Friends Revisited

(Welcome to Nostalgia Bomb, a series where we take a look back on beloved childhood favorites and discern whether or not they’re actually any good. In this edition: grappling with Friends, the classic sitcom that is as comforting, and as frustrating, as home.)

I do not know where Friends takes place.

After living in New York for a little over a year (albeit in Brooklyn), and having spent several years prior visiting and familiarizing myself with the landscape, I have no idea where Friends, the culturally ubiquitous sitcom that aired for 10 years on NBC from 1994 to 2004, is set. Its frequent establishing shots suggest lower Manhattan, in the East and West Villages, but its actual references to New York landmarks are few and far between, and its attempt to create an artificial version of New York so blatantly casts aside any version of the city that it barely qualifies as an “idea of New York” the way that Woody Allen’s Manhattan or How I Met Your Mother do.

I’ve spent most of my life with Friends. Late nights sick or bored. Friends, with its unchanging landscape and immovable sense of time, its reliably growing or immaturing of its six leads, is insular, never engaging or touching a reality outside of itself, like the Bermuda Triangle of ‘90s sitcoms. And yet, for all of its lack of change, and its consistent hegemony and homogeneity, or because of it, it feels a bit like home.

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lady bird 3

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get personal, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how the new film Lady Bird helped one writer salvage his relationship with his mother.)

Greta Gerwig‘s new movie, Lady Bird, opens in theaters tomorrow. It’s a stunning piece of work, beautifully felt, ambitious both in its scope and intimacy, with striking performances from Saorsie Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. Also, the film may have saved my relationship with my own mother. But we’ll get there. In a moment. Because our personal connections with the movies require context. They require as to sort through our baggage. And I have baggage to spare.

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Ingrid Goes West trailer

The opening joke of Ingrid Goes West is a much about desire as it is disappointment and the inextricable nature of class in how it informs what we want, how we want, and how we get it.

It’s deceptively simple: the audience is left with little else but a sandy beach, the deep blue sea, and the sound of whatever generic paradise can offer. Perhaps it’s comfort or the alleviation of whatever weight presses down. The waves crawl back and forth on the shore, never encroaching. The line across the sand is diagonal, and the beach looks as if it stretches into eternity, without a blemish or a flaw. This is perfect. No, this is perfection. The iconography of its landscape speaks for itself, that heaven could be a place on earth, dominated by kind of serenity that looks just like this: fun in the sun, the cleanest water, pamphlet perfect. The details, though, become fuzzier. It even becomes brighter for an elusive moment, and then it’s gone, as if to suggest that maybe we’re looking at a screensaver. Its bright teal and yellow colors, the overwhelming brightness of the sun begin to fade, or become flatter, even though the image itself remains the same. The title card flickers on and off without much consequence. The waves stop moving. The calls of seagulls cease. Colors look almost as if they’ve congealed, like paradise has been lost. What was once something with dimension, hyper tactility is revealed to be flat, dull, boring, insincere.

It’s a motivational poster, hanging on the wall of a psychiatric clinic.

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james bond lawsuit

Completion is often an important facet of one’s fandom: you have all of The Beatles’ studio albums on your iPod, or sitting on your shelf is every novel Virginia Woolf ever wrote, or you own multiple versions Cinema Paradiso. But what if you planned to have everything and you didn’t get what you thought you were paying for?

That’s the core issue of a class action lawsuit brought against MGM Studios and 20th Century Fox by plaintiff Mary Johnson of Washington, who bought the Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Bond DVD box set, and filed the complaint when she realized the set did not include the 1967 film Casino Royale (the one with Woody Allen – yes, you read that correctly) and 1983’s Never Say Never Again. It’s a matter of whether this is necessarily false advertising, as there’s legal precedent for why these films weren’t included. But should these films be included in Bond box sets in the future? And do their very existence say about the 007 series in general?

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