Best Novelty Performance Troupe – Detroit Fire Guild
If pyromania is what lead to the Detroit Fire Guild, well, maybe giving Junior a try at the Bic once in awhile isn't such a bad idea after all. All joking aside, Thaddeus McKracken and Jessica Grassa have given the D an incredible ensemble of talent whose skills embrace myriad number of styles – everything from the golden age of the circus and the vaudeville circuit to the imaginative artistry we see at Burning Man. Somewhere Prometheus is sporting a really big smile!
Best Museum – The Detroit Institute of Arts
Being the biggest kid on the block is bound to get you respect, but the love that Detroiters poured on the DIA when it cleared away the dust and reopened after a major face lift hasn't diminished. You go from the Rivera murals to priceless portraits by Van Gogh; from prehistoric shaving kits to modern works and from a modest appreciation of art to a (perhaps) belated realization that life without any of this is a hollow existence indeed.
Best Exhibit – Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries
The DIA furnished us with an incredibly focused look at one of the most intriguing sides to the art world – namely the painstaking methods that scholars use to identify artists with recently discovered or overlooked works and the equally important skills used to detect shams and counterfeits. This exhibit (through 4/10) includes 60 pieces from differing mediums and decorative arts from diverse cultures.
Best Movie Theatre - Uptown Birmingham
A good movie theatre makes a good movie even better. Then there's the Uptown, a pleasure dome so heavenly it could make the director's cut of Gigli seem like a lost Truffaut film. Plush, lush and structured to guarantee the very best in acoustics and all that, this Birmingham bijou is indeed a jewel. With three levels full of viewing wonder, a full (and we mean full) assortment of edibles to curb your hunger while enjoying the flick and soft, red and comfy seats that simply envelope your body once you sit, Uptown Birmingham is the one and only movie theater you'll ever want to frequent. And let's not forget it's amazing placement in downtown Birmingham amongst nightclub, unique boutiques and delicious restaurants. Plan your nigh around Uptown, you won't be disappointed.
Best Film Series – The Detroit Film Theatre
Great films are works of art. Works of art belong in a museum. The DFT is happily attached to the DIA. If that syllogism is faulty (actually it is), don't send us emails. You'd be better off grabbing a schedule and penciling in dates with a superb lineup of American and foreign features. Michael Imperioli dropped by with his Hungry Ghosts. So did film editor Richard Chew. And so did Eisenstein, Keaton, Minnelli, Kurosawa, Welles ... OK, you get the (motion) picture.
Best Underrated Gallery – Whitdel Arts
A category with an embarrassment of riches to choose from; the majority of lesser-known showcases in this city are more "overlooked" than "underrated." Either way, we're pleased to give some well-deserved attention to the Whitdel. An important division inside the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, it's 1,800 square feet suitable for the proper display of works by the prominent and creative. Their recent Open Exhibition was a great success and yet another reason to be grateful to individuals like Lisa Marie Krug, Rebecca Mazzei, Charles McGee and others.
Best Place to Buy Art - 323 East
Actually, this Royal Oak gallery and boutique is the single best location to buy local, national and international art for the serious or novice collector. The initial roster of creative Detroiters who threw in with them three years ago has now expanded to include practically everyone who matters or will soon matter: Glenn Barr, Audrey Pongracz, Mark Arminski, Marianne Audrey Burrows, Camilo, Michael Segal, Ron Zakrin (naturally), Kobie Solomon (ditto), Bethany Shorb, and yes, you get the idea.
Best Burlesque – Detroit Dizzy Dames
Lushes LaMoan and her talented sisters have once again been selected by our readers as the delightful definitive when it comes to this time-honored entertainment. And we hasten to add that this sexy spectacle is always delivered with a smile and a wink - never a leer! We would also like to add that the Dames are always perfect angels when it comes to benefits for worthwhile causes in the D. The halos look as good on them as those G-strings.
