A Love Letter to Gordon Davidson

This is an expansion on my original RIP Gordon Davidson blog 

Last Monday night was a Memorial for Gordon Davidson. If you don’t know who Gordon is or was-the chances are you didn’t grow up in Los Angeles. Gordon Davidson was the founding Artistic Director for the Center Theatre Group for over 40 years. He is the person who made Los Angeles a destination for theatre.

I attended on Monday night not because I knew Gordon personally. But because I wanted to say Thank You.

Gordon — You created my introduction to theatre. You fostered the love of theatre and it’s necessity in community.  You created a Golden Era of theatre and made it accessible to everyone.  Thank you. I owe you something good.

When I was a kid, my very first show was at the Music Center. Going to the Theatre was an event — I dressed up in my best dress with white knee socks and black patent leather Mary Jane’s and we drove downtown and when we came up those escalators, there was magnificence.  Architecture, people in tuxedos, lights and fountains.  It was the swankiest place in the world.  When the lights went down and the silence fell over the audience — it was reverence and an excitement I’d never experienced, all in one moment.  From the second the curtain went up and the lights hit the stage, I was mesmerized.  Magic!  I was instantly hooked.

Theatre is a pure art form because anything can happen in a theatre.  There is no separation from those creating the art and those receiving the art and that connection, that touchable connection, is sacred.  That connection is what binds us together as community, as society, as living beings.  But also, it makes us aware that we are bound together.  That connection is what makes it art because until that connection occurs — it isn’t art.  It is intention in a vacuum.

Gordon understood this relationship. He was one of the few artistic directors in the nation that focused on producing new works. He created a relationship with our Los Angeles neighborhoods and commissioned them to give us their voices. He worked with schools and made scholarships available for entire seasons at CTG. Access to theater for everyone. If you grew up in Los Angeles, Gordon was an icon. Sometimes when I would go to the theater, I would see him with his white hair talking to the subscribers.  I’d think to myself, maybe one day I will have the chance to show him what I’ve got. Maybe he will shine his silver light on me.

There is a responsibility that is fostered in theatre.  It is a mission handed down from one artist to the next.  If that magic has touched you — you must pass it on to another.  There are certain rules that make magic possible.  If you have been a part of the work that has created magic, you must share the rules with another artist.  It is a natural mentor/disciple relationship that is fostered in theatre.  Those who live within the natural order of theatre lead by example.  Those who are new are expected to watch and learn and if you want to come out and play — you follow suit. It was like that for me.  It was an honor to be invited to be an apprentice at Zoo District.  Through that apprenticeship, I was taught how to respect the medium and how to preserve it.

Responsibility for that simple mission was accepted on that first day I went to the Music Center.  If you want to be part of the magic-you will do whatever it takes to speak such sacred truths.

At Gordon’s Memorial Monday night — a traditionally dark night for theatre — it seemed fitting that it was on the Ahmanson stage amongst the Amelie set. It was filled with theatre royalty — people who had worked with Gordon over all those years and all those projects. It was said by more than one person that Gordon’s belief in the power of theatre was mythic. That the sacred words spoken would remain housed in those temples. When they had to renovate the Mark Taper, he was almost superstitious around the idea that some of those words might escape in the process thus being lost to the world forever. Because theatre is an ephemeral thing. You were either there to witness what happened on that stage or you weren’t. Either way it can’t be recreated.

Zoot Suit will be returning to the Ahmanson next month. A very fitting celebration to Gordon’s memory.   When it premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in April, 1978, it was the first professionally produced Chicano play. Gordon ushered that project all the way to New York and it became the first Chicano play on Broadway. This was Gordon’s mission. To share the underbelly of our communities, our humanity — what links us all together. Los Angeles has plenty of its own stories to tell. You needn’t go far to find a universal tale.

It was said and felt that the best way that we can honor the memory of Gordon, especially in the political times we live in is to lead with “the same noble intention and unswerving commitment.”

And as Gordon was known to say:

“Leave the door open for possibility.”

This is the legacy fulfilled by Gordon Davidson.  That of a true artist.

– See more at: http://www.better-lemons.com/news-and-opinion/love-letter-gordon-davidson/#sthash.GF1T1jaM.dpuf

In the Heart of America

In the Heart of America

This is a repost of my original posting on

http://www.better-lemons.com/featured/in-the-heart-of-america

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Place: South Bend, Indiana.

Home of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish.

We were 3.5 weeks into the LA Theatre Works national tour of “Judgment at Nuremberg”. It is a radio play about the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

You know the one-where Nazi war criminals were tried for the crimes against humanity that resulted in the Holocaust.

