The Rewatch: Friends - Season 6

Certain shows, like The Golden Girls, are timeless. Sure, there are some dated references, but for the most part, the jokes and situations are just as relevant today as they were when the show was airing. One thing I've been noticing about this Rewatch, though, is as time goes on, and television gets better and better, Friends is beginning to fossilize. You wouldn't think a simple sitcom about a group of people hanging out would age rapidly, but the tone, writing, and plotlines of Friends are looking more archaic with every passing season.

That's not to say that it's a bad show now; it's just very of-the-moment in a way that I didn't expect. The '90s technology, the continued reliance on gay panic jokes, Bruce Willis with hair... All of these make the show look older than it really is. Season 6 did have a few welcome changes, though. I mentioned in the Season 5 post that Friends is weakest when it focuses too heavily on the romances within the group. While there is still certainly plenty of that going on, this season definitely has a better balance of non-romance episodes, in which they get back to the silly friend interactions that made the show so successful in the first place.

However, as shows goes on, characters tend to calcify into extreme versions of their biggest personality traits, and that is definitely beginning to occur here. For the most part, everyone still acts like actual human beings, but Season 6 is when you can start charting things like Monica turning from organized neat-freak into compulsive, anal-retentive shrew, or Ross from clumsy-at-relationships to full-on psychotic liar. When the comedic situations turn from things like "This lady is messy!" to "I'm going to keep my marriage a secret from the bride herself!" you know things are getting too wacky, too fast.

The first and last batch of episodes of the season focuses on the shifting romantic relationships between Ross/Rachel (attempted annulment, eventual divorce) and Monica/Chandler (moving in together, marriage proposal), but in the middle, there are some real gems. As I said in Season 5, Friends really shines in their Thanksgiving episodes, and Season 6 is no exception. There's also a fun two-parter in an alternate universe in which Monica is still fat, Joey is still a soap star, Ross is still married to Carol, and so on.

This is also the season in which Ross is a professor, and has an affair with one of his students (Elizabeth). That may have worked as a one-off episode, but Elizabeth sticks around for several episodes, and is far too boring a character to justify the time spent on her. Ditto for Joey's temporary roommate Janine. Guest stars apparently work best on this show when their appearances are brief. The episodes that really work best are the ones that stick to the core cast, and just let their personalities bounce off of each other.

Notable Guest Stars: As mentioned above, there's Alexandra Holden as Elizabeth and Elle Macpherson as Janine, neither of whom should have gotten as much screen time as they did, the former because her character doesn't have enough personality, and the latter because... let's just say her range is limited. Bruce Willis also shows up as Elizabeth's father, and is similarly over-used. There are some good flashing guest appearances, though, from Reese Witherspoon as Rachel's sister Jill to the always-wonderful Missi Pyle as one of Ross' ill-fated dates. The usual recurring folks (Elliot Gould, Christina Pickles, Tom Selleck, Maggie Wheeler, etc.) are also back, and they're always a welcome presence.

What's Keeping Ross and Rachel And Their Apparently Greatest Love in the History of the Earth Apart This Time: After the drunken wedding in Vegas, there are several episodes devoted to its dissolution. Ross trying to keep their marriage going in secret is one of the dumbest things ever written for this show, but I can't deny that there are also some genuinely funny aspects to this most recent split. After the divorce is final, they're able to get back to a state of platonic friendship, which is nice to see, though I'm aware that it won't last.

Best Episode: This one's easy. "TOW Ross Got High" is the season's Thanksgiving episode, and it is just wonderful. Between Rachel's disastrous trifle and the Ross/Monica exchange where they hysterically expose each other's secrets to their parents, this episode fires on all cylinders from beginning to end.

Worst Episode: A trio of the Elizabeth/Paul episodes ("TOW Ross Dates a Student", "TOW Ross Meets Elizabeth's Dad", and "TOW Paul's the Man") could certainly vie for this dubious honor on account of how dull they are, but the worst episode of the season shouldn't just be the absence of good. There should be something actively bad involved. That's why, despite the involvement of Missie Pyle and Joanna Gleason, I have to go with "TOW Ross' Teeth", which may as well be called "TOW Dudes Should Loudly Proclaim Their Heterosexuality at Every Opportunity". Joey is mad because the woman who pays him rent is making their apartment too girly. Ross is ridiculed for putting on makeup. For fuck's sake, '50s educational shorts didn't have this much pressure to hide your personality quirks in order to conform.

In looking at the season as a whole, I'm conflicted. There are definite bright spots, but the show also appears to be taking a turn. It's tough to identify, but we may be approaching the point of the proverbial shark jump. The big arcs of the show are moving forward, but as it progresses, it's becoming more about the characters' love lives than any joy in spending time together. In short, Friends isn't about friends anymore. Will Season 7 continue this trend? There's only one way to find out. Onward!

The Sun'll Come Out, Tomorrow

Orphans! They're just like us! Well, except for the fact that they're completely different. The psychological scars of the typical nuclear family are wholly different than the ones inflicted on the parent-less, which means that orphans sure do make for good storytelling. So much so that by happenstance, I just watched two wildly different titles that revolve around orphans and how they begin to rebuild a sense of family.

