Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inception (2010) Directed by Christopher Nolan

I am an avid dreamer. I remember fragments of my dreams every morning. Sometimes I know during the dream that I am dreaming, but I tell myself: lets watch this one more, it's fun. My dreams are always populated by people I know, situations close to my awake reality. It has happened that events in dreams influence how I perceive others or what I think has happened with them. Distinction between dream and reality has blurred.

Despite Inception being cinematically rather uninventive, I was fascinated by the concept of theft while dreaming. To elevate the human sleeping and dreaming state into an important maker of our conscious reality is an inspiring idea, it makes Inception watchable for me.

Unfortunately, Inception was also an over-long, cold and cynical action blockbuster. It's full of the kinds of gestures and repetitions that usually annoy and bore me (stiff character development, clichéd motivations for actions and too much violence). I found Nolan's previous film The Dark Knight tedious and angering in its negativity towards humanity, some of that same general grayness is present here too.

Although the subject matter of controlled dreaming was the essence of this film, some of the ideas presented during it were a little too simplistic: for example the notion that incepting an idea into a person's mind in their sleep (or when they are not conscious of it) is difficult. This claim seems a bit laborious and forced, when we know that the 20th century was defined by a constant stream of incepting ideas into conscious and awake people's heads through advertising. It isn't that difficult, so just stop sleepwalking Leo!


I've always been envious of people who can remember their dreams. For me the nights' sleep is always nothing more than a feeling of what I dreamt about. Something may come back to me during the morning but generally I don't remember any dreams. Then I hear people go into long details about their dreams. It sounds like having access to another world. Of this I'm envious. I'll just have to hang on to my waking dreams.

Nolan's picture deals with the premise of accessing people's minds through their dreams so that important information can be garnered. Its kind of like a heist concept, stealing people's secrets from their subconscious. The picture is loaded with effect heavy scenes.  Buildings crumble, cities are built instantly, roads turn upside down, people walk on ceilings. This is fine for awhile (and certainly you feel the effects on the big screen), but the trick is repeated constantly through out the film, so you feel a little worn down by the CGI. Still, some scenes are impressive, even if you have seen a lot of the imagery in other movies (The Matrix, Kubrick pictures etc).

But Leonardo DiCaprio as the (anti) hero Cobb is a little flabby. Maybe he saves his best work for Scorsese. You don't really emphasize with Cobb in the way that you would even cheer Nolan's resurrected, dark BatmanInception is also overlong, has Nolan forgotten how to edit? This film was quite boring at times, dull even. Interest could have been held if we'd got a real examination of dreaming and it's effects on our subconscious. A film about alternative dream like states running parallel with our waking states would have been interesting. This is not that film.

Despite lots of faults, Inception does entertain as well. Just don't expect anything too deep. Along side the sometimes Bond-like action this picture has a sentimental streak. Taking into account Nolan's past work, this is a disappointment. Finally, the concept of Inception is often more impressive than the actual results of the film itself. A great, weightier picture awaits on this subject. Has someone got David Lynch's number?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Radio Days (1987) & Without Love (1945)

It's almost impossible to imagine not having my computer, I-pod, mobile phone and all the other gadgets that make the flow of information and entertainment so essential to modern life. When I was a child, I don't think we got a TV until I was 4 years old, and ironically my first TV memory was a re-run of England winning the World Cup from 1966. Radio would feature heavily in my youth, it was always on in our house during the day. By the age of 13, I was addicted to the John Peel show which would run from 10pm every Monday to Thursday. This would have a profound influence on my life. Unlike TV, Radio was something for the imagination.

Woody Allen's underrated Radio Days is his loving tribute to the airwaves. The main drive of the film are his youthful reminisces when the Radio in mid-40's America was the main medium for people's news, entertainment and a world within your living room. Through various anecdotes narrated by Allen himself,  Allen regulars such as Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Julie Kavner and Diane Wiest bring Allen's childhood to life. Period detail is inspiring and the humor gentle. This is Allen pining for a time that has passed.

In one scene in Radio Days, Allen's  youthful re-incarnation visits the cinema at New York's Radio City Music Hall. The film they watch is The Philadelphia Story. This brings us to another Katherine Hepburn picture Without Love. One of the classic Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn team ups, this is maybe the most eccentric. Set in the same time as Radio Days, 1944-45, Without Love is the kind of feisty comedy full of in jokes and sexual innuendo that is refreshing and throws light on the fact that this kind of romantic comedy seems to be beyond our reach nowadays.

