Clay Cartland (right) in Gloria.

Critics have spent a decade trying to accurately describe what Clay Cartland does. He is renowned for his endlessly inventive comic chops, a droll delivery, and a nimble, expressive physicality reminiscent of the early work of Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. But he reminded audiences last season of his abilities as a straight dramatic actor in GableStage's Gloria. Cartland begins the first act as a party boy, the lord of the office who loves holding court, soaking up the gossip, and engaging in poisonous talk. His character thrives as the center of attention but is quietly unhappy with himself. In the second act, Cartland expertly transitions into a man clearly broken, who has lost his sense of self and might even be aware that any dreams and hopes he once had will never be realized. In a single year, Cartland crooned the Sinatra songbook with a straight face, played the young hero in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, and took on the role of the preening, over-the-top megastar in Slow Burn Theatre's Rock of Ages. He is more than willing to be an anonymous member of the ensemble, but something about his charisma radiates so brightly that, like Cassie in A Chorus Line, that Cartland cannot help but be noticed.

Best Play
Photo by Diego Pocovi

Smoky halls, underground clubs, cultural revolution, and music that stirs the soul and curls the spine? Yes, you get all of that and more in the deliciously absorbing Tony Award-winning musical Memphis. Originally on Broadway from 2009 through 2012, it came to Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in 2019, taking audiences out of the smarmy tropics and into 1950s Tennessee. Directed by David Arisco, Memphis is inspired by real-life DJ Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black artists on the radio. Onstage, the story follows Huey Calhoun (a wannabe DJ who loves the music he hears in black clubs), who one day meets Felicia, a beautiful and talented black singer, and — you guessed it — he falls hard. They try to build their careers and lives together, but society isn't having it. Despite the fact that it's 2019, listening to one of the show's highlights, "Change Don't Come Easy," strikes as much of a chord now as it might have during the civil rights movement.

Best Dance Company

A lot of people talk the talk, but Karen Peterson & Dancers walks the walk as a full-time dance organization that features choreography performed by dancers with and without disabilities. Peterson — KPD's founder, president, and artistic director — didn't start out as an activist per se, but she always believed that all individuals should have the right to physically express themselves and the opportunity to train on a professional level. By providing inclusive and forward-thinking performances, workshops, and classes, Peterson made her philosophy a reality for many in our community. In the process, KPD has challenged its audiences to think about what it is that defines a dancer.

Bill Cosford Cinema
Photo by Conan O'Brien

As Miami's landscape of independent theaters has expanded, the stereotype of the arthouse film fan has shifted: Now, just about anyone you meet in this town could be a voracious viewer of foreign films or eagerly anticipating the arrival of the latest Sundance films to local screens or, at the very least, has watched a movie in a building without the words "AMC" or "Regal" glowing above the entrance. But don't count out the film students who've been the driving force behind arthouse theaters since, well, arthouse theaters were a thing. Bill Cosford Cinema is here to bring the independent, foreign, and documentary features they crave. Located at the University of Miami, the Cosford serves the Godards of tomorrow with a diverse lineup of crowd pleasers such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, critics' picks like Ramen Shop, and special screenings of classics such as Silence of the Lambs. But this isn't just a place for students; the Cosford also hosts screenings during the Miami Film Festival and other special events that draw moviegoers of all ages and walks of life.

Readers' choice: O Cinema Miami Beach

Best Film Director

We'll freely admit this category is entirely rigged and corrupt. Billy Corben — already the best-known-and-decorated documentarian in Miami — doesn't deserve any more awards or love from New Times specifically. But last year he made a movie that is in many ways about this publication, so we'd be stupid not to toot our own horn here. At the tail end of 2018, Corben — along with his partners Alfred Spellman and David Cypkin — debuted Screwball, a comedy/documentary recounting the Biogenesis steroid saga, in which whistleblower and tanning-booth enthusiast Porter Fischer leaked a bunch of records to New Times managing editor Tim Elfrink showing that major baseball stars, including Alex Rodriguez, were doing steroids. We promise we're not lying here — the movie is honestly really, really good. Corben and company reenacted huge portions of the story using child actors. In addition to being Corben's most top-to-bottom entertaining movie, it also features New Times faces a lot.

