06 December 2011

"The Sopranos" Season Six, Part I

The Sopranos Season Six, Part I
Starring James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Aida Turturro, John Ventimiglia, Steven R. Schirripa, Vincent Curatola, Frank Vincent, Ray Abruzzo
Created by David Chase
DVD Release Date: 7 November 2006
List Price: $49.99
Also available on Blu-ray Disc, List Price: $69.99
720 Minutes

The first part of the final season of The Sopranos begins with everything going Tony's way. He surprises Carmela with a new Porsche just because he can. But then things go south in a hurry; Uncle Junior shoots him in a fit of dementia. Vito Spatafore is outed, inviting all kinds of homophobic strife--particularly from outraged Phil Leotardo, whose cousin is Vito's wife. A.J. has carried his apathy into adulthood, frustrating his parents at every turn. And then there's the matter of Christopher, who is determined to get his horror movie, Cleaver, produced...and he has Tony's begrudging support in lieu of what became of Adriana in the fifth season.

This is one of my favorite seasons of the entire series (or at least, this part of this season is). Artistically, the stuff they did with "Join the Club" (one of the best dream episodes of the lot, and there have been some doozies) was great fun. Hearing James Gandolfini use his real speaking voice was clever. The "real" portions of the episode features some of the best material in the entire series to showcase Edie Falco's acting chops as Carmela.

There are some other perfect episodes, such as "Luxury Lounge," in which Christopher goes to Hollywood to try to get Sir Ben Kingsley to sign onto Cleaver. "The Ride" showcases the various ways in which we, as human beings, seek to fill our time with thrills and escapism. "Kaisha," which concludes this part of Season Six, is all about finding contentment--clearly a theme that resonated powerfully with me this time around. It was, after all, two months ago today that I nearly ended my life. Some of the funniest stuff in the series happens in these episodes, too; from Christopher mugging Lauren Bacall and stealing cases of wine with Tony to Bobby agreeing to shoot a gangsta rapper who wants street cred. The dialog is sharp as ever and I couldn't stop laughing at many of the malapropisms.

Someone online recently noted that, "Depression doesn't have a thing to do with gratitude," and they were entirely right. Still, because I'm managing my depression reasonably well again, I've been able to feel more contentment and gratitude of late. I've been under the weather most of the last week (still am) and my guts have been a bit obnoxious but otherwise, I've been in reasonably good health the last couple of months. I've even managed to do a little driving successfully! I've enjoyed the company of my friends, and I've made a new friend with whom I feel an easy closeness--rare for me. There's a moment in "Kaisha" where Tony addresses Phil in the hospital, following his heart attack, and expresses the importance of compromising to enjoy life rather than fight tooth and nail for everything and enjoying none of it. That moment meant something to me this time around beyond merely recognizing its philosophical validity.
The running theme of Season Six, Part I is the exploration of manhood--a topic that has always vexed me. Here, we see Tony frustrated with A.J. not "manning up" as a young adult, even noting to Melfi that it was "a good thing" his father wasn't alive to see A.J.'s behavior. Likewise, there are the subplots of the emotional Johnny Sack and the homosexual Vito--both of which incense old schooler Phil Leotardo. After his shooting, Tony reevaluates who he is as a husband and as a father, two key roles for a man to fill. Paulie discovers his mother is really his aunt (and vice versa), completely upturning his sense of self as a son. This stuff troubled me as much in these episodes as it always has in my daily life. I'm not comfortable thinking of myself as a man, in large part because my dad made clear to me as a child I would never be one. Someone other than me will have to expound upon this theme, then, and I hope you'll understand.

One last thought about this DVD box set: There are four commentary tracks and I actually enjoyed three of them! I've been "meh" about just about every commentary in the series so far, but these were actually fun. "Join the Club" features cast members Edie Falco, Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler; "Luxury Lounge" features writer Matthew Weiner; "The Ride" features writer Terence Winter and actors Tony Sirico and Michael Imperioli. Weiner in particular gave a fun commentary and his episode blew by--unlike the absolutely dreadful Peter Bogdanovich commentary from an earlier season. David Chase's commentary for the finale, "Kaisha," is average; not bad, but certainly not as engaging as the other three. Still, for once I can actually endorse a fan taking the time to listen to these commentary tracks.

First Season | Second Season | Third Season | Fourth Season | Fifth Season | Season Six, Part II

2 comments:

  1. Just want to say great commentary, and you are a man a good man that helps others and your self.

    ReplyDelete