Yes, it's that thing called chemistry, Hepburn and Tracy have tons of it. Great support from Lucille Ball as a sexy estate agent, Without Love bristles with style. Special mention must go to Donald Ogden Stewart (who would later work on Allen's Love & Death), one of the great screenwriters of the day, this man is sharp.

Weather it's the loss of love in marriage or the loss of the radio as a medium of choice, both these pictures reflect a time when all possibilities were go and imaginations were allowed to prosper and dream.

Without Love from 1945 and Radio Days from the 1980s (which depicts the 1940s in New York) share a central theme: marriage as a practical and beneficial deal without romantic love. Romance is something that belongs in movies, dreams, the past or the future. The present tends to be the least romantic.

Radio Days depicts a lower middle class family to whom romance is a distant Manhattan thing. These people know that love smells of fish, sweat, old perfume and home cooking; it tastes of bad breath, looks pudgy and disheveled and sounds like muffled knocks while the radio is on all night. Katharine Hepburn's tilted kissable cheek appears on a cinema screen in Radio Days – but then, she always appears doubtful about commitment.

In Without Love Hepburn plays a widow who has decided to forget about love and look for partnership instead, because as a young woman she already had that perfect romantic love. She can afford to play games though, these people are rich, exclusive and have some of the best lines in cinema. In my opinion not succumbing to romantic love with her husband (Spencer Tracy) can be interpreted as movie-long foreplay. The audience needs to see the  slightly eccentric upper class movie stars yet again turn from reserved to passionate.

This is called playing games and Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest) from Radio Days simply cannot afford it or she'll wind up alone for the rest of her life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) & Ride With The Devil (1999)

This may be an unfair comparison, but there it is in the above pictures. Toby Maguire's eyes gazing to our left outside of the picture – generally cosidered a feminizing pose. Compare to Clint Eastwood's stare coming straight at us. I may not even see his eyes, but I feel his attention anyway. Then there are the hats and the question of what happens to your hair underneath.

What confirms Clint's victory is the poncho. Seconds into watching A Fistful Of Dollars I say to Nick:
I need a poncho. Right then Clint walks into the picture (or did he ride?) covered in that perfect multi-tasking garment. (The Drunk Lovers may have looked more like the guys in Ride With The Devil on the last tour, but on the next one they'll all wear ponchos.)


Two contrasting experiences from the same genre. A Fistful Of Dollars is a film I've watched probably over 30 times. It was a favorite of my fathers, and I do recall as a pre-teen watching this film with him. It's possible that The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood), is a perfect reflection of Italian masculinity as some commentators have suggested to gauge the initial impact of the Dollars movies in Italy and subsequently everywhere else. Or could it be that Director Sergio Leone showed us the first glimpse of how the Western genre could be revitalized with a heady stew of Morricone's exciting music, over the top violence and the cool iconoclast of Eastwood's loner. Still essential, Peckinpah took note, Tarantino copied badly.

Ang Lee's Ride With The Devil gives us a sure sign why this genre has not stood up going into the new century. His Civil War picture is such a mess. It reeks of studio tampering, the look is straight from Laura Ashley, the main protagonists seem to have been transported in from grunge-era Seattle. It takes an earth to actually work out what is going on. Jeffrey Wright holds the interest here as the confused Holt, his performance is worth a look. Otherwise, Lee has got this so wrong.  A mention for Tobey Maguire's usual bland performance which is only matched by Jewel's vacuous presence. This film is one to avoid, and a surprise given Lee's other work.

We watched Lee's movie first, and struggled to finish it. Faith in my favorite genre was restored from the first frame of Leone's picture. Yes, A Fistful Of Dollars has been much parodied and copied, but go back to the original source. It still holds the attention and it still thrills.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Salvador (1986) Directed by Oliver Stone

Is the notion of subtlety something we gain with age? In our actions and in our observations even? I'm only thinking about this as my own notions of subtlety are often reflected in movies I saw when I was a young man and then in viewing the same films many years later. This can be my only reason for wanting to watch Oliver Stone's Salvador after all these years. I remember this film as being powerful and making a strong argument against American policy regarding El Salvador in the early 80's. Of course, we have also known Stone to be a director to use a hammer to crack a nut when a less aggressive stance may make the point more powerfully.