Best Miami Documentary

No filmmaker tells Miami's story quite like Billy Corben. And the Biogenesis scandal is so very Miami. With a cast of characters including an obsessive tanner with a vindictive streak and a fake doctor who linked up with a drug dealer to hawk steroids, plus some of the biggest names in baseball, Screwball tells the surreal story of how hurt feelings and a $4,000 debt blew up into the greatest scandal in modern sports history. It's the kind of thing that's so absurd it would be hard to make up if it weren't true, and Corben leans into that absurdity by employing child actors as stand-ins for A-Rod, Tony Bosch, and Porter Fischer. At one point, a baby Pitbull even shows up. Then-New Times managing editor Tim Elfrink, who broke the massive story in 2013, heavily features in the flick and has a pintsize doppelgänger of his own. But we'd name Screwball the best documentary of the year even if it weren't for tiny Tim. It's a hilarious take on one of those tales that makes people roll their eyes and say, "Only in Miami."

Best Local Girl Gone Bad

Former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes had a history of screwing up elections long before 2018. Over her 14 years in office, ballots went missing by the thousands. Sometimes they showed up in voters' mailboxes missing constitutional amendments; other times they didn't show up at all. Then there was the time Snipes illegally ordered the destruction of a bunch of ballots from the 2016 election. But 2018 took things to a whole new level of chaos. For starters, Broward's ballots were so poorly designed that many voters completely skipped the crucial Senate race. Then, amid a highly contested recount, Snipes revealed her office had misplaced thousands of ballots. The office missed a recount deadline — whoops! — and Broward turned into a national laughingstock prompting cries of election-rigging by President Donald Trump and daily protests outside the elections office by the likes of the Proud Boys. With Snipes now out of office, here's hoping Broward gets its act together in 2020 — for once.

Best Local Boy Gone Bad

Before Matt Whitaker became acting attorney general of the United States, he was a federal prosecutor in Iowa who went on to sit on the board of a Miami Beach scam company. The scheme — a firm called World Patent Marketing — took money from gullible inventors and, in return, promised to help people get their inventions on store shelves. Instead, World Patent Marketing just took the money. The Federal Trade Commission forced the company to shut down in 2017, but not before Whitaker himself threatened whistleblowers via email. As part of the scheme, World Patent Marketing hawked some unbelievably dumb ideas, including a time-travel company, a firm that sold Bigfoot dolls, and a toilet designed so that well-endowed men don't dunk their gigantic dongs in dirty water.

For a fleeting moment in U.S. history, the top law enforcement job in the nation belonged to a man whose name once appeared in a press release announcing the invention of a toilet for men with big dicks. As New Times revealed last year, Matthew G. Whitaker did a stint on the board of the Miami Beach-based scam company World Patent Marketing before President Donald Trump made him acting attorney general. The now-defunct business hawked a lot of batshit-crazy ideas that came into the spotlight during Whitaker's term, but none so memorable as the toilet for well-endowed men, officially dubbed the "Masculine Toilet." Just take a look at the 2014 press release for the thing: "The narrower curvature at the front of the toilet creates limited space for male genitalia when a man sits on the toilet seat. This limited space can cause contact from male genitalia with portions of the toilet, which is undesirable as those portions may be contaminated from human waste." Put that one in the history books. Seriously, what other U.S. attorney has anything like this attached to their name?

OG Magnum — born Bruce Ryan — is just downright likable. Though he lives in Tallahassee now, Ryan grew up near Fort Lauderdale before joining the military and going to college. But now he's better known as OG Magnum, the white-haired, tattooed, earring-wearing old dude who went viral after he was filmed dancing to trap-rap at a Florida gas station. Ryan, whose stage name comes from the modded-out Dodge Magnum he drives, runs the Florida Custom Car Association — and truly seems to love everything about hip-hop and custom-car culture. (He even once appeared in a music video with Plies and Kodak Black.) But now that he's gone viral, he's committed to using his social media fame for good: During the 2019 legislative session, Ryan lobbied state lawmakers to legalize "underbody" car lights to prevent cops from pulling over (mostly black and brown) drivers for, in his words, "bullshit reasons." Thanks to his work, the bill passed through the Florida Legislature this year.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®