This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.
This week we've been given the challenge to watch and pick our favorite shot from the 6-hour groundbreaking HBO miniseries Angels in America based on the highly acclaimed play of the same name by Tony Kushner. Directed by Mike Nichols, the miniseries premiered more than a decade ago in two 3-hour chunks and further divided into six total chapters. This extended TV movie is... a lot in themes, in time, in characters, in plot. I wish I could write more about it all, but for the sake of my own sanity ("In new century, I think we'll all be insane"), I'm just going to pick one shot from each of the chapters and go from there.
Actually, before I do that if I had to pick ONE shot from the whole miniseries then it would be the one above with the Angel America finally making her presence known to Prior Walter. It's an immediately iconic image that was used widely in the marketing of the film. Manuel over at The Film Experience already made a case for why this shot is so great and I also told myself even before I rewatched the film, that I would NOT be picking this shot. So onwards...
Chapter 1 - Bad News
This is what you call a non-money shot and yet it also features the beautiful face of Patrick Wilson's Joe Pitt, the deeply closeted Republican Mormon lawyer. No real reason why I chose this shot other than it simply took my breath away. It's also interesting that he's framed as some kind of angelic hero when he's anything but.
Chapter 2 - In Vitro
I personally think Justin Kirk and Patrick Wilson were the two best actors in the miniseries, but Jeffrey Wright especially as Belize was right up there. So of course his sparkly, glittery entrance is my pick for best shot in this chapter. It's the sort of character introduction that's so perfect that you just have to nod your head in respect and move on to the next scene.
Chapter 3 - The Messenger
Just before Prior Walter gets his world rocked literally by meeting the Angel America, he has a vision where he dances with his former beau. I picked this shot towards the end where he realizes it's not real and it just beautifully highlights the tragic beauty that is Prior Walter's story, alone and sick but surviving and standing strong.
Chapter 4 - Stop Moving!
And then we have angel sex or Plasma Orgasmata. At this point, the audience has been well primed by the surreal and sometimes outlandish imagery of the film, but how can one really be prepared for mid-air fiery angel intercourse? It's ridiculous, scary, beautiful, and insane all at the same time.
Chapter 5 - Beyond Nelly
We're back to Joe Pitt. He just had sex with his estranged wife and now he feels like he's back from his self-imposed prison, beautifully conveyed by the shadows on his face and body. I mean any excuse to post more images of a shirtless Patrick Wilson, right?
Chapter 6 - Heaven, I'm in Heaven
This was the most difficult chapter to narrow down shots. I personally adore the final shot of Prior, Hannah, Louis, and Belize (lovers, friends, former enemies) hand in hand going up the Bethesda steps together. And almost every black-and-white shots of Prior in heaven were superbly beautiful. In the end, I went with a shot that made me laugh so much I had to pause for a few minutes to recover. The shot is of the Angel America challenging Prior to a fight. Look at her stance, her face. Emma Thompson is a gift.