So after all these years, does Salvador stand up? Yes and no. The first half an hour of this film is juvenile, sexist, prurient and really not engaging. It's like a boys' own adventure shot through the viewfinder of Gonzo journalist stylization. James Woods is excellent as always in the role of seedy scumbag photo journalist Richard Boyle. After watching the extras to this film, it's clear that Woods hated the real life Boyle, his onscreen version really isn't so flattering.You gather that this was a difficult film to make for all involved. That is reflected on screen, this is a mess of a movie. Yet, once the politics start being discussed in preference to Boyle's own crude behavior, the picture regains some focus.

This picture follows the same route to other "political" films of the late 70's and early 80's such as The Killing Fields or to a lesser extent The Deer Hunter. What this means is reality is sacrificed in favor of  plot devices. Of course, in Stone's case, everything is over the top. Stone obviously idolizes Boyle, so we forgive his faults as a human being in favor of the message of this film. This film is finally a damning indictment of American involvement with the military junta in El Salvador, something the Reagan administration was not so discreetly supporting with glee. I'm grateful Stone still makes political pictures, someone has to. He's still bombastic and still goes in with the hammer. He's never grown up. Being a juvenile in old age can sometimes be a good thing.

I have a prejudice against war journalists. Like hyenas they feast on other people's suffering and get their kicks from danger they were actually not submitted to until they took that last flight or some other vehicle to get there.

Salvador feeds my prejudice. From now on I can just refer to the film because it truly appears to be the bible for irresponsible war journalism. Unfortunately, it is also a weak cinematic experience with a pervasive ignorance about it.

Yes, I know, we need to know what goes on in conflict. But like Richard Boyle, the photo journalist, do we have to grown numb and unfeeling in front of the endless (news about) killing?

Forgetting about Salvador and the defensive idea that we have to lose our ability for empathy,
right now in war journalism there is Ghait Abdul-Ahad. He has photographed and written mostly for The Guardian in the recent years. He became a journalist because his hometown Baghdad was attacked and he needed to document what was happening. Go here to watch his reports and read his writing on Iraq when it was five years from the invasion.

If someone makes a movie about Ghait Abdul-Ahad one day, I hope it's not an Oliver Stone production.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Single Man (2009) Directed by Tom Ford

We went to the last standing independent cinema in Helsinki to see A Single Man. There were twelve people in the audience and Nick's candy bag, which could be heard by all of us. It is a much more complete and enveloping experience to watch a movie on the big screen and in the darkness of the cinema, rather than sitting on the sofa at home where you can interrupt the film for any insignificant reason.

My favorite moment is coming out of the cinema into the city after the film is over. The longer you can stay silent the better. The transition from the film's reality to the reality of a Friday night in Helsinki can be significant in life. Sometimes I have come out from the darkness a little transformed. Permanently affected. This time I was disappointed and got involved in verbal analysis much sooner than I would wish to.

A Single Man was very enjoyable visually. It was like reading the best edition of an interior decoration magazine and reading Vogue at the same time. Overkill on style. I yearned after many a lamp and a table top, I joined willingly in the romance with the curly telephone chord.

Unfortunately, as the movie unfolded it became clearer and clearer that the main characters would remain distant, too distant to really care for. Even the central theme, death, could not wrench enough emotion out of me. Something is wrong if the main character is trying to commit suicide but I am admiring his kitchen cupboards.

The ending of A Single Man was simply badly written. It is as if everybody involved in making the movie just gave up and decided to ask a five-year-old psychic what will happen to us all. Banal.
We will all die. And still, I agree with Tom Ford, it does matter what wood the cutting board is in the kitchen and how my dress drapes over my shoulder while I'm still here.

"Fashion, turn to the left, fashion, turn to the right...We are the goon squad and we're coming to town...beep beep..."

