Best Movies Al Fresco 2017 | Street Food Cinema | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

In the blazing hot Arizona summer, it's probably best to restrict one's moviegoing to traditional indoor theaters. But when the temperature drops and we can bear to be outside again, Street Food Cinema is our movie experience of choice. The concept, which began in California and headed east to Phoenix in 2016, brings together classic films, local music, and food trucks for a thoroughly satisfying night of entertainment. Phoenix's events are held from fall through early summer at Steele Indian School Park in central Phoenix, where cinephiles bring a blanket or chair to sit on and watch films like Mean Girls, Edward Scissorhands, Dirty Dancing, and Back to the Future on a giant inflatable screen. Local acts MRCH, Celebration Guns, and The Senators have provided tunes for the series, and past food truck participants include favorites like Cousins Maine Lobster and Waffle Luv.

There's an inherent joy in seeing relatively recent film releases on the cheap, but visiting East Valley real estate mogul Michael Pollack's Pollack Tempe Cinemas is an experience in itself. Bathed in strange, purple light, the theater serves as a home for a huge chunk of Pollack's collection of pop culture ephemera. Life-size statues of Spock, Darth Vader, and Jar Jar Binks? Check. An animatronic band of pirates? Also check. Pollack's peculiar aesthetic drives the feel of the place, featuring vintage tin lunchboxes with '70s cartoon characters alongside giant photos of Pollack's lion's mane of hair posed next to former President George Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. It's a one-of-a-kind place, the kind of place worth scoping out even if you don't catch a matinee of that superhero flick you missed when it was in regular theaters a few months ago.

Whether you're looking for a new indie release, insightful documentary, classic film programming, or a Big Gay Sing-Along Night, the FilmBar downtown is the place for those who want an alternative to the multiplex experience. The bar's geared toward lounging, but it's the thoughtful programming and personalized vibe that sets FilmBar apart from its corporate competition. Since opening in 2011, FilmBar has served passionate Phoenix film fans, working with an eye toward the local community. The theater's monthly Arizona Film Showcase offers local filmmakers a chance to show off their work on the regular.

Look, call us old-fashioned, but the food service during a film screening just doesn't work for us. We like to get our snacks and drinks before the flick starts, so for our money, you can't beat Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square. The food and drink is pretty damn stellar — including coffee drinks from Cartel, craft beers, wine, and upgraded takes on standard theater munchies — and the reclining, plush seats are comfy as hell. Programming works hard to match any taste: You can catch indie movies like Lady Macbeth if that's your bag, or stick to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2-size blockbusters — Camelview screens 'em all.

Year in, year out, the Phoenix Film Festival spoils Valley moviegoers. Its 2017 edition brought 175 films to Harkins Scottsdale 101, where some 20,000 people came together for a week to watch local, national, and international films in an unpretentious environment. This year, the festival highlighted just how much moviemaking potential there is in Arizona by screening an array of films — including documentaries, shorts, and features — made here or by people from here. Ryan Anderson and his feature IMperfect took home best Arizona filmmaker and Arizona feature, while Peter Byck's documentary One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts won best Arizona short.

Art festivals happen a lot around these parts. Maybe too often, even for art lovers. The old model of throwing up a bunch of booths filled with artwork isn't all that captivating anymore. The best art festivals bring art to unexpected places, blend visual with performance art, and have plenty of ways for festivalgoers to get creative instead of being passive observers. That's just what happened at the last Canal Convergence, when artists and community members gathered along the banks of the Arizona Canal. Festivalgoers enjoyed four nights of art installations and performances including live music, mural painting, and dance by creatives from both the local and international scenes. Most spectacular were light-based installations that set the desert landscape and waterway aglow, creating beautiful settings for snapshot-loving types and "Wow" moments that sparked lively conversations between strangers and friends.

Andrew Pielage

The closest you'll get to having a Lisa Sette-caliber eye is probably walking around the Valley art tastemaker's gallery. If you're lucky, perhaps you have pockets deep enough to purchase a piece from her stellar stable of artists. Assuming you're not ready to drop all the dollar bills on politically charged sculptures, paintings, and mixed media, you'll just have to settle for soaking up work by Carrie Marill, Angela Ellsworth, and Rachel Bess in a beautifully revamped subterranean Al Beadle building. Naturally, Sette, who brings three decades of curating expertise to each show, presents them all in perfectly appointed fashion.

The best up-and-coming gallery in Phoenix is a reboot. The Sagrado Galleria first opened in 2012 in the Grand Avenue Arts District. But it closed for a time, and reopened in November 2016 at its new south Phoenix location. During its first year in the new space, the gallery presented works by dozens of local artists. But it's more than just an arts venue. It's also a community space. The Sagrado Galleria is a place where visitors from diverse backgrounds enjoy visual art, music, workshops on topics such as ancestral birthing practices and colonization, film screenings, and performances. There's even a pop-up coffee bar and opportunities for local artisans to sell their works. The gallery also partners with community groups on murals and other projects, smashing the stereotype of art galleries as isolated, sterile places where only hardcore art lovers gather or feel at home.

The easiest way to check in on Arizona State University's mega-talented art students? Visit Grant Street Studios in the warehouse district south of downtown Phoenix. The former textile factory is home to master's candidates' studio spaces (which are open for touring once a year and also by appointment), and the Herberger Institute facility also has two galleries where grad students, alumni, and faculty regularly display art. Your best bet for variety is Step Gallery. The student-run space hosts MFA thesis exhibitions, work from alumni, and the occasional group show. Which easily makes it one of the most exciting places to discover local art in the Valley.

Julia Fournier thrifts Pucci dresses like nobody's business, but that's not the only reason to stop by this funky enclave, fronted by Fournier's vintage shop, The Bee's Knees. Fournier also shows local art, and The Hive houses Wasted Ink Zine Distro, billed as the hub for local DIY zinesters. Round things out with drinks from Silent Flight coffee and make a day of it.

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