Our play is specifically about the trials of the judges.

The trials that followed the first Nuremberg Trials. These trials were of the judges, doctors, business men, IG Farben whose chemicals were used in the gas chambers and so on.

It’s Judges judging Judges.

It’s a morality play about who is responsible and how far does that responsibility go.

Fun fact: War crimes and crimes against humanity came out of the Nuremberg Trials. It was the first time that people were convicted of carrying out the law. The first time that people were prosecuted for doing something that wasn’t illegal at the time that they did it. That’s how bad the crimes were. We needed to set a precedent so that it couldn’t happen again.

It isn’t a comedy.

3.5 weeks at universities all over the country, doing workshops and having talkbacks. Amidst an impending Presidential election. We find ourselves in the middle of America facilitating a conversation about fascism, nationalism and hate. The kind that makes us insulate ourselves from our neighbors.

Election Night.

No one was going to come and see a play about the Holocaust tonight-so we had the day off.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Notre Dame was it’s swanky-ness. It is gorgeous, surrounded by trees of every color changing before our very eyes. We checked into the Morris Inn-clearly the place they put up donors to impress them.

This is a place where dreams are made. This is a place where anything is possible.

The next thing that I noticed was the lack of color-everywhere except the trees and the staff at the college. The only students that I saw of any color at all were clearly athletes.

Did I mention I was in Indiana.

Mike Pence is the Governor of Indiana.

Rohr’s-the fancy bar at the Morris Inn.

In the middle are me and my castmates. 8 liberal actor tour-mates/friends. 8 of the best that there are to work with. The crème de la crème. 8 people going onto the front lines of truth and 8 people who have been bonded together through intention.

Across from us is a group of 40-50’s something women celebrating a birthday.

At the end of the bar is a group of very large college athletes dominating the TV where the sound is on.

Sprinkled amongst us are several tables of couples that probably never look like they are having a good time.

We ordered food and drinks and waited for signs of how the night was going to progress. What the next four years would hold.

Our very smiley waitress, relatively young, particularly Mid-Western-but surprisingly, under further investigation, is a mother of 4. She looks around to see if anyone is watching her and secretly shows me a photo of her kids on her iPhone.

Smiley Waitress: This is a great job. If I stay-my kids will be able to go to college here and get financial aid.

She points to Murph, the grey-haired gentleman bartender.

Smiley Waitress: Murph has worked here for more than 40 years. They named a burger after him. It’s really good.

Hillary has taken her first states. Our group cheers. We receive glowers from numerous guests. I feel obliged to remind our group that we are not in Kansas anymore. Kansas, actually would’ve been a problem as well-but to be conscious of the fact that we might not be in the majority.

Trump takes Tennessee and a middle aged white guy stands up at his table and obnoxiously cheers and claps and directs all of his energy at our table. He jeers at us.

Obnoxious White Guy: Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!

I am actually not sure why he would care that we didn’t all vote for the same person-but he was successful at making a point. A point that felt like a threat.

I went to the bathroom and the front desk staff was peering into the bar TVs. They all jumped to attention as I walked past to look like they were working. I stopped and chatted with them-my way of letting them know I’m not the person who needs them to busy themselves.

Darlene the Front Desk Clerk: How is your night going?

Me: Good with the exception of the guy who just clapped for Trump in my face.

Darlene: Oh, yes. They get very aggressive if you don’t do what they want you to.

Me: How is this for you tonight?

Darlene: Just a day in the life. This is a good job so I am getting through.

After I returned from the bathroom, the bar had emptied out quite a bit. It was that time in the night when it was looking pretty good for Hillary.

Gone was the obnoxious white guy. Gone was the group of women who I wished that I had asked how they felt about the election and being in Indiana-just to hear what they had to say.

And then about a half hour later-Trump takes another state. Hmmm.

The large athletes-couldn’t tell if they were football players or basketball players or maybe both-were all white except one who was ethnically ambiguous. They cheered loudly and ordered more beer. I believe “Whoops” were involved. The ethnically ambiguous one looked like he was in conflict with himself as he tried to “Whoop” along.

One of my cast mates stands abruptly to leave.

Cast mate #1: This is how much they hate us. They had to make sure we knew just exactly how much they hate us. They are really that afraid of women that they would rather have him than her.

She refuses to watch anything further publicly and retires to her room for some kind of sanctuary.

I was feeling a little touchy. I went out for some air.

