Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Actor

    Mike Martin ('Reefer Madness,' Maverick Theater)

    This bong-water-addled send-up of the notoriously bad anti-marijuana propaganda film was a complete ensemble effort, so singling out one actor in the highly talented cast might seem suspect. But Mike Martin, as Reefer Madness's narrator and oh-so-guilty conscience, was so funny and commanding that he nearly walked off with the show. Whether brandishing an enormous joint over his head as… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Jennifer Lyon ('Noises Off,' South Coast Repertory)

    Another ensemble effort, and another example of one cast member shining so brightly she nearly eclipsed the rest of the cast. Many an actress salivates over the chance to play Noises Off's blond, myopic, dumb-as-a-post bombshell. Jennifer Lyon looked the part, and she certainly possessed a deer-in-the-headlights demeanor. But what she accomplished with this fairly stock, if fun, character, was… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery

    Hibbleton Gallery

    A gallery is as much a work of art as the pieces it displays, and the Hibbleton Gallery's glass and black-trimmed storefront, red door, blond-wood flooring, and clean white walls are a rigorous contrast to the stimulating underground art it exhibits. Swing by to see a show, attend poetry readings, or stop in for local music or movie nights, and… More >>
  • Best Play of the Past 12 Months

    'Noises Off,' South Coast Repertory

    Perhaps it was a bit lowbrow for a theater that has long prided itself on producing literate, sophisticated fare, but anyone who doubted that South Coast Rep (SCR) couldn't wallow in adrenalin-infused farce was schooled by this production. Directed by Art Manke and graced with a phenomenally talented ensemble, the show benefited from SCR's ample resources and top-drawer production values.… More >>
  • Best Cutting-Edge Theater

    Garage Theatre

    The unfortunate demise of the Rude Guerrilla Theater Co. leaves a gaping hole in terms of alternative theater programming. Thankfully, there's a fitting surrogate up the road in this gritty troupe, which launched in 2001. Formed by several products of Orange Coast College's theater department, the Garagians have produced an impressive array of plays rarely touched by most theaters, including… More >>
  • Best Theatrical Use of a Landmark Building

    'Hollywood In Fullerton,' Fox Theatre

    Opened in 1925 and closed in 1987, the Fox Theatre had been nearly destroyed by the wrecking ball numerous times before a bunch of community activists convinced the city several years ago to help them to try to preserve the hulking beauty. It has been a long road, with the tarnished gem many millions of dollars away from being restored… More >>
  • Best Theater Programming

    Chance Theater

    The Chance Theater's 2009 season began with a show called Jesus Hates Me, set at the Blood of the Lamb miniature-golf course, and it'll end with the perennial alternative-Christmas show The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. In between, there was the premiere of a new musical, a revival of that evergreen hippie spectacle Hair and a production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.… More >>
  • Best Visual Artist

    Steve Elkins

    On his Facebook page, Elkins lists as one of his activities "drinking absurd amounts of coffee," which goes a long way toward explaining how he appears to be creating art of some kind or other 24/7. He drums for the band the Autumns, is finishing a documentary about avant-garde music, pens deliriously detailed travel diaries, writes prose poetry, is a… More >>
  • Best Art Show

    'Allegedly: The Hugh Brown Chainsaw Collection'

    In an ink-stained freelancer's cluttered home office far, far away, there was a critic who thought he knew everything there was to know about art. He'd studied Inside the White Cube: The Idealogy of the Gallery Space, subscribed to Artforum, knew the difference between an installation and an exhibition, worshiped at the no-nonsense feet of Coagula Art Journal, took classes,… More >>
  • Best Public Art

    Hammer Clock, Anaheim

    Anaheim's public art is the coolest in Orange County, with several peculiar and marvelous pieces, but our favorite for so many reasons is artist Daniel Martinez's 12-foot-tall tool near the corner of Clementine and Center Street Promenade. There's some blather about the "precarious nature of our time" on the website, but to us, the claw hammer looks like it's going… More >>
  • Best Art Museum