The first was the inaugural season of the Netflix adaptation of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I really liked all the books, but the original movie was not particularly great. It was inoffensive enough, but the only thing that really stood out were the end credits. That didn't prevent me from getting my hopes up when this new version rolled around, for a few reasons:

Neil Patrick Harris was attached as Count Olaf, which is terrific casting. Daniel Handler (that is, Lemony Snicket himself) was in charge of the writing. Barry Sonnenfeld, who gave us such gorgeous visuals in Pushing Daisies was giving this show a similar look. That, plus the fact that putting this property on TV gave it move time and space to breathe than a single movie, had me anticipating this show more than any other.

Was it worth the attention? Affirmative, a word which here means "of course it was". All of the points I just mentioned paid off in spades, and there were so many more. The show really captures the tone of the books, and the producers are obviously having grand fun with casting the guest stars, from Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss to Alfre Woodard as Aunt Josephine. Neil Patrick Harris is able to walk the fine line between making Olaf a farcical figure of fun and an actual menace. His troupe of ne'er-do-well henchmen are just on the right side of goofy. Patrick Warburton is perfect as the melancholy, stone-faced narrator. And the Baudelaire orphans themselves? They're fine, if not that noteworthy. The children may be determined, but they're fairly reactive characters, so I don't blame the actors if they're somewhat placid; they're the sad calm in the midst of a hurricane of wacky adults.

Each book gets two episodes, so it's basically one movie per book, with the season covering the first four. Despite the horrors the Baudelaires are forced to endure, it was a joyous viewing experience, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment.

Up next was an orphan of a different stripe. It's that moody caped crusader, Batman himself. And although he's as grim and dour as ever, his surroundings are pretty bright and cheery. That's right, it's The LEGO Batman Movie. And speaking of casts that are stacked with talent, just check out this one. Everyone loaned their voice to this movie!

It's incredible how many different rights the producers of the LEGO movies have to lock down, but they somehow manage. Though Batman (Will Arnett) is the nominal star, there are appearances from characters from all sorts of other realms, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter. Batman is used to working alone, but between the Joker's new evil plan, a forceful Barbara Gorden as police commissioner, and an eager sidekick trying to get adopted, he has to learn to rely on others.

The story arc is fairly straightforward, but given that this is a LEGO movie, it's really more about the rapid-fire jokes and references. They all landed well, giving me a lot of good chuckles. The movie isn't as clever or inventive as the original one, but it was still a lot of fun, and kids will love it.

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Season 1: A-
The LEGO Batman Movie: B

Oscar Nominations 2017

Another year, another apology for not being a better, more refined movie-goer this past year. I always get something out of the Oscars (though I can't be the only one dreading the inevitable parade of politically-tinged acceptance speeches this year), but I used to approach them with a lot more background knowledge. Now I'm just more of an observer, which is somewhat disappointing.

But that's what I get for having such an embarrassing, sub-par year of movie-watching habits. If nothing else, the Oscar nominations are always a good highlight of films to put on my Eventual To-Watch List When I Trip Over a Wheelbarrow Full of Free Time. It's also very refreshing to see some melanin this year; there's been so much bad news lately, it's nice that noteworthy performances/craftsmanship by minorities is getting a ton of recognition. Okay, enough chatter. Let's look at the list.


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Oh, look. Here's the perfect example of my inability to catch the culturally-important movies of the year, because I've seen precisely two of these. Fortunately, one of them is the odds-on favorite to win. La La Land has a record-tying number of nominations, and will likely capture Best Picture without breaking a sweat. I would like to get to Moonlight soon, and would certainly be willing to catch up with most of the others at some point, too. Except Hacksaw Ridge. Hard pass on that one.


Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling, (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen, (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Though La La Land is expected to dominate most of the evening, I believe the Casey Affleck is the favorite to win this one. I just need to be in the right headspace to watch a movie as apparently depressing as Manchester by the Sea, and I'm not there yet. I'm pretty curious about Captain Fantastic, too. Though I'm certainly not against melodramatic plays being adapted into movies, I've still got some residual disappointment from August: Osage County, so Fences is hovering at the bottom of the to-watch list, currently. I've heard great things about Denzel Washington both behind and in front of the camera on this one, though.


Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Listen, I love Meryl Streep as much as the next guy. She's a national treasure. That doesn't mean she's required by law to be nominated for every performance she gives. She didn't deserve it for August: Osage County, she sure as hell didn't deserve it for Into the Woods, and by all accounts, her nomination slot for this year's awards should have gone to Amy Adams for Arrival. That said, I can't decide if I think Emma Stone or Natalie Portman is going to win. I do love Isabelle Huppert, but I don't think enough people have seen Elle to cement her win. Negga is getting heavy praise, but Loving has been pretty much ignored otherwise. If forced to guess, I think Emma Stone will snag her first win on a tidal wave of Hollywood love for La La Land, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.


Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Though I mentioned at the top of the post that it was great to see some diversity in the nominees, you'll notice I haven't predicted any minority winners yet. The supporting acting categories are where I think that will change. Mahershala Ali is just everywhere this year, and any article about Moonlight goes out of its way to single out his performance. It would be pretty awesome to see him get this win.


Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

And while I'm handing out awards to performances I haven't seen yet, it's high time that Viola Davis got an Oscar. This is her third nomination, and I believe it's also going to finally be her year to win. Her closest competition is probably Michelle Williams, but I think Davis has more momentum.


Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Well, now. A couple of very interesting things to discuss here. Firstly, there's the horse race between Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins. La La Land has so much steam right now, it's hard to imagine anyone but Chazelle winning. That said, Moonlight blew a lot of people away, and the temptation to give a deserved award to an African-American director for the first time in history will be incredibly strong. I honestly don't know which way it'll go. There's also the inclusion of Mel Gibson on this list. Is he now re-accepted to Hollywood society? Who decided that, and when? I certainly didn't put my stamp of approval on it.


Mike Mills (20th Century Women)
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou (The Lobster)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Oof. This is the toughest one to predict so far. I would love to see The Lobster win, but there are a lot of other forces at work, here. There's the La La Land nomination juggernaut, even though its screenplay has no business being nominated. There's the fact that Manchester by the Sea might not get much attention in other categories, so people may throw their votes for it here. And then there's Hell or High Water, which also has a decent chance.


Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
August Wilson (Fences)
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)
Luke Davies (Lion)
Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Several good choices here, too. If Barry Jenkins doesn't win director, he could still garner votes in this category. Arrival depended heavily on its screenplay, and it was masterfully done. I'm not sure how common posthumous awards are, but despite August Wilson's obvious talent, I doubt he'll be able to secure this win from the grave. And Hidden Figures is unlikely to win much come Oscar night, but if it does, it'd probably be in this category.


Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

Oh, dear. This is the first time in a while that Pixar isn't up for anything, and I really loved both Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana. Kubo really didn't get much attention while it was out, so I suppose I'd predict Moana based on pure word-of-mouth, and if I'm being honest, I probably did like it a bit more.


A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
Land of Mine (Denmark)
Tanna (Australia)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

I don't know much about the foreign language field this year, other than the shockingly shameful situation that our current political climate has imposed on the Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi. Given that he also made A Separation, I wouldn't be surprised if he won.


La La Land

Yeah, La La Land has this one sewn up.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

There's no really grand, sweeping period piece like Anna Karenina this year to draw all the attention. That probably means that the bright, colorful costumes of La La Land will get most people's votes.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

Aw, it's nice to see Hail, Caesar! represented. I don't think it can overcome the La La Land onslaught, but it would be a fun twist if it won. Arrival would have a better chance in a different year, but I have the feeling that it may go home empty-handed, unless it's able to grab the screenplay award.


Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

This category has generated a lot more chatter than usual. Both 13th and I Am Not Your Negro have been getting a ton of press for their thoughtful deconstruction of the frustrating state of race relations. Life, Animated is an interesting look at using Disney movies to cope with life's challenges. And O.J.: Made in America was universally praised, but is controversial in that it's really more of a TV show than a movie. Despite that argument, it appears to have a slight edge on winning.


4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Even in a normal year, I'd be woefully unprepared to discuss this category. This year is even worse, because even with all the reading I do about movies and the numerous movie podcasts I listen to, I haven't heard boo about a single one of these. So, pick your favorite! That one's gonna win.


Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

This will likely go to La La Land, though I'd be tickled pink if Moonlight gets it. Editing a movie with time jumps takes a lot of detailed work.


Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ooh, this would be a fantastic way of throwing a bone to Rogue One. That movie had some excellent effects, though Kubo's effects were marvelous, too. If either one of those two wins, I'll walk away happy.


A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Yikes, this is the best list they could come up with? I can't believe they couldn't either pad this out with other movies or find some worthy replacements. As it stands, I don't care one bit who wins this one.


La La Land

La La Land seems like a lock for this one, honestly. I may be overestimating how much awards love that movie will get, but its score seems like one of its safer bets.


“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" (La La Land)
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” (Trolls)
“City of Stars” (La La Land)
“The Empty Chair” (Jim: The James Foley Story)
“How Far I’ll Go” (Moana)

OK, this is where I'm supposed to predict that obviously, the musical that's favored to win Best Picture is going to win for Best Original Song, too. There are just two little flies in the ointment. First, there are two songs up from La La Land, which means that they may split the vote. Second, if Moana wins (and frankly, it should), it puts Lin Manuel Miranda that much closer to an EGOT, which people really want to see happen. La La Land is poised to win so many other awards, I feel myself grasping onto tiny glimmer of hope that "How Far I'll Go" can emerge victorious.


Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

The only one I've seen or have heard about is Piper, which was very cute, and had the best water effects I think I've ever seen.


Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

I'm afraid that as in the documentary short category, I know nothing about any of these. So let's throw a dart at the wall. Timecode it is!


Deep Water Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

I have it on good authority that the winner this year is a sound clip of me yelling about how this should be part of the untelevised technical awards, because nobody gives a good goddamn.


Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Which goes double for sound mixing.
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