I couldn't tell you what an item of Tom Ford clothing looks like, but I do remember his "controversial" Vanity Fair cover. A Single Man is his debut feature, he also co-wrote and co-produced this picture.  The nods to Hitchcock are littered throughout, shot after shot referencing the master of suspense. The look of this film is amazing. Stylized to the max, costume is exquisite. Is it possible that people in the 1960's were this hip? The clothing on display in this movie is carefully presented with the immaculate eye that only a fashion guru such as Ford could display. Unfortunately, in several scenes the homo-erotic imagery descends to that of a Calvin Klein advert.

The film starts promisingly. Will this be a deep sermon on bereavement? Will this film tackle the permissive secret society of upper-middle class homosexuality head on?  Again, Ford misses a great opportunity here. This is a very conventional and cliched look at homosexuality. I do understand why the various young pretty boys are attracted to Colin Firth's George. It's  Mr Darcy, who wouldn't want to get it on with him! The sense of cruelty that George is not acknowledged by his dead partners family is palpable. Yet in Ford's world there seems no other reproach other than this for being a gay man in 1960's LA. Was it really this tolerant then? There is a strong sense of fantasy in this film, so maybe Ford is dreaming in ideals?

Firth is incredible in this film, he has had glowing reviews for his portrayal of George. I just can't shake Darcy from the equation. Or his contribution to the terrible Mamma Mia! So, I don't believe in his gay man.

Despite a woeful ending, some wooden acting and some of the other shortcomings mentioned above, there is plenty that works in A Single Man. A great atmosphere, the already mentioned framing of the film. There is a sense of a dreamlike quality in George's world, also a darker voyeuristic sensibility is touched upon. This is a good debut from Tom Ford. There is enough here to suggest that greatness is around the corner.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) Directed by John Schlesinger

It was inevitable that at some point in the 1960's, pop culture, so prevalent would seep into all aspects of creativity. It was a boom time for radical ideas, drugs....well you know the story. It makes for some funny cinema.  Far From The Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy's 19th century novel, is enthused by a 1960's, swinging London sensibility, even though this is a period picture. It could be Nic Roeg's excellent cinematography (the real star here) which at times is quite psychedelic. Or it could be nothing more than our perceived, retrospective 60's iconography. Julie Christie and Terence Stamp were children of David Bailey's school of 60's cool.

Schlesinger's picture has got a lot wrong. It is overlong and its painstaking insistence on picturing the lower classes in the 19th Century rural England is patronizing at best. Yet the film works as a great picture of unfulfilled desire, especially in the portrayal of obsessed landowner Mr Boldwood (an excellent Peter Finch). This also applies to a lesser extent to Alan Bates' Gabriel, although the Jesus like analogies to his character are far to obvious. Julie Christie is pretty shallow here and along with Stamp there isn't much to grasp hold of other than cliche and "my God how beautiful they are together". You could just watch this picture in awe at how good they look. Far From The Madding Crowd is aesthetically excellent.

Two scenes are essential. Gabriel losing his flock of sheep over a cliff, tragic and powerful. The other scene, Stamp charging Christie with his army Sabre, sexually provocative, is high 60's camp. So, an enjoyable period piece, yet ultimately a 60's curiosity. No depth here.

I went to a Steiner school where for the first three years we were handed a personally picked poem each spring instead of grades or other means of evaluation. My second grade ended with a poem about a little mouse girl whose parents wanted to marry her off to the sun and the moon until at the end they realized that the little mouse would be happiest with the neighboring mouse who had always been around the corner.

Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd appears to be a variation on the same story. The 19th Century brought with it the idea that love needed to exist before marriage, the romantic predicament. Bathsheba
(Julie Christie) becomes a wealthy owner of a farm and suddenly she does not need a man to take care of her, but to love her. The problem is that society around her and especially the men, still view marriage as a kind of business deal. The movie also strongly suggests that the beauty of a woman drives men crazy with the need to own and control. It is somehow her own fault then that all these men obsessively lust after her...

Would you marry for looks, for lust, money, sex, security, status, practicality, friendship, pity or some kind of a mixture of the above? These questions are not so far from what Sex and The City (the TV series) used to ask. Gossipy entertainment with romantic English scenery and good looks, that's Far From The Madding Crowd.

And as for me and the mouse poem: I remain with the mice gladly, but may still secretly be reaching for the sun and moon (or at least be dreaming of them).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) Directed by Jacques Audiard

At about 20 minutes into The Beat That My Heart Skipped a song by The Kills plays over a scene and I decide to love the movie. The song confirms to me that everything about the film is intentionally how it is – I can trust what I see.

