Some of those visions are more correct than others; some of them are more cynical than others. The Ice Storm and Do the Right Thing are two unforgiving glimpses at what can happen when proprieties fall to the side; watching them makes me feel as though all of the horrid visions that Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville had for modernity, when they were so outraged by the notions of Transcendentalism and Romanticism that their quills virtually skied across the parchment, have all come to pass. It is the detail, as usual, that sets these two films above many of their contemporaries, in terms of expressing their vision of the way we are – or at least the way we shouldnt be.
The Ice Storm shows director Ang Lees usual flair for the extremely precise, in terms of décor and set. The G.I. Joe doll, sitting askew and yelling “May Day! May Day!” is just one symbol of the existential chaos that has ensued in the years leading up to Thanksgiving, 1973. The music and décor take one back to the era of The Streets of San Francisco or Hawaii Five-O, all the way down to such details as the trendy water bed that Sigourney Weavers character sleeps on, the Philip Roth novel she is reading, and even the metal ice tray that Kevin Klines character empties each night. The architecture follows suit, with the modern glass walls that came into vogue in those days keeping the families inside during the ice storm – but able to see the entire thing.
While The Ice Storm is an analysis of an era – the days around Watergate – Do the Right Thing is an analysis of a vicious racial incident in Brooklyn – the Howard Beach attack on a group of black youths. While The Ice Storm is eerily quiet at times, Do the Right Thing hums with noise – not just the militant rap tunes by Public Enemy and other artists, but there is also the sound of urban life, piped into the movie virtually from beginning to end. It is as though director Spike Lee knows how sound can