Earlier that week we were in Iowa. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota. And Arizona. But in Iowa, I was met with these stares. Not by the Quakers. Not by the Amish. Not by the students or the staff at the University. By the people who were just regular people that we’d bump into at the Culver’s fast food joint (Frozen custard-check it out) or the lobby at our hotel. These people who stare-it is a look I’ve seen before-it is a look of disgust. Perhaps I don’t look the way they think I should? Perhaps it’s indigestion. It’s the same kind of look that someone gets when they want to destroy something.

In the space of 3 hours going between Wisconsin and Iowa to return rental cars-it’s a long story that involves a cancelled flight at Chicago O’Hare airport during the last game of the World Series when the Chicago Cubs won for the first time-

I was asked by 4 separate people in 4 different places:

“Where you from? You ain’t from round here.”

One of whom was a toothless truck driver who thought I might like to see his bumper sticker that was an outline of a pin up girl holding a garden tool.

It read: Every farmer needs a good ho!

When he finished laughing and slapping his knee (really, he actually knee slapped himself) he invited me into the cab of his truck.

Toothless truck driver: Maybe you’d like me to show you other things you won’t see out there in California. Maybe you’d like me to teach you a thing or two.

It was at that moment I assumed the person pumping the gas into our rentals was pumping diesel so that the car would stop in a half a mile and they could come “rescue me”.

People keep pointing out that he was just a trucker…and I keep pointing out that I am just a woman and it spooked me. I felt fear. The kind I haven’t for a while. The kind that is intentional. The kind you can see in their eyes.   That they want to teach you a lesson. The kind that should be unacceptable in a modern society.
When I returned to the bar this time-

Trump had just been given Florida.

One of our cast mates hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #2: My kids are in tears. They don’t understand what is happening. I told them it was going to be fine and not to worry.

The bar was now mostly empty. Except for our group, Murph the bartender, a 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled and a man who it turns out was speaking on the panel about the Nuremberg Trials before our show the next night. We talked about the precedent that Hitler set with his rhetoric of hate. We talked about his focus on how “others” were the problem and his meteoric rise to power. We talked about how quickly the tide can shift. We acknowledged how terrifying it is that his language is mirrored to a tee by Trump as we waited to see how Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin were going to turn out.

Dessert was definitely required.

The 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled came over.

Me: I’ll have the crème brulee with 6 spoons please. How is this night for you? How do you feel about this election?

She scoffs.

Blonde Bartender: I’m just getting through it. Is that it? The kitchen is closing.

Me: Yes, that’s it.

The crème brulee didn’t help.

States that had seemed to be locked up were changing from blue to red.

Another cast mate hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #3: I don’t know what to tell my son. He has a Muslim girlfriend. What am I supposed to tell my son?

It was 1 AM. I’d never been on the east coast for an election. I’m used to Los Angeles where you have a new President by 10.

The bar was closing.   It was me and 2 cast mates, the 2 bartenders and the staff of the hotel. All but the blonde bartender looked like they’d seen a disaster.

I felt like I had just watched the World Trade Center towers fall again. It felt as personal as that day did. An attack on our freedom. Our way of life.

We retreated to our rooms, in shock.

The next day-I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. And the morning news didn’t bring a sudden miracle.

I walked to the bagel place on campus. It was cold, sunny and windy.

A very tall athlete brushed past me. I felt invisible. I felt like I had a target on my back.

On the sidewalk someone had scrawled in pastel colored chalk:

Love Trumps Hate

Standing in line, I overheard 2 undergrads mumbling to each other.

Female Undergrad: I don’t really get what the big deal is?

Male Undergrad: I don’t know. Everybody always overreacts. I mean what can happen in 4 years?

I felt like a crazy person. I felt scared.

The show that night was the kind of show you dream about. And never want to perform at the same time. Our mutual shock over what had transpired in the last 24 hours had turned to anger. Purpose.

If we were gonna be in the good state of Indiana where Mike Pence is the Governor we are going to leave it all on the stage. We are not going to leave a stone unturned. We are going to tell the fuck out of this story and hold our heads up high.

We had developed a camaraderie that you can only find on the front lines. With the people you go to war with.

Fighting the good fight.

Fighting for right by showing the humanity of being wrong.

The show was tragic and terrifying as these words that we had been saying for the last 3.5 weeks were ringing true. These words took on a new meaning.

There is a monologue in the climax of the play.

The character Ernst Janning, the pre-eminent Judge on trial for war crimes, is confessing to his part in upholding the law. He paints the scene as to how these crimes could have happened.