I knew nothing about this film before hand, but somehow was under the impression I was watching a thriller. When piano and classical music appeared I thought they were just a short diversion. But I was wrong. Piano is the key to the main character Thomas' internal battle. Piano playing allows him to see a way out of the crude world in which he works.

Throughout the film I fear for Thomas. There is hope all along and the bad luck never seems to fully catch up with him. Until the end. I enjoyed The Beat That My Heart Skipped very much, but as I'm writing this it is difficult to pinpoint what was so good about it. The lead actor, the credible ordinariness of the characters possibly.

In the end credits The Kills return again. Stylish, cool, yet reachable – that's the air I am left with.


Sometimes, one can muse on the coolness of the movies. I mean, I'm always amazed when someone in  popular film ends up looking like John Cale circa Velvet Underground. I have only one example of this in mainstream cinema when not a rock bio picture, Peter Sellers in What's New Pussycat? James Toback's Fingers (1978) is a film I saw many moons ago and I've been trying to track down with little joy. My main memory of Fingers is Harvey Keitel's cool wardrobe and dandy jackets. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (original French title, De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté ) is a remake of Toback's cult favorite and retains the original picture's sense of style.

Romain Duris plays Thomas Seyr and the picture established Duris as the latest sensation in French Cinema. He's on screen pretty much the whole time bringing a cool energy to proceedings. He's super sexy, with a Gainsbourg pout and penchant for smoking combined with Belmondo's gruffness. Audiard directs with flair and keeps the picture rattling on at a good pace. Classical music mixes with contemporary.

It's fair to say that many of the plot machinations are of the fairly conventional thriller type and you can see some of the twists coming a mile off. There could have been a serious discussion here about housing and immigration problems in France, but the film merely uses this to heighten some kind of dramatic tension. It doesn't harm the film as such, this really is classy mainstream cinema.  But style is to the fore and the biggest impression The Beat That My Heart Skipped left on me was Duris's  super cool Cuban boots which would have made Velvet's era John Cale proud.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Misfits (1961) Directed by John Huston

When I was younger The Misfits had a certain reputation as being a dark glamor picture as well as having mystery attached to it. You really had to rely on the picture being shown on TV, as it was quite hard to see in the early 80's. Things are different now. A lot of extra material is available on The Misfits nowadays as it assumes legendary status in popular culture. Books, posters, journals, it's one of the most documented films ever. I think this must be because The Misfits is a picture surrounded by morbid fascination. Clark Gable died before he saw it, Marilyn Monroe never finished another movie and Montgomery Clift died a few years after it's release. Doomed.

The other thing that had died pre-shooting of The Misfits was screenwriter Arthur Miller's marriage to Monroe.  The Misfits is a thinly disguised sermon of Miller's view of Monroe. It doesn't always flatter.
Miller must have been pretty burnt to have such a cynical view of Monroe. Of course there is tenderness and well meaning in his words but at times Miller implies Monroe's self awareness of her own sexual power and how she gets things her way by using it. His Marilyn can also be shallow, vague and stupid. Miller possesses the snobbish view that Marilyn's early career was not worthy or to be taken seriously. The reference to her dancing in the picture can be taken as a swipe at her movie career. You really feel that Miller is at times disgusted by Monroe. He really misses the point of Marilyn. No wonder the marriage broke down. Still, this personal introspection of Miller's gives the picture extra grit and focus. You can try to guess what is fiction or personal biography.

The principle actors were joined by Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter and all are excellent. Monroe serves some notice that she could act straight, though sometimes she does seem quite out of it. The presence is still there, Huston captures a certain vulnerability in Monroe which is endearing. Gable is solid and old school. Wallach is so good in a thankless role. Clift supply's a funny cameo and is sympathetic. The Nevada desert steals the picture from the stars and often resembles the surface of the moon.

Depending on your mood, The Misfits can be a slow viewing experience. None of these characters you'd really want to spend time with. On the other hand you can just listen to the great dialogue of these lost figures. Engage with this strange film and you'll be rewarded. An iconic viewing experience.

