Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Angels in America

[Here's my entry for Nathaniel's Hit Me With Your Best Shot feature on The Film Experience.]

I'm squeaking this one in under the wire, but you didn't think I'd miss out on an opportunity to post about what might be my favorite thing I've ever laid my two eyes on, did you?

Unfortunately, I'm in the process of moving, so my Angels in America DVDs are packed safely away. Which meant I was left to choose among the stray screencaps I'd already saved on my computer. I looked around the internet in vain for an image of my first choice for this feature: Louis Ironson, makeshift napkin yarmulke and all, saying Kaddish for Roy Cohn, with a cosmic assist from Ethel Rosenberg emerging from deep within the frame.

EDIT: You guys, Nick Davis is the greatest. He read my plight and -- while I slept -- provided me with the exact screencap I desired. I'm having a hard time coming up with five Christmas mornings when I woke up to a better gift. Anyway, here it is, in all its Hebrew splendor. You son of a bitch.

Ethel also shows up in the second image I chose:

I am apparently not alone in my great love for Belize. This scene comes right after he tells Roy what heaven is like -- my favorite monologue in the play -- and Roy, in his stupor, is being led away. As the dark figure prepared to lead Roy to the underworld, Belize mutters, "I'm just a shadow on your grave." Roy looks back and sees that a man who's lived as he has can have more than one shadow on that grave.

On a metatextual level, I like how this image shows both fantasy and reality existing side by side as America drifts ever closer to the end. Her racial, religious, and political past haunting her straight into the ground. It's not the only message Angels has to give -- part of the reason I love it so is that it has so many things to say about who and how we are -- but it's one that hits home the hardest here.


NicksFlickPicks said...

In my best, reediest, most anesthetizing Gloria Estefan voice: "Anything for you...."


oooh. the post is twice as good now and it was already damn fine to begin with.

Mike said...

I have a tough time with Angels in America. I feel that Kushner gives Louis a pass and punishes Joe.

Louis has this gay family that he's been a part of -- he's got Prior and Belize and any number of off-stage 'mos. Joe's got...a park and dirty furtive fumblings and a religious tradition that's never going to tell him that he's okay. That Joe works for Roy Cohn seems to be the beginning and end of who Joe is as far as Kushner is concerned. There's no redeeming him.

But Louis, who selfishly leaves Prior because he can't be an adult and can't see beyond his own fears, and who then takes up with Joe, but then dumps him for reasons that still aren't clear to me -- he gets redeemed at the end? He ends up with Hannah and Prior at the Bethesda Pool?

I don't get it.

Joe Reid said...

I've heard this argument re: Joe and Louis before and from multiple sources, and I have to say, I see where it comes from, but I can't agree.

First of all, I'm not sure if "redeemed or not redeemed" is what those final scenes are about. Louis gets to share coffee and the Times on Prior's birthday, true, but he and Prior are still split. Joe (and Harper) are left to kind of wander on their own -- "Have an adventure" and all. The fact that Joe is excluded from that final foursome feels pointed, but I don't think it's punitive. I think, hope, that Joe's off on an adventure somewhere, expanding his emotional and experiential terrain.