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Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Nature of the Beast: When the smell of freshly popped popcorn wafts through the lobby of the Del Mar Theatre, decorum flies out the window.

Best Arts & Culture

Editor's Picks

Between work, sleep and hunting for parking there's a little time for the finer things in life. Art galleries, theater and cultural festivals of all varieties enrich our personal and communal lives and give us something besides politics to talk about at parties.

Best Musical Ambassador

In 1992, when Marin Alsop became music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, she had already guest-conducted the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, along with other high-profile appearances. But for us, she was a quantity known only by reputation. At the time, she was principal conductor of the Colorado Symphony and music director of the Eugene Symphony, Oregon Festival of American Music and Concordia (based at Lincoln Center.)

Today, she is music director of the Bournemouth Symphony (frequently heard in BBC streaming broadcasts available online) and Baltimore Symphony. Her achievements in the years we have known her are nothing short of astonishing. But perhaps her most important work is done right here in Santa Cruz with "my favorite orchestra," as she openly calls it. Slowly, at first, but surely she has changed the direction of the Cabrillo festival, replacing the earlier focus on "Left" Coast composers with the leading lights among American composers who gravitate toward the Eastern music centers, as well as major living composers of Britain and the European continent, where some of the best new music is to be found today. While this has ruffled some local feathers among the old guard festival supporters, it has proven to be a huge benefit to both local audiences (now more than half of whom come from out of the area) as well as music itself--which is in the midst of a true renaissance of excellence. Along with that, she runs a conductor's workshop that teaches talented up-and-comers how to embrace the peculiar technical, electronic and instrumental demands made by today's composers. Her orchestra is unique, playing all new music that none of her musicians has ever seen or heard until just two weeks before they perform it, almost always superbly.

--Scott MacClelland

Best Place for a Film Buff

Almost a dozen film festivals now make their home in Santa Cruz, probably breaking the world's documentary-screening-per-capita record wide open. Here follows a list of offerings organized chronologically:

Banff Mountain Film Festival
Two nights of entertaining and hair-raising films about extreme sports, from BASE jumping to Biscuit, the climbing Jack Russell terrier. (January)

Begun in 2001, UCSC-affilicated Lunafest presents films by, for and about women. Single-night event benefits local women's groups. (January)

Jewish Film Festival
Two weekends packed with independent Israeli, European and American films intelligently address religious and secular identity and, always, the Israeli/Palestinian struggle. (January, February or March)

Frans Lanting Annual Community Benefit
Famed wildlife photographer and Santa Cruz local Frans Lanting, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, collaborates with his wife, Christine Eckstrom, to present photos and video from all corners of the earth. Two-day event benefits local conservation. (February or March)

EarthVision International Environmental Film Festival
Begun in 1998, this festival features documentaries on alternative energy, endangered species, sustainability and more. New Act Locally category showcases locally made films. (March)

Women of Color Film Festival
Film festival begun at UCSC in 1996 offers an evening of thought-provoking film on issues affecting women of color. (March)

Kennan and Karen Ward Annual Benefit
Every Earth Day the wildlife filmography team that calls Santa Cruz home presents footage of grizzlies, polar bears and other spectacular creatures. (April)

Santa Cruz Film Festival
Weeklong festival begun in 2001 offers 100 independent films annually in venues throughout Santa Cruz. Mix of films by women, international filmmakers, Latinos, youth, GLBT, animation specialists--everyone is welcome, as long as they're original. (April or May)

Reel Work Film Festival
The week before and after May Day (May 1), venues around Santa Cruz show films on the workers of the world and the issues that affect them, from health-care costs to labor rules. (April/May)

Radical Reels Film Festival
High-adrenaline selections from the Banff Mountain Film Fest return for a special weekend engagement at UCSC. (September)

Pacific Rim Film Festival
Weeklong festival begun in 1988 offers FREE viewings in venues around downtown Santa Cruz, with emphasis on filmmakers or subjects from around the Pacific Rim. (September or October)

--Traci Hukill

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