benefit, but thanks to bad girl deLuzuriaga, we also know about his sexual proclivities.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®