    Orange County Museum of Art

    Our unspoken art-nerd fantasy is to spend the better part of a weekend playing Indiana Jones and do an excavation of the video-art storage facilities at the Orange County Museum of Art. The museum was there at the beginning of the video-art movement, and despite the (presumed) dearth of celebrity-sex footage, the very thought of immersing ourselves in a bacchanalia… More >>
  • Best Museum (Non-Art)

    Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum

    Art museums are often housed in unusually shaped buildings with intriguing architecture that are considered works of art themselves. So a historical museum in a historical structure makes as much sense. In 1794, Mission San Juan Capistrano built adobes outside its walls to house soldiers and the local Native Americans who worked at the mission. Fifty-one years later, Don Blas… More >>
  • Best Cheap Movie Theater

    Starplex Cinemas Woodbridge Movies 5

    The place is often messy because patrons are required to throw away their own trash (come on, people!), it's a little run-down, and the movies are usually a bit outdated, but you can't really complain too much about a $1 (on Tuesdays) or $2 (all other days) moviegoing experience. Especially while other theaters are charging a wallet-violating $11.50. The Starplex… More >>
  • Best Independent Film Theater

    Yost Theater

    Since Koos Arts Cafe folks started booking events at the historic downtown Santa Ana theater in October 2008, regular live-music shows have been presented there, and keeping with the bent of the nonprofit, the all-ages venue's owner, Dennis Lluy, houses acts that gravitate toward the untried-and-true (Icelandic pop, anyone?). But Lluy and his crew are no one-discipline ponies, frequently offering… More >>
  • Best After-School Education Program for the College-Bound

    St. Joseph Ballet Academy

    Since 1983, Santa Ana's St. Joseph Ballet Academy has been turning its mostly underprivileged 400 annual enrollees—ages 8 through high school—on to dance. Many have gone on to pursue careers in the highly competitive field. But less publicized are the academy's services that have nothing to do with ballon, cabrioles or èpaulement. Free academic help, including college-prep testing, is offered… More >>
  • Best Classical Music Producer

    Pacific Symphony Orchestra

    Weathering funding challenges, the turbulent national economy and the perpetual crisis of the performing arts, this Orange County-based entity headed into its 31st season as one of the nation's most respected contemporary-classical symphonies. For 20 years, director Carl St. Clair has not only helped keep the Pacific Symphony Orchestra (PSO) solvent and entertained thousands of Southern Californians, but he's also… More >>
  • Best Live Band

    The New Limb

    Being in a rock band is supposed to be fun, and few local bands seem to be having as much fun as Costa Mesa's the New Limb, who imbue their sets with a sense of genuine passion and pleasure that an audience really has no choice but to appreciate. Whether it's filling the stage with streamers in celebration of a… More >>
  • Best Rock Band


    In the early days of 2009, Melanoid—the musical vehicle of Irvine's John Hanson—released a shockingly good album called Asleep In the Wake. Songs such as early-Radiohead-esque "Try to Hide" and the mournful, piano-based "Right" arrive fully realized, transitioning from "good for a local band" to simply "good." Live, Hanson is frequently backed by similarly talented musicians such as multi-instrumentalist Dallas… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Act


    Gather 'round, folks and witness heavy-hitting club rap for hip-hop's new Day-Glo generation. Don't be alarmed; we know that watching a sweaty white kid screaming ferocious rhymes from between a leggy, blond backup dancer and a mohawk-sporting hype man isn't something you see every day. Which is exactly why Irvine-based trio BLOK are so special. Armed with white-rimmed glasses, a… More >>
  • Best Cover Band

    SPRINGSTEEN! The Premier Tribute to the Boss

    Cover bands are ubiquitous in the clubs and bars of our not-so-humble backwater, and there are more than a few excellent tribute bands, including the Rolling Stones' homage, Jumpin' Jack Flash, and the godfather of them all, Wild Child, who have been around far longer than the band they're based on, the Doors. But this Springsteen-tribute band does something a… More >>
  • Best New Band