Best Local Artist – Ron Zakrin
Zakrin says it best: "It seems apparent to me that a great deal of hustle is required to scratch out a living as a painter or artist in any blue collar town. I want to tell a larger story with my work, charged with the rawness and toughness that is Detroit. Who has inspired me? The Rivera Frescoes, Sergio De Giusti, Tom Humes, Matt Gordon, Tyree Guyton, George Hriczick – that's a lot of high octane fuel going into the city's engine."
Best Theatrical Ensemble – Magenta Giraffe
When the actors and directors of Magenta Giraffe ambled onto the city's stages several years ago, everyone (including us) wished them well - and everyone (including us) predicted that their enthusiasm would burn out after a short period of time. The "tall blonde" is still putting on productions ranging from Sartre's infernal waiting room to Woody Allen's request for an encore. Plus, they've encouraged the city's own playwrights to set the scenes in motion and the curtain has risen on no fewer than four original works imported from Detroit.
Best Pub Trivia Team – Sh!t Goose
How good are they? So good that opposing teams have been known to break out in cheers at the news that a flat tire or a probation officer was delaying their arrival at Danny's in Ferndale. They are now eager to see if Watson has the electronic guts to take them on. Kudos then to B.J. Berardo, Robert del Valle, Brandon Rosen, Jimmy Doom, Rob Moore, Anna Majek, Yvette Vance, and the many others who have squatted and feathered their way to cash and fame.
Best Local Photographer – Irakly Shanidze
We first saw Irakly Shanidze's photos years ago at an exhibit inside the CPop - ethereal portraits of Eastern European women that made our heart stop and prompted us to write countless love letters to Minsk. We soon learned that his output embraced other subjects as well, and we weren't the least bit surprised to discover that he was a much sought after instructor. Professional, creative, and academic. Those are impressive words on any resume.
Best Street Art – Kobie Solomon
A twice ironic category, since what we're praising here is being found more and more often in galleries and museums than in the streets these days. Plus, Kobie Solomon has garnered so much praise from the mainstream press in recent months, that terms like "graffiti artist" and "urban artist" will inevitably have to make room for more traditional appellations. The adjectives "talented" and "brilliant" and "original", however, will remain firmly in place. If you seek the evidence, look about you.
Best Theatre Company – Abreact Performance Space
Does the off-Broadway approach work even when the venue is WAY off-Broadway? Well, people in Jersey think so. For that matter, so do theatergoers in this area who have rallied to a certain energetic stage on West Lafayette for years. With its radically refreshing motto of Free Theatre in Detroit (literally - but donations accepted), the dedicated performers at Abreact have revived that timeless bond between actor and audience. Risk takers are the true artists.
Best Comedy Club -Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle
Ridley's has moved around a lot over the years, but this movable feast of mirth seems more than content now with its present Royal Oak location, and audiences seem more than happy with its thoughtful rotation of established stars, up-and-coming talents, and improv troupes. Let us also praise its unstinting generosity to local charities and benefit organizations. Incidentally, if you look patiently at those photos in the lobby, you'll understand why Ridley's has been called an incubator of fame.
Best Community Theatre – Stagecrafters
Boasting one of the most beautiful interiors, the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak is where the Stagecrafters craft their skills and stage their magic. It's also where they realize an admirable mission statement "to provide an opportunity for members of the community, in an atmosphere of fellowship, to develop their talents and to volunteer their time to create an enriching, quality theatrical experience for the community."
Best Dance Company – Eisenhower Dance Ensemble
It pleased us to learn that this well-deserved kudo coincided nicely with the Eisenhower Dance Company's own 20th anniversary. That's two straight decades of Laurie Eisenhower and her ensemble delivering high-energy movement and an extraordinary resurgence of spirit to these ZIP codes. They've given us works by Lila York, David Parsons and Joel Hall, as well as collaborations with everyone from the Michigan Opera Theatre to The Immigrant Suns.
Best Local Filmmaker - Oren Goldenberg
Say hello to Oren Goldenberg, cinematographer and producer supreme. In 2002 he was a production intern working on Bad Santa. It's 2011, and Goldenberg can now boast a pretty impressive resume with such features as Our School (his debut feature film) and The Bicyclist being warmly received by critics and festival audiences alike.