“There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed…What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through…It will be discarded sooner or later.”

I and my cast mates were in tears in the wings.

It wasn’t until I returned home on Thanksgiving Day that I actually felt the weight of reality. Everything has started to normalize. Everyone is getting on with their day. And after standing on stages across this country for the last 5 weeks, I feel impotent. On stage everything makes sense. I am doing something. I am contributing to the world. I am an ambassador for peace. What do I do now?

Politics are a mirror the same way art is.

It is easy to sit in Los Angeles and say “How could anyone vote for him?” I know I did.

If you want to know how someone voted for him, ask them.

And then listen to what they say in return.

If you listen to someone’s fear instead of their hate-they will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about why they are the way they are.

We seem to live in a time where everyone has to agree to be respectful. It’s actually the opposite. Respect for humanity is out of the sameness of us all being people. Not because we are all the same.

Fighting for the good of all includes all, even those we don’t agree with. Especially those who don’t agree with us, because those victories are the hardest won and lost.

Wiser people than me have said that dialogue is the only true path to peace.

There is work to do.

RIP Gordon Davidson

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-gordon-davidson-snap-story.html

RIP Gordon Davidson. You made Los Angeles a destination for theatre. You created my introduction to theatre. You fostered the love of theatre and it’s necessity in community.  You created a Golden Era of theatre and made it accessible to everyone. Thank you. We owe you something good.

When I was a kid, my very first show was at the Music Center.  We dressed up in our best and drove downtown and when we came up those escalators, there was magnificence.  Architecture, people in tuxedos, lights and fountains.  It was the swankiest place in the world.  And when the show started and the lights went down and the silence fell over the audience-It was reverence and an excitement I’d never experienced, all in one moment.  And then from the second the curtain went up and the lights hit the stage, I was mesmerized.  Magic!  The purest moment of magic.  I was instantly hooked.

Theatre is a pure art form because anything can happen in a theatre.  There is no separation from those creating the art and those receiving the art and that connection, that touchable connection, is sacred.  That connection is what binds us together as community, as society, as living beings.  But also, it makes us aware that we are bound together.  That connection is what makes it art because until that connection occurs-it isn’t art.  It is intention in a vacuum.

There is a responsibility that is fostered in theatre.  It is a mission handed down from one artist to the next.  If that magic has touched you-you must pass it on to another.  There are certain rules that make magic possible.  If you have been a part of the work that has created magic, you must share the rules with another artist.  There is a natural mentor/disciple relationship that is fostered in theatre.  Those who live within the natural order of theatre lead by example.  Those who are new are expected to watch and learn and if you want to come out and play-you follow suit…it was like that for me.  It was an honor to be invited to be an apprentice.  Through that apprenticeship, I was taught how to respect the medium and how to preserve it.  Responsibility for that simple mission was accepted on that day at the Music Center.  If you want to be part of the magic-you will do whatever it takes to speak such sacred truths.

Education, edification, enjoyment, enlightenment, and entertainment.

This is the legacy fulfilled by Gordon Davidson.  That of a true artist.

Prince & the 21-Night Stand at the Forum

prince CollageFor an April – May in 2011 there was a 21-night stand in Los Angeles at the Fabulous Forum.

Prince played every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for 21 nights.

$25 at the door.

He was the last artist to play at the Forum before they redid it.

It had just been sitting empty-so he threw a party and made it affordable. I think one night, he tweeted $10 at the door just to get some more bodies there. It lives today in the lore of the city of Los Angeles, the keeper of the magic moments dreams are built on.

I don’t know where you were, but that’s where I was.

The first night we went was April 23rd.

I had always heard Prince was one of the top 5 best artists live.

Could it really be true? Could anyone live up to that much of an expectation?

Yes.

It was one of the single best nights of my life.

So Jeff and I determined to go back as many times as we could.

We went 4 times and Jeff went by himself one night while I convalesced with a migraine, listening to him quietly on an iPod.

What a gift!

He just brought out his friends and they had a party.

Sheila E.-who is the Queen of all Badasses.

Janelle Monae. Larry Graham.

Chaka Khan. Whitney Houston was in the audience and Chaka brought her up on stage. Chaka had to feed the words to her for “I’m Every Woman”-Whitney died shortly after that.

On Stevie Wonder’s birthday, Stevie came out on stage with Prince and they jammed. The stage shone with sparkling glitter that flew off their fingertips-atoms circulating amongst us all. The undeniable connectedness that happens when artistic geniuses give over to their gifts. It was the very best that music has to offer. It was the reason music is what music is.

