Chapter 1 "Bad News"
Mary Louise Parker and Justin Kirk in their pre-Weeds duet. Harper and Prior, the abandoned lovers, are dolled up to provide themselves with distracting glamour in their shared hallucination. But their lonely hearts club memberships are too strong for these distractions to be successful. The framing is deliciously funny here. You could title this still "The Lurking Homosexual" and really, whether it's the men she imagines behind walls, or her own husband or this imaginary friend "aren't you too old for imaginary friends?" she knows he's there.
Chapter 2 "In Vitro"
There are so many shots in the six hours where Prior looks devastatingly lonely as both his condition and his fury at the deficient boyfriend grows. The darkness is going to swallow him up.
Chapter 3 "The Messenger"
It's a slightly canted angle, which tends to be lazy shorthand for "TENSION!" but I mostly chose this shot because the physicality in the relationship between leering Roy (Al Pacino) and confused Joe (Patrick Wilson) is so fascinating. Roy is constantly pawing at Joe, totally hot for the young buck. Joe is mostly oblivious but likes to be touched and yet, it always comes out wrong... particular between the two of them (their next close physical contact will involve clenched shirts, gay confessions and lots of blood). Joe raises his fist and Roy keeps egging him on (he wants sex but he'll definitely take violence as a substitute -- check out the dirty thrill in Pacino's eyes with a sideways glance to Joe's fist)... it's all so disturbing. Roy Cohn is basically the devil. He's asking Joe to sin -- pick a transgression, any transgression -- but the genius of the scene is that it's not terrible advice in this case. Something's gotta give.
Chapter 4 "Stop Moving"
This scene is excitingly lit, both for its obvious bids for EPIC MOMENT status and for its rapidfire shifts in feeling: glaring whites, golden softness, blue mood. Plus, Emma Thompson is just hilarious as the self regarding, impatient and highly vocal heavenly creature.
Chapter 5 "Beyond Nelly"
Here's where I stop being able to choose. It's late at night. I'm exhausted and I love every hallucination in this great piece of theatermovie. An astounding monologue about racial impurity and the afterlife from Belize (Jeffrey Wright) to Roy ends with this condescending dreamy dismissal "Go to sleep now baby. I'm just the shadow on your grave." Director Mike Nichols and cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt chase that line with this incredible image.
Both the dead (Meryl Streep as Ethel Rosenberg) and the living (Belize...but "out" gay men in general, really) are haunting Roy. And they'll cast a shadow over him forever. But isn't it rich that you could layer that threatening lullaby monologue over the nearby image of Joe and Harper's tragically unsexy reconciliation and it would work just as well.
Everyone is haunting everyone.
Chapter 6 "Heaven, I'm in Heaven"
My favorite part of chapter six is the frankly incredible duet between Meryl Streep and Al Pacino as they trade hauntings and tauntings, one dead and one dying but both entirely obsessed with defeating the other. "I WIN!" It's the kind of lengthy scene you dream of seeing Great Actors perform together. Neither of them pull any punches but it's also not lazily over the top. It's just perfection, a lucid dream of a duet. But I couldn't decide on a shot. So let's hear it for the absurd diorama (so chintzy, boxy and tiny) that is the angel's final arrival. It's an epic in miniature, both entirely cinematic and thoroughly stagebound. Any time Angels in America embraces both modes simultaneously, it wins.
"Best Shot" Angels
Thank you to these fine heralds for spreading the holy 'Best Shot' word. "I... I... I... I... I..."
- Crossover Man 'Joe & Roy gathered at the edges' is totally interesting. Read it.
- Serious Film "The magic of the theater" ohmygod. almost picked this same shot.
- Nick's Flick Picks the always provocative Mr Davis, picks a naked addition to the text as an emblem of his feelings.
- Low Resolution Belize and Ethel and the most potent of Angels many messages.
- Well, Hello Achilles divvies up the best shots to part 1 (Prior) and part 2 (a chaos of character)
- Much Ado About Nothing highlights the characters and great quotes (but doesn't like the way the movie treats Joe Pitt)
- Against the Hype goes all Lust, Caution on us. Not only do I think Angels in America is brilliant but I think it tends to inspire brilliance in the audience, too, lifting them up. It's just so rich for personal connections and time and place cultural slotting.
- vg21random Redemption as Orgasm. See what I mean?
Other Films in This Series
- Angels in America (2003)
- X-Men (2000)
- Showgirls (1995)
- Bring It On (2000)
- Black Narcissus (1946)
- A Face in the Crowd (1957)
- Pandora's Box (1929)
- Se7en (1995)
- Requiem for a Dream (2000)