    The Colourist

    Orange County is home to a lot of promising young bands seemingly poised to make the ever-elusive next step in their careers, but none has developed so much promise and poise in such a short time as the Colourist. Though they've only been together for about a year, their self-titled EP stands as four of the best songs put out… More >>
  • Best Barbershop Quartet

    The Dapper Dans

    You might not know them by name, but you'll recognize this group as the guys with the Great Gatsby-style straw hats, immaculately combed hair, pearly white teeth and impeccably pressed candy-striped suits who stroll up and down Disneyland's Main Street every afternoon, singing old-timey standards such as "Mr. Sandman." The quartet have been part of the theme park's musical entertainment… More >>
  • Best Album of the Past 12 Months

    'All the Colors,' Greater California

    Greater California took almost five years between sophomore release Somber Wurlitzer and this year's All the Colors, and the result was a lush record that paid tribute to the best of power-pop and Byrds-y psychedelic rock, all while establishing its own distinct voice. Produced by Long Beach music mainstay Ikey Owens (Free Moral Agents bandleader/keyboard player for the Mars Volta),… More >>
  • Best Record Label

    Burger Records

    The lovable goofballs at Anaheim's Burger Records know how to make their releases stand out: by putting them on outdated media. It's quite possible they've put out more cassettes in the past couple of years than any other label, giving fans of such artists as LA's Devon Williams and San Francisco's Ty Segall a chance to obtain definitively different collectibles—even… More >>
  • Best Music Festival

    Summer and Music

    Most folks would be happy with putting on one awesome festival. This past summer, Justin Hectus and Rand Foster, co-founders of Summer and Music, made the rest of us look silly by putting on a bunch in downtown Long Beach, many of which highlighted under-represented genres. They showed funk love with the Long Beach Funkfest, took cover bands seriously with… More >>
  • Best Sneak-Attack Concerts

    Will Crum

    It's always a struggle for young local artists to get noticed—even the most talented, well-connected of bands can have trouble getting people to come to a show. But Costa Mesa garage-y/folk-y rocker Will Crum and manager Geoff Shively figured the best way to get attention was to play for people who didn't even know they were seeing a show. Along… More >>
  • Best Race Riot

    Mosh Pit at Manic Hispanic Cinco de Mayo Show, House of Blues

    It's a county springtime event that's now as iconic in its perennial frequency as San Juan Capistrano's swallows: the Manic Hispanic Cinco de Mayo show at the House of Blues, a night when la naranja's boiling ethnic tension between white and brown disappears for an evening, thanks to the power of the group's Chicano-refried punk parody. Here be the best… More >>
  • Best Non-Educational Use of a Classroom

    Acrobatics Everyday

    Not only does Acrobatics Everyday, a concert series at various locations on the campus of UC Irvine, bring unconventional entertainment choices to the university's students, but it also brings obscure artists to Orange County that would otherwise have nowhere else to play. It's as simple as that. Yeah, it's fun to play up the "oh, man, it's so weird to… More >>
  • Best Movie Theater

    Art Theatre of Long Beach

    As far as the movie-theater-going experience is concerned, there's little that beats watching Purple Rain or Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Nosferatu (with a live score) on a big screen inside an Art Deco theater at midnight on a Friday. For those of us out there feeling a wee-bit jaded by the bloated movie-theater industrial complex (big parking lots, big… More >>
  • Best Free Foreign-Film Rental

    Newport Beach Public Library

    Sometimes rich people really come in handy. This state-of-the-art facility isn't just the most aesthetically appealing library in the county, but it also has an extensive, eclectic collection of foreign films available for anyone with a membership card. Whether you're in the mood for Bergman's horrifying The Virgin Spring, the risqué French romantic comedy Claire's Knee or La Vida es… More >>