One night-in my memory it was a Thursday but maybe it was a Friday-

He opened the show with “Sometimes It Snows In April” and then played “Mountains”

I think we were all in shock.

It started without any fanfare.

If you weren’t paying attention you could think it was part of sound check.

All of the big theatrics set aside for this-an invitation into a living room.

I looked around and all of us were in tears.

That point of view-how you see the world-is your art.

For me, the greatest art and artists inspire me to create from my point of view.

They hold a candle as an invitation into their point of view and then I can see what my function is-how I want to say it becomes clear.

For that I thank you Prince.

At the end of the day let’s be honest.

Prince is just funky, sexy, freaky and his music makes me wanna let loose and get down all night long.

When was the last time you danced?

And if you don’t instantly shake your ass when you hear him and wanna tear all of your clothes off-

Then when was the last time you let go?

And if you don’t know the answer to that-it’s been too long.

We were all put here to get down.

And if you ain’t getting down what are you doing?

There is always time to celebrate, to love, to be loved and to share ourselves with each other.

Prince reminds us of this, gives us permission.

Make time to love.

I don’t know about you, but I have been dancing for 3 days straight now. Dancing, living, enjoying recognizing-

Remembering.

If I look at the soundtrack of my life:

The best moments and memories-

the chances are that Prince, Earth Wind & Fire and David Bowie were involved.

All of which we just lost.

Money Don’t Matter 2night

Was the first dance song played at our wedding.

Jeff and I labored for a year and one day

To create a marriage that we could step into.

We paid for our own wedding but we had so much help.

My mother bought me the dress of my dreams.

The owner of the catering company donated the food-whatever we wanted on the menu-as a wedding gift.

The rentals-donated as a wedding gift.

Friends came to our house and helped craft decorations.

When we had to move our venue on the Tuesday before our wedding-Jeff’s brother paid for the new venue over the phone.

By the time we got to the reception-

Money didn’t matter that night. Receiving did.

Money don’t matter 2night

It sure didn’t matter yesterday

Just when you think you got more than enough

That’s when it all up and flies away

That’s when you find out that you’re better off

Making sure your soul’s alright

Cause money didn’t matter yesterday and

it sure don’t matter 2night

When I moved to New York, I lived all over the place.

When I finally got to the Upper East Side, Uptown was my theme song.

I lived at 83rd and 1st Ave above a pizzeria.

I didn’t really know anyone.

Uptown gave a shape and sound to creating the reality out of the fantasy. Prince kept me company when there was no one else in a city of millions.

In the 7th grade we did a Solid Gold dance number to U Got the Look. I had the same haircut as Sheena Easton-we wore turquoise unitards with silver sequined belts and a silver bow in our hair…wait was that the one? Or was that the outfit for the Neutron Dance Pointer Sisters number? Does it matter?

It was spectacular. That guitar lick-I think it might have been the first time that someone told me I was moving “too sexy” for my age. Too “Adult”

What did I know? Felt right to me – blame it on the bass line. Thanks for eradicating shame, Prince…you are on to something.

Prince owns a year.

A whole year.

There was not a party anywhere on New Year’s Eve 1999 that didn’t play that song.

Purple Rain was the song I had my first kiss to

(That was also with a Jeff)

It was in my best friend’s Mom’s condo bathroom.

There was a little skylight so it was completely dark other than this sliver of light slashing between our bodies.

It was maybe 11 in the morning.

And it might have been a dare-

We had to go in there for the whole song

Or maybe we just decided to stay til the end of the song

And Purple Rain was the excuse to make out for 8 and 1/2 minutes.

I could write about his musical genius, which is inarguable. Or his stance on owning his own art as a matter of principal that he has never waivered on. I could write about the sadness of the circumstances of his death. I could write about my own struggle with the concept of death and how I like to deny my humanity by placing ridiculous expectations on myself to create an illusion of control.

But if I love living as much as I do-to not accept death as an equal partner in living-is just hypocritical.

Prince you mere mortal-Thank you for gift of humanity.

Thank you for showing us what art is worth.

Thank you for demanding that creation be deemed as noble.

Thank you for showing us what soul and beauty and freedom and sensuality and badassedness looks like.

Thanks you for reminding me the impact that our mission as artists can make.

Each night we saw him at the Fabulous Forum, he closed with Purple Rain.

Purple confetti fell from the rafters and Shelby J. would wave this giant purple flag.

It was a call to me, to all of us, to be ourselves.

To let our heartbreaks and silent dream aches out.

