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Glad to be back on Earth after their confusing adventures on Arrakis last episode, Sean and Cody sit down to Thanksgiving dinner and an extra helping of 1970s moral and environmental confusion as they analyze this Ang Lee-directed period drama from 1997. In The Ice Storm, set in Conn-ECT-i-CUT over Thanksgiving 1973, the loveless marriage of boring white guy Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) and his moody wife Elena (Joan Allen) is spiraling the drain while their neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver), her son Mikey (Elijah Wood) and the Hoods’ daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) are all trying to hook up with various people. The gravy really gets spilled when a freak ice storm catches everybody at their worst and sets up poor Frodo for some shocking shenanigans. Environmental issues discussed include the history of weather, the real life Ice Storm Felix that inspired the novel the film is based on, design oddities in mid-century New England and the environmental aspects of the traditional American Thanksgiving feast.
How and when did the real Storm Felix turn Connecticut into a skating rink in 1973? What’s the “Glass House” and what does it have to do with this movie? Is Thanksgiving turkey really bad for the environment, or is there another side to that story? Who was the little girl who got napalmed in Vietnam in that famous photo? Why was Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting so small? How did Puritans in the 17th century react when they got naughty thoughts at night? How did Katie Holmes get into, and out of, Scientology? What’s wrong with creative writing workshops taught at Ivy League graduate schools? Is the Talking G.I. Joe doll quoted accurately in this film? Why is Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi definitely not on the list of future episodes? All of these questions and more are served up at the carving station on this special Thanksgiving episode of Green Screen.
The original 1997 trailer for The Ice Storm.
Additional Materials About This Episode
The Thanksgiving dinner scene, which includes Wendy’s politically-charged prayer, discussed in the episode.
Wendy (Christina Ricci) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd) fool around in The Ice Storm. The reference to “nocturnal emissions” is discussed in our episode; leave it to Sean to connect this to a 17th century Puritan memoir.
The “key party.” This is what everyone remembers from this film.
The Environmental History
The Real Ice Storm (Felix) and Weather History
Steve Grant, “Ice Storm of 1973,” Hartford Courant, October 31, 1997 (Web Archive link):
The Hope Street Blog, showcasing the weather history of William Blumenau:
“Dec. 16-18, 1973: Trapped Under Ice,” December 12, 2011, by Kurt Blumenau:
William Blumenau’s calendar documenting the ice storm and power outages:
About William Blumenau (1910-2001):
Diary of Michael Wigglesworth 1653-1657, The Conscience of a Puritan, mentioned in the episode (Amazon link):
Thanksgiving and its Environmental Impact
Meredith Cohn and Tim Wheeler, “Thanksgiving Dinner’s Carbon Footprint,” The Baltimore Sun, November 29, 2009:
Parker Molloy, “Despite What Conservatives Say, Liberals are Not Trying to ‘Cancel’ Thanksgiving,” Media Matters, November 8, 2019:
Stephanie Hiller, “COVID-19 Sparks a Rebirth of the Local Farm Movement,” Yes! Magazine, May 21, 2020:
The “Glass House,” New Canaan, CT, designed by Philip Johnson. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Staib, Creative Commons 3.0 license.
The world-famous photo of the Vietnam napalm attack, June 1972. Kim Phuc, the most famous participant, is third from left. Photo taken by Nick Ut. It is obliquely referred to in The Ice Storm.
The infamous Keep America Beautiful commercial, known as the “Crying Indian” ad, featuring the very not-Native American actor “Iron Eyes Cody.” This is one of the more brazen attempts at greenwashing in environmental history.
Rick Moody, “Writers and Mentors,” The Atlantic, Fiction Issue, 2005 (Web Archive link):
Ang Lee and James Schamus discuss The Ice Storm on Charlie Rose, 1997.
The Ice Storm (1997) at IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119349/
The Ice Storm (1997) at Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/the-ice-storm/
Next Movie Up: Gorillas in the Mist (1988)