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Angels in America DVD Cover

A Previous Divine Presentation
at Friday Night Movies:

Angels in America

Millennium Approaches
Friday the 15th of October

Perestroika
Friday the 22nd of October


Guest hosted by Devan & Frank

Greetings, Prophet! The great work begins! The Messenger has arrived!
--The Angel (Emma Thompson)

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USA: 2003 -- Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Tony Kushner
Starring Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jeffrey Wright, Mary-Louise Parker and Emma Thompson

Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions.
--Jeffrey Wright as Mr. Lies


Tony Kushner's prize-winning play Angels in America became the defining theatrical event of the 1990s, an astonishing mix of philosophy, politics, and vibrant gay soap opera that summed up the Reagan era for an entire generation of theater-goers. Post-9/11 would seem to be too late for a film version--philosophy and politics don't always age well--but this 2003 HBO adaptation, ably directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate), provides a time capsule of the '80s and reveals the deep emotional subcurrents that will give the play lasting power.

The story centers around Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) and Louis Ironson (Ben Shenkman), a gay couple that falls apart when Prior grows ill as a result of AIDS. But cancer is not the only thing invading Prior's life: He begins to have religious visions of an angel (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility) announcing that he is a prophet. Louis, who doesn't cope well with disease and suggestions of mortality, leaves and starts a relationship with Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), a closeted Mormon who works for Roy Cohn (Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon)--the real-life right-wing lawyer, notorious for his ruthless behind-the-scenes machinations. Add in Joe's depressed and hallucinating wife Harper (Mary Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes), his determined but open-minded mother Hannah (Meryl Streep, Adaptation), a fierce drag queen/nurse named Belize (Jeffrey Wright, Basquiat, reprising his celebrated performance from the Broadway production), and you've still only begun to discover the wealth of characters and storylines in Kushner's ambitious work.

The powerhouse cast (also featuring James Cromwell, Michael Gambon, and Simon Callow) is uniformly superb. The script has its weaknesses--some of the fantastic elements, including Prior's journey to Heaven towards the end, fall flat--but even what doesn't work is bristling with ideas and a ferocious desire to capture human existence in this time and place.

Hope to see you there. I'll save you an aisle seat and a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD.


Awards

Won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries (Mike Nichols), Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries (Tony Kushner), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries (Al Pacino), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries (Meryl Streep), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries (Jeffrey Wright), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries (Mary-Louise Parker), Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries, Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, and Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries!

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Memorable Quotes

Prior: We have reached a verdict, your honor. This man's heart is deficient. He loves, but his love is worth nothing.

Prior Walter : I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
Hannah Pitt : Well that's a stupid thing to do.

Roy Cohn : You don't know what all I know. *I* don't know what all I know. Half this shit I make up and I'm still right, learned that in the 50's.

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Trivia

Jeffrey Wright was the only original cast member to appear in the film version.

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Goofs

Joe Pitt is portrayed as being a good Mormon and much is made of it, as it is the basis for his internal struggle. One example of his being a "good Mormon" is that he wears his temple garments. However, he drinks coke and coffee. A "good Mormon" would drink neither as both contain caffeine and LDS doctrine dictates members abstain from caffeine.

Anachronisms: The Doritos bag Harper has in the Mormon Visitors Center didn't exist in 1985.

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