To let ourselves be scooped up by the human experience of the many in the one.

It was one of those rare moments-the reason I go to concerts-that moment when you look around at a room full of strangers and are connected to the core. Completely in rhythm merely because you are there…the music is that something bigger.

The music is God.

That rhythm connecting us all-

Purple Rain was the beacon that held all of us in it together.

Sometimes he would come back and play more.

And sometimes he wouldn’t.

Today I feel like I am waiting to see if he will or won’t come back to give us more. And the lights have just come on to an empty stage littered with the remnants of a party. It’s time to move on and it is my job to hold that rhythm in my heart and in my life.

HOUSEQUAKE You Sexy Mother Fucker!

 

The function of an artist in society is to hold up the mirror to our true nature.

When we accept our mission on this planet as an artist you choose to live just outside of society.

To see it as it truly is.

Artists take notice-there is a call to arms that has been made.

The torch has been passed.

Who is going to take it and run?

May Prince stand as an even greater illustration of how irreplaceable each of us are.

There is no one else who could ever do what Prince did.

Because he was Prince.

Jeff and I will still wander around every once in a while saying: “Hey, it’s Thursday-wanna go see Prince tonight?”

Hell yeah!

Because we could.

It never once occurred to me that the time would come 5 years from now.

Just under 5 years.

and that would no longer be true.

Mic drop.

Doves are crying.

MORE ABOUT

Dylan Jones is an actor, writer, director, and singer.   She has starred in the International hit Track 3 with Theatre Movement Bazaar, the Elephant’s 7 Redneck Cheerleaders and Block Nine, winner of the LA Weekly Awards “Production of the Year.”   Previous theatrical highlights include Picnic at the Antaeus Company, her one-woman show Pink Champagne and Zoo District’s The Master and Margarita. She can be seen in various television shows and films, including the cult classic Ghost World.   On any night you can find her singing with her band FREAKSTAR.  And on any morning you can find her singing with Gwendolyn & the Good Time Gang.  She has just completed her first short film Save the Date and her first web series Craft Beer both of which she wrote, directed and stars in.

My List of Best Rom-Coms

rom-com collageRomantic Comedies are my favorite genre of movies.

One day I dream of writing the perfect romantic comedy. One that doesn’t require a woman to lose her job or put her entire life on hold for a man. A romantic comedy where the ridiculous shenanigans that we put each other through don’t come from a place of deception and fear that without which the movie would be 5 minutes long and who cares?

This list has been deeply researched and cultivated because I watch just about every rom-com that comes out-good or bad. Even terrible ones can have blissful redeeming qualities. Sometimes, I can even tolerate the nonsensical gender politics and the construct of women vs. men that has infiltrated our psyche.

There are two things that make a romantic comedy work-in my book. Charisma and two people who find themselves better together than they were alone.   Oh, and the power that love has to bring us back to life-mentally, psychically, physically. Love can heal all and returns us to the possibility of believing in something bigger than ourselves-that is what makes life worth living.

You might ask where are the romantic comedies from this decade and I will say that when I find one that doesn’t slyly insult my intelligence as a woman and make me feel like my fallopian tubes are being removed through my nose then I will put it on my list. How it is that the movies I grew up with were more empowering than the stilettoed bikini waxed nonsense we portray women going through as a way of “catching a man” today? Really? We are still trying to catch a man. Ladies-we have vaginas. Bee meet honey.

Until that day here are my personal favorites.

Say Anything – John Cusack & Ione Skye. Classic. Perfection.

Jerry Maguire- Tom Cruise & Renee Zellweger. You complete me.

Don’t worry-they aren’t all Cameron Crowe movies.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – the reason Audrey Hepburn is Audrey Hepburn. Grace, quirk and being completely fucked-up in perfect measure.   And Mickey Rooney being completely un-PC by today’s standards.

*Many other lists has Roman Holiday instead, but for the life of me I can’t understand why.

It Happened One Night – Claudette Colbert & Clark Gable

This is where it all began…and Clark Gable put the undershirt business out of business by not wearing one. Very risqué.

Some Like It Hot – Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis & Marilyn Monroe and a dress with the best jiggling ever put on film.

Ball of Fire – Barbara Stanwyck & Gary Cooper, Screwball at it’s best. This is sexy comic mastery.

My Favorite Wife – Cary Grant & Irene Dunne.

*Everyone else has “My Girl Friday” as Cary Grant’s best-but this screwball comedy actually has a level playing field and divine physical comedy.

Bridget Jones’ Diary – Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant & the inimitable Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. For Singletons everywhere.

