Best Play
Photo courtesy of Juggerknot Theatre Company

Amid the pandemic, some creatives got, well, more creative. Juggerknot Theatre Company debuted its virtual immersive theater experience, Long Distance Affair, in 2020. In 2021, the company was back for another iteration that proved even more enticing than the first. Audiences from anywhere around the globe — and we do mean anywhere — were able to join this virtual live theater show to watch performances by actors in completely different time zones. For this second installment, viewers were able to virtually visit Mumbai, Beirut, Mexico City, Lagos, Los Angeles, or Portland. In each city, a local actor staged an inspiring ten-minute performance. It's not easy to portray emotions on a physical set with audiences sitting a few feet away. Actors for Long DIstance Affair had to reach out and grab their audience through a screen. And that they did, beautifully.

Tower Theater
Photo courtesy of Tower Theater

It's hard not to smile when you look up at the marquee at Tower Theater on Calle Ocho. The silver border, the classic white sign with black letters announcing the films, the art deco style of the building's façade — it all feels like you're traveling back in time to an age of classic cinema. The theater opened in 1926, and despite renovations to keep the space in tip-top shape, she doesn't look a day over 25. Located in the heart of Little Havana, the theater is in an ideal spot to welcome both locals and visitors for some wholesome entertainment. A bonus: The place is said to be haunted by ghosts, including that of an employee who loved the theater so much he simply never left.

Silverspot Cinema
Silverspot Cinemas

If you're the type of moviegoer who enjoys fully reclinable seats and in-theater dining service from a chef-driven menu, Silverspot has a spot for you. The sprawling, multilevel theater, which opened in 2018, still flies a bit under the radar, which for those in the know means most weekends are free from hordes of movie-talking teens and ridiculously long concession lines. Crucially, the theater offers a killer happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, when cinephiles can snag beat-the-clock drink specials and discounted bar bites before the lights go down and the curtain goes up.

Miami native Kareem Tabsch loves movies — so much so that the cinephile not only owns his own art-house theater (O Cinema), but he also directs and produces films himself. His acclaimed 2018 documentary The Last Resort profiled photographers Andy Sweet and Gary Monroe and the Miami Beach Jewish retiree community they photographed in the 1970s. Last year's Mucho Mucho Amor, made in collaboration with co-director Cristina Costantini and co-producer Alex Fumero, tells the story of the late Puerto Rican astrologer and Miami icon Walter Mercado. The team received various accolades for the film, including an Emmy nomination. We hear Tabsch is now at work on a documentary about the legendary Miami pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager.

Best Miami Documentary
Photo courtesy of HBO

Directed by Miami's own Billy Corben, 537 Votes tells the wild — and entirely factual — story of how the entire 2000 presidential election came down to a mere 537 votes cast in Miami-Dade County. The 109-minute documentary features interviews with political analyst Fernand Amandi and political consultant/presidentially pardoned felon Roger Stone, among other talking heads. With a heaping helping of archival footage, it tells a chilling story of what happens when national politics meets Miami politics. The hanging chads, the recount, the protests outside of the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown — 537 Votes has it all. The film, available for streaming on HBO, was co-produced by Alfred Spellman, Corben's longtime collaborator and cofounder of their production company, Rakontur Films. Don't be surprised if Rakontur snags this honor next year: The production company's latest documentary, a six-part miniseries titled Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, premiered in August 2021 on Netflix — and it's a hoot from start to finish.

Best Movie Shot on Location
Photo by Gato Suaya

Many Miamians will remember feeling rage following the 2013 tragedy of artist Israel "Reefa" Hernandez, an 18-year-old Colombian immigrant who was tasered to death by a Miami Beach police officer who caught the artist spray-painting a shuttered McDonald's. Reefa tells the heartbreaking real-life story of the young artist's life in Miami, his time with friends and family, and his art aspirations, all leading up to the death that sprouted protests and rage from the community devastated by another instance of police brutality. Sticking to the story's roots, the film was shot in locations throughout Miami, including Buena Vista, Key Biscayne, Wynwood, and Miami Beach. After some pandemic-induced delays, Jessica Kavana Dornbusch's film premiered early this year at the Miami Film Festival.

Best Art Fair
©Victor Berga

During Miami Art Week, Design Miami has always been somewhat of an outlier among the fairs that pop up. While every other fair focuses on, well, art — paintings, sculpture, photography, installations, etc. — Design Miami makes a case for furniture. Except, the kind of furniture at the fair isn't the kind you find at Rooms to Go or Ikea. They are objets d'art — quite literally, art objects. Last year, Design Miami took the limitations posed by the pandemic as an opportunity to recenter itself. Art Week and its associated fairs have become something of a bloated affair, but in taking over the Moore Building, Design Miami went back to basics in highlighting the best in contemporary furniture and design. Here's hoping that when it returns in December, it retains some of that attitude.

Best Festival
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

You might think there weren't so many festivals to choose from this past year. And you'd be sort of right. But when it comes down to it, which did it best? The festival that went virtual? The festival that required proof of vaccination/negative COVID-19 tests and certifiedCOVID-19 detection dogs?Or the one that was a free-for-all super-spreader? We prefer the middle option. In fact, we love howSouth Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF)founder and directorLee Brian Schrager and his team running the 20th-anniversary edition of it didn't back down from the challenges. Instead, they embraced them, and in doing so, incorporated more than 300 chefs, mixologists, winemakers, spirits producers, artisans, and lifestyle personalities than ever before — many of them from the Miami area or nearby. As a result, SOBEWFF continued to benefitstudents of Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, as well as raise necessary and meaningful funds for thefestival's COVID relief fund through lead-up and year-round events that directly help the restaurant community and its workers.

After an entire year without music festivals, the Bayfront Jazz Festival was an oasis in the desert for those who live and breathe the live music experience. The inaugural edition, held April 30 and May 1, was the first music festival with more than 1,000 people in attendance since the pandemic started. Those who attended were treated to quite a show. From performances by neo-soul vibraphone legend Roy Ayers and jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgestone to the heart-nourishing piano stylings of Cuban master Chucho Valdés, the Bayfront Jazz Festival reminded us of what our music-loving souls have been missing. Here's hoping it was a taste of things to come; the festival organizers at Melrose Media promise a 2022 encore.

Gramps
Photo by Alex Markow

Expect to see damn near anything and anyone at Gramps. The kitschy Wynwood dive bar offers a cornucopia of live entertainment, from local DJs to traveling bands to some of Miami's most beloved queer events (like the drag show Double Stubble). Mirroring the arts district in which it resides, Gramps' outdoor seating boasts walls and walls of murals in a rainbow of colors with dizzying designs. So if you're just looking to hang back, drink some craft beers or cocktails and eat some pizza (yes, they have pizza) while taking in the sights, there's a space for you. Gramps is open every day except Wednesday; hours are noon to around midnight (noon to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®