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Monday, January 01, 2007

THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS

I saw the plays. Then, I read them. I sat around with friends who were actors and writers -- most of whom were far smarter than me. ...than I? Anyway, I discussed the plays. I read many reviews. I read interviews with Tony Kushner. I read the plays again. I admired the acting and the staging. I liked many of the ideas in the plays, but all too often it felt like the whole of the two plays was just a way to show off some fancy intellectual ideas or "ideals" and to provide some great scenes for some talented actors. In the end, the sum of all the parts did not really add up to much for me. As clever as it some of it was - I could not piece together a point to it all.

Both works had the feeling of importance, but then there would be lapses into comic bits. The metaphors seemed confused or silly. I mean, I enjoyed the idea of a gay-centric play with a gay AIDS patient as a prophet. I liked the idea that San Francisco was (or once was) or was like "Heaven" ---- but I didn't quite follow it all. The point, I mean.

And, when I asked my friends to explain -- well, no one seemed to be able to do so. I would quickly give up because I felt like I was rocking the "cool thing" that we were all to like.

And, then there was the problem of that Angel of America. Was she from God or the Devil? Or was God the Devil? Or was God just pissed off? Was AIDS a blessing or a curse? I was confused by it. I was annoyed. I had lost too many dear friends to AIDS to get into some of these ideas that everyone else seemed to embrace.

Then the movie (or cable special) came out. I tried watching it twice. I couldn't get past the first hour. I was annoyed by the first moment we saw Meryl Streep playing the cranky old rabbi. A few weeks ago B and I discussed the plays and the TV film. He likes all three. And, yet, he could not defend or explain my questions.

The other day I found a used copy of the DVD set for $10. I bought it and decided I was going to sit down and watch all 6 hours of Mike Nichols adaptation of the plays. I watched all of the film. It was a bit different from the plays I remember.

I allowed myself to just enjoy the theatrics of it all and decided to not get too bogged down in the meaning of all the ideas merged into plot. I just absorbed it. I think the biggest changes were made in the final act or chapters. It seemed a bit more clear, but still confused.

When I saw the plays I remember thinking that none of the actors looked like people from the mid-80's. The same was true for the movie. Worse still --- I get very annoyed by lack of attention to details. If you make a film that takes place in a certain time one should make sure that things belong in the scenes. The Coke cans were wrong. As were the chip bags. The logos and packaging were different in the mid-80's. And, the hair styles were not 1985 at all. And, the subways were not correct. Things changed after the mid-80's. Worst of all -- they had a drag queen dressed as Barbra. ...In 1985. ...but she was dressed as Barbra of the early 1990's! Babs had not yet shorn her curly locks completely! True, the afro was gone. But, she did not yet have the flat blonde look working. Her hair was crimped and 80's messy-big. How could a gay film make this error!?!?!? How?!?!??!

But, still, I rather enjoyed the movie. And, I still love this line so well delivered by Meryl Streep:

"An angel is a belief with wings and arms that can carry you."

I like that idea. I like so many of Tony Kushner's ideas. But, I can't help but wonder if some emperor is only half-dressed. Or am I just stoopid?

...don't answer that. Or, if you do -- please be polite.

I guess I always knew I was living in Heaven. Or a place that was once Heaven.

11 Comments:

Blogger Sorted Lives said...

That was the only thing I saw wrong with Dream Girls. THe dance steps were very modern for a movie that was taking place in the 60's and 70's.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Chris Capp said...

I saw the original New York productions of Angels and was mesmerized. Not necessarily by a carefully constructed plot, but more by the expressionistic affect of all the characters, the blending of real people with fictional characters, the history, the sweep, the messiness of their lives. There are aspects of the film I'm not crazy about, but Prior's closing speech at the Bethesda fountain in Central Park gets me every time. When he says he hopes to be there next year, and reassures us that the world is spinning "ever forward," it seems filled with the kind of hope that isn't cheap or cheesy, but real, and the product of much searching. With that said, I think it's always good, when the crowd loves something, to try to get people to say why. So we're not just blindly following. A dramaturg would say Angels could/should be cut, but I love its sprawling splendor.

Happy New Year, by the way! Hope 2007 brings you good things.

12:34 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Sorted Lives! Happy New Year! Yeah, but you know I felt the same way when I saw the play in the 80's ---- it seemed too modern and the score never sounded like that Motown sound to me. But, that is ONE great song.

Chris! That is a nice closing moment. For me, the film improved some of it -- or, maybe I was watching with lightened expectations. Sometimes the build-up of something can crush it for me when I 'get there' ---- at the time I saw the play we were thrilled to have scored tix and I had heard it was the best thing to come to the stage in decades. ...so, I had very high hopes. Years later I saw the actress who played "Alice" on TV in a Charles Busch play --- we went on a sort of whim and that play blew me away! TALE OF THE ALERGIST'S WIFE. I wonder if I'd have liked it so much if I had heard so much adoration for it prior to seeing it. Hmmmm.. And, hey! Happy New Year!!!!!! ...2007 -- here we come!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Me said...

Hmm, I've never seen this, I'll have to hunt down the play and read. I'm intrigued.

4:19 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Lovely Meredith! It's an interesting read. It's a play. I always prefer to see them (or hear) them performed vs. reading. Will be interested to hear what you think.

I think the HBO film is easily available for rental.

Happy New Year!

8:30 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Angels and devils are neither this or that... I think it all depends on how we see them.

Happy New Year Matt! I love the sketch of your cartoony self on the envelope! So cute!

8:01 AM  
Blogger matty said...

Robert! LOL! I'm glad you like my cartoon! Am loving that CD! Happy New Year!

...I don't believe in demons. I do, however, believe in angels. Tho, I don't think they look like Emma Thompson. I think they must look like Joey Stefano.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Spooky, Y has just started downloading this; I'd never heard of it before that. It did sound interesting, but I didn't realise that it had such a following, I'm definitely intrigued now!

4:13 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Tim -- You didn't realize because you're still such a cute babe in the woods! You were probably still in school when this play opened!

...ah, to be young again!

Second thought. No. It was not easy being young. Of course, it isn't easy being middle age'd (and, yes, I am!) ...but I hear that being old (according to my mother) is even worse -- yet she doesn't want to go back.

..this is depressing. how did I get on the topic of old age??!!?

Oh, yes, because you're a hot young thang!

Will be curious to know what you two think of the film.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Hmm, I'm less and less young every day .... but then I guess everyone is. I'm 30 this year though - milestone alert!!!

2:17 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Tim -- LOL! Just sent you an email. You will always be a babe to me as I will always be 11 years older than you! ...I turn 41 this year! Anyway, that is a compliment! Ah, to be 30 and such a hottie. Color me jealous! ...and, look at that gorgeous man you got! You and Y rock! Own it, baby!!

2:29 PM  

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