I named my latest album Better Than Wages because of The Misfits. Clark Gable's Gay, a cowboy in principal and practice, talks of his life style as "better than wages". In the climax scene of the film Montgomery Clift's character comments: "anything's better than wages", but there is a melancholy and a lack of belief in his echoing of Gay's words. A freedom is lost. A fight is over.

I also wrote a song (Misfit) loosely related to and inspired by the film. Or inspired by the narrative woven into watching this piece of cinema: Marilyn Monroe's last picture, the script written by Arthur Miller especially for her to star in, Gable's last picture. There is a sense of alarming intimacy with Monroe, a self on the loose, wandering away from coherence. But starling fragility is also on offer in the performance of Clift, Gable and Wallach who are forced to question their routine existence when they all take turns to reflect themselves in the eyes of Rosalyn (Monroe).

Arthur Miller must be considered a very important star in this film. I think that with his script this would have been an amazing movie with some completely unknown actors too. Although, now the fact that he wrote Rosalyn to be played by Monroe is difficult to forget – it informs my interpretation of the character from beginning to end.

I am reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. She has written a 900-page fictive version of the life of Norma Jean, the woman who becomes Marilyn Monroe. Reading this book is one of those rare experiences for me where I feel it changing me irreversibly. I suffer from wanting to read the book fast because it is so good while at the same time I want to read it slow so the enjoyment lasts longer.
What I can only admire is how Oates takes the facts, dates and places from real life but then imagines in detail what the people in these situations and places would think, say and do. I am telling all this about a book here because I think Arthur Miller used the same device when he wrote The Misfits.

To take fact and make it fiction, to take fiction and make it fact. That's what writers do. Songwriters do something else.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Ice Storm (1997) Directed by Ang Lee

Ice Storm is a well-made and well-acted piece of cinema. It relates to a distinctly American tradition of writing and depiction of the ordinary life in suburbs. The film finds its place stylishly and retains its multi-faceted content, which can often be difficult in movie adaptations of novels. Finally, Ang Lee is an excellent director so full of compassion always, never stuck on a story he has already told.

I know I should love this movie, but some distance remains. I cannot feel passionately about anything here. I have a vague memory of seeing this film in the late 1990s and it having an impact on the teenage-me.

Last January on a ferry from Germany to Denmark I found myself telling a bunch of cowboys about 'key parties'.  The men wondered where I got my knowledge from and I failed to inform them: from Ice Storm. I simply smiled with vagueness (truthfully, I did not remember the movie then).

Life consists of fragments, events, faiths without linear coherence. Everything's up for interpretation. If that is the message, I would rather be reading Richard Yates (see for example Young Hearts Crying or Disturbing the Peace).

Nick :
I Just read David Thomson's  analysis of the Alien movies The Alien Quartet. Thomson gamely suggests that Sigourney Weaver (forever Ripley?) is a frustrated sexual beast who was never handed the sexier roles given to other women mainly because she is so tall (and probably a little too smart). His re-imagining of Alien 4 does get one hot under the collar! Well, in The Ice Storm, Weaver gets her sexy role and runs with it. As a matter of fact, sex is what everyone wants or is getting.

Based on Rick Moody's Yatesian novel, Ang Lee's film concerns two middle class suburban families in the early 1970's who find themselves in a state of flux. The children are discovering sex while the adults are experimenting with it. Images of Ice abound in various forms, from the effects of the Ice Storm on a tragic night to ice blocks being emptied into alcoholic shots. A fine performance by Weaver is almost matched by great turns from a surprising Kevin Kline and the eternally underrated Joan Allen. But The Ice Storm boasts an amazing young cast who have all gone on in some way to establishing themselves. A pre-Spidey Toby Maguire, Katie Holmes, Elijah Wood and the already child star before she became the cooler adult Christina Ricci.

Ang Lee is surely the most adaptable and eclectic director working today. From the period literary adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, the Western Ride With The Devil,  fairytale Martial Arts with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the super hero comic of The Hulk and the celebrated gay romance of Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's variety of subject sets high standards. You could argue that the The Ice Storm is one of the key 90's American films. It up there with the likes of Magnolia & Short Cuts, yet it doesn't have the same standing. Maybe the themes of this film strike a little closer to home for some, it's a cold picture like the title suggests. It offers little comfort, just some sobering perspective on stale relationships and curious children. A major work.