Tootsie – Dustin Hoffman, Teri Garr, & Bill Murray.   Oh, and Jessica Lange of course. Gender bending actors-thank you Sydney Pollack.

Moonstruck – Cher & Nicholas Cage. “A wolf without a foot.”  Brilliant. Perfect. La Bella Luna will fix anything.

Punch-Drunk Love – Emily Watson & Adam Sandler. As stressful as falling in love is and as charming and rewarding if you can survive it.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey in my favorite performance of his and the multi-colored hair of Kate Winslet –For the broken hearted who can’t get free from the memory of the past to create something new- Michel Gondry genius.

Monsoon Wedding – From the woman who gave us Kama Sutra & Salaam Bombay, Mira Nair brings us one of my favorite topics to explore- multi-generational, new world meets old world thrown together in a wedding pressure cooker.

About A Boy – Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult.  About love in more than a few ways.

Murphy’s Romance – Sally Field & James Garner, with a very young Corey Haim. A little more of a dramedy but the wisdom of the difference made when dealing with a man.

Something’s Gotta Give – Fuck Annie Hall-watch Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson be adults instead of neurotic narcissists.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and other British stalwarts who are also in Bridget Jones’ Diary. The coming back to life in a foreign country meets being a dreamer with the best of ensemble acting and heart.

Just because the last 3 will make many of you ask “Why do I have to watch movies about old people?”

Harold & Maude – Ruth Gordon & Bud Cort.

*Reference rom-com requirements and charisma

40 Year-Old Virgin – Steve Carell & Catherine Keener…and every other comic superstar birthed from Judd Apatow movies. The best awkward comic moments with a gooey sweet center.

Oh, and from this decade-here you go:

Trainwreck – Amy Schumer & Bill Hader. Thank you Amy Schumer for calling all of the nonsense out and making a possible for a multi-layered fucked up girl to be worthy of love too.

Silver Linings Playbook – J-Law & Bradley Cooper. 2 fucked up people worthy of love.

Brooklyn – Saoirse Ronan.   Simple and breaktaking. Astonishing that a movie about a girl in the 50’s is the most independent female story of the year.   If you watched Carol instead, I feel sorry for you.

Now. When you need a little something more and when a rom-com just won’t do it.

ROMANTIC DRAMA

Who is ever in the mood for that? Once a month-Get your cake and blankie and watch these.

Can’t be with your soulmate cause the universe is a cruel cruel place- heal and watch a romantic drama and cry cry cry and find a way to search for something new. And don’t watch The Way We Were-it will only keep you searching for emotionally unavailable men.

Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. The reason why Casablanca is on every list of best movies ever-selfless love.

Dr. Zhivago – Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and a brilliant ensemble of the crème de la crème of actors. The best of sweeping epics. I watch it every ten years and every ten years it has a completely different effect on me. So, you can keep going back even if it didn’t get you the first time.

Wuthering Heights – Merle Oberon & Laurence Olivier. Heathcliff & Cathy. Heathcliff. Heathcliff.

Sense & Sensibility – Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson (won an Oscar for her screenplay) Alan Rickman

Speaking of crying in the rain-Willoughby. Willoughby. In memory of Alan Rickman-a must watch. He is the reason to care about these women.

Scenes From A Marriage – Liv Ullman & Erland Josephson

Ingmar Bergman. It was originally a Swedish TV show. It is 6 hours long. Watch with someone you love and then take breaks and have arguments. Humanity through the lens of the Swedish master.

And of course-the benchmark of romantic drama.

Romeo & Juliet – the Franco Zeffirelli version. It doesn’t get better…but if you just can’t stand that

The Baz Luhrmann version is a gorgeous sumptuous re-creation. Hell, make it a double feature with Moulin Rouge – Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman.

Which brings us to…

ROMANTIC MUSICALS

Aren’t they all-probably but they aren’t all good and there are so many-so a few outside the box choices.

Singing in the Rain – Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, & Donald O’Connor.  It is the epitome and has the most delicious singing and dancing.

Once – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova.  So gentle and sweet. I put this on the list for my hubby.

Umbrellas of Cherbourg – Catherine Deneuve & Nino Castlenuovo. Technically not a musical but the entire thing is sung. Director Jacques Demy creates a Technicolor fantasy of love and heartbreak.

What a Way To Go – Dame Shirley MacLaine & a host of iconic men. Technically also not a musical but who cares-it has all the things that I love about musicals. Costumes and giant set pieces…just watch anything Shirley is in and it will make you feel better…Even Terms of Endearment.

