93. Angels in America

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Movie: Angels in America

Release Date: December 7, 2003, December 14, 2003

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson, Mary-Louise Parker, Emma Thompson, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Shenkman.

Tag Lines: “The messenger has arrived.”

Relevance: ‘Angels in America’ is considered a miniseries due to the fact that it was shown in two parts on HBO in 2003. If that is the case, then it is the only miniseries to make my list of most influential movies of all time. But for me, it is cinematic artistry at its finest and is more than deserving to be in my top one hundred.

In the early 1990’s, the theater world was abuzz about Tony Kushner’s “Angles in America.” Produced and staged as two separate plays, both “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika” won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1993 and 1994 respectively. As a second year Graduate Student of theater, I read the plays in 1995 and instantly became a huge fan of the writing and story. Unfortunately, I never made it to Broadway to see the shows but I owned the texts and read and re-read them many times.

After reading the plays, every time I went to New York City, which was at least once a year, I always went into Central Park to see the Bethesda Terrace and fountain. This is a tradition I have continued throughout the years last seeing it in 2019. Despite it being a very busy tourist attraction, I found it very calming and peaceful. I would get lost in time there. I spent many hours sitting by the lake, watching people, walking up and down the staircase and staring at the angel’s face. Even my unbelieving atheistic was moved by its simple beauty.

I was thrilled to learn that a film version was being produced and directed by Mike Nichols and would be starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep. After finding out that it was going to air on HBO, I immediately signed up again for the cable service. There was no way I was going to miss this event. And that is exactly what it was, an event. I re-read the plays before sitting down to watch it. I was blown away by every aspect of it. The directing, acting and production value were absolutely stunning. I knew that it would be emotional due to having read the source material, but I was overwhelmed with emotions. I watched Part 1 and Part 2 on the nights they were first broadcast but recorded them as well. I knew I would need to revisit them eventually.

‘Angels in America’ was critically praised, broke numerous records and received copious amounts of awards. As soon as the DVD was available to purchase, I did just that and it has been a part of my movie collection ever since. The plays had been successfully revived on Broadway, with Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane, but unfortunately I was unable to see those productions as well. I have seen the plays performed live though thanks to tours and community theaters. I love Tony Kushner’s story and words and am so grateful that they were transformed into one of my favorite movies of all time.

Today’s Thoughts: “I hate America, Louis. I hate this country. Nothing but a bunch of big ideas and stories and people dying, and then people like you. The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word free to a note so high nobody could reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on Earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come with me to Room 1013 over at the hospital and I’ll show you America. Terminal, crazy, and mean. I live in America, Louis. I don’t have to love it.”

‘Angels in America’ is a beautiful film filled with gorgeous poetry, imagery and performances. Due to its length, it is not a movie I necessarily watch over and over again, but when I do, it gives me hope and at the same time leaves me emotionally drained. Today was no different.

Mike Nichols’ film, while respecting the brilliant world of Tony Kushner and his Tony Award winning plays, creates a fascinating piece of art that is so pleasing to the eyes and ears you almost forget how long you are sitting there watching it. It is simply gorgeous. It conjures up so many emotions, laughter, fear and so, so many tears. For me, this is a multiple box of Kleenex movie. Its heart wrenching story is told by one of the greatest ensembles ever assembled. Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson, Mary-Louise Parker, Emma Thompson, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright and Ben Shenkman deserved every accolade and critical praise they received. These are not easy roles to play and everyone succeeds on all levels.

“The stiffening of your penis is of no consequence!” Among all of its accolades, ‘Angels in America’ can also be added to the list of movies that was not afraid to show male full frontal nudity. That means it is movie number eighteen to make my infamous “penis list.” You can check out the rest of the “penis list” here: 105. American History X, 110. Shortbus, 112. A Clockwork Orange, 113. Weekend, 120. Sex and the City, 133. Porky’s, 139. Trainspotting, 144. Fargo, 183. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 199. Six Degrees of Separation, 209. The Fisher King, 295. Being John Malkovich, 296. Wildcats, 332. The Crying Game, 335. Born on the Fourth of July343. Sideways and 357. Amadeus.

At three hundred, fifty-two minutes, ‘Angels in America’ is definitely an undertaking in one sitting, but more than worth it. It is an emotional, devastating yet uplifting film about love, life, death, politics and AIDS. Despite its 1980’s setting, it remains as relevant and important as ever. Remember, the evil Roy Cohn was Donald Trump’s lawyer. As if anyone needed another reason not to vote that orange fucker out, remember that on November 3rd, 2020.

“The great work begins!”

Awards: Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television, Al Pacino (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television, Meryl Streep (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, Jeffrey Wright (winner), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, Mary-Louise Parker (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, Ben Shenkman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, Patrick Wilson (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, Mike Nichols (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Al Pacino (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, Meryl Streep (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Jeffrey Wright (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, Mary-Louise Parker (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, Tony Kushner (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Non-Prosthetic) (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie (winner), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, Emma Thompson (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Justin Kirk (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Ben Shenkman (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Patrick Wilson (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design (nomination), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Al Pacino (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Meryl Streep (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Justin Kirk (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Jeffrey Wright (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Mary-Louise Parker (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, Emma Thompson (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture Made for Television (winner), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television, Mike Nichols (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Film or Mini-Series Made for Cable TV (winner), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television (winner), PGA Visionary Award, Mike Nichols, Cary Brokaw (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Long Form – Adapted, Tony Kushner (winner).

Ways to Watch: HBO Max, HBO Now, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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