ROMANTIC CRIMINALS

Bonnie & Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway. Classic and wrong in all the best ways.

The Grifters – Anjelica Huston, John Cusack & Annette Bening. Wrong in all the wrong ways.

ROMANTIC ADVENTURE

My personal favorite genre that kind of went the way of the 80’s love montage. We need to bring this back. Note to self: idea for rom-com premise-sexy independent woman whose main flaw is not knowing how to let a man be a man.

Romancing the Stone & Jewel of the Nile – Kathleen Turner & Michael Douglas. Sex appeal, intelligence, and travel oh my!

“Joan Wilder? The Joan Wilder?”

ROMANTIC FANTASY

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – Gene Tierney & Rex Harrison. The title says it all.

Somewhere in Time – Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour. It will make anyone believe in the impossible.

Splash – Tom Hanks & Daryl Hannah. Again, belief in the impossible.

The Fountain – Rachel Weisz & Hugh Jackman. When you don’t know what to believe.

Just Like Heaven – Reese Witherspoon & Mark Ruffalo. My personal go to-anything is possible where destiny is concerned.

50 First Dates – Drew Barrymore & Adam Sandler. “Wait, you have to find a way to make her fall in love with you every day?” Yup.

Hot Tub Time Machine – John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke & Lizzy Caplan. Yes, it really is about a hot tub and time travel.

ROMANTIC SPORTS

Bull Durham – Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins. And baseball? Yes, please and thank you.

Fever Pitch – Drew Barrymore & Jimmy Fallon. Again, baseball charisma-indulgence, yum.

AND OF COURSE – FRENCH

Who knows more about love than the French? Well, at least they make great movies.

Cleo 5-7 – Directed by Agnes Varda, the Mother of the French Neue Wave. My all-time personal favorite-made me want to direct movies.

Chloe in the Afternoon – Directed by Eric Rohmer. Will never let you down in the illumination of life’s complexities.

Amelie – Audrey Tautou. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Truly a masterpiece of whimsy.

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly – Mathieu Amalric & Emmanuelle Seigner. Directed by Julian Schnabel. An uncomfortable glorious painting.

Betty Blue – Beatrice Dalle. One of the saddest romantic stories ever. Heart wrenching. And opens with morning sex. They way people actually have sex.

GAY & LESBIAN ROMANCE

Okay it would be an oversight to not comment on the fact that this category shouldn’t have a reason to exist because love is love but it is necessary and so underrepresented that it is an embarrassment, a failure of our culture. And that this year’s Carol was touted as a lesbian movie is infuriating-since it really was about a self-centered narcissist who thought not of anyone but herself and used everyone she came in contact with. Ladies, we need to step it up.

But, I’m A Cheerleader – Natasha Lyonne. Cultish, quirky, delicious.

Bedrooms and Hallways – Jennifer Ehle, Hugo Weaving, & James Purefoy. A little outdated but is a good example of labels not mattering.

Brokeback Mountain – Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger. Heartbreak city. “I wish I knew how to quit you” We’ve all been there.

Far From Heaven – Dennis Quaid, Julianne Moore & Dennis Haysbert.  Where Todd Haynes got it right.

ROMANTIC ZOMBIES

Warm Bodies – Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco & Rob Corddry. Zombies need love too.

You know you have gone too far when you get to Romantic Zombies.

There of course are many not mentioned here.  There are plenty of other wonderful romantic comedies out there.  I only put the ones I watch on my list.  Because “When Harry Met Sally” is perfect- everyone knows it, but does it really need to be on another list?

From the Front Lines Of…

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The Miss Dylan Jones Experience.

How truly out on a limb do you have to go to brand yourself into searchable words or how honest do you have to get to share whatever feels like you should keep it a secret?

Either way-Here are some thoughts.  The ones that usually keep me awake at night and get me out of bed searching for pen and paper-the ones that once they are purged can go off into the night sky like those candle balloons…what do you call them?  You know, the ones you see in movies from Thailand or India.

Or the movie “Melancholia”- During the wedding reception, the guests go out to the cliff off the coast and light candles in paper balloons and they write a wish for the couple or something they want to let go of-or that might be just my fantasy-either way it’s a beautiful scene that one day I will recreate in my own special way.  Maybe a birthday party crab boil-No, I have too many vegan friends for that to be fun any more.

Sky lanterns!  That’s what they’re called.

This blog will be like that.  Sky lanterns that float off to be seen by whomever is looking.

Whoever?  Whomever?

Which are you?

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