Fast running out of frijoles, Matthew JC. Powell must soon make a choice . . .
I found myself on the horns of a dilemma at the weekend. Having spent my summer holidays suitably ensconced in cinemas all over Sydney avoiding sunburn, I found myself on Saturday night having seen every film that was showing. Well, almost every film.
Sitting in Taco Bell munching away on bean things, I pored over the cinema pages, desperately hoping that there would be something on other than You've Got M@il. Now, I know what you're thinking: how dare I judge a film before I've seen it. I realise this is not a good way to be, and normally I would give the thing a chance - especially if there's nothing else showing and I've already seen A Bug's Life three times.
But here's my reasoning: I've seen Sleepless in Seattle and I've seen (believe it or not) Joe Versus the Volcano. I've seen romantic comedies with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan before, and I feel no particular need to explore the genre in any more depth than I already have.
But this one has computers in it, and I'm almost as much of a computer buff as I am a film buff. The ads for You've Got M@il look more like ads for Apple Computer than for a movie. It's The shop around the corner for the information age. I really should see this film, but for some reason I don't want to.
In the name
Maybe it's the title. I note that the working title of this film was "You have mail", which of course is rather closer to the syntax I would use. I wonder how much America Online paid to have the title reflect the phraseology of its mail client.
Had Qualcomm coughed up the dough, would the movie be called "You have new mail", as Eudora redundantly proclaims (why would it suddenly inform me that I have old mail)? In the UK, AOL declares to its users "you have post", a quaint turn of phrase that would sound weird coming from a person, and comes across as totally bizarre emanating from a computer. I suspect it wouldn't make sense at all as a movie title.
My current e-mail client, Outlook Express 4.5 for Macintosh, doesn't waste my time or keystrokes with such a message. If mail comes in, it bleeps at me - an elegant ascending cadence that is every bit as enjoyable to hear as any of my e-mail is to read. Of course, this delightful bit of user experience design from Microsoft would not translate at all into a movie title, so Bill should probably fire someone for wasting the opportunity to gain mindshare if he hasn't already.
The other problem I have with You've Got M@il has to do with Tom Hanks.
At the moment, I'm holding onto an image of Tom Hanks the dual Oscar winner putting in a virtuoso performance in Saving Private Ryan and deservedly winning a third award.
If I watch him in yet another romantic comedy I'll be reminded that he's a lightweight bozo who deserves another Oscar about as much as Kenneth Starr deserves to be Time's Man of the Year, even though he was great in Toy Story. Hanks, that is, not Starr.
Now if I could get a version of You've Got M@il with Tom Hanks' Woody from Toy Story superimposed over the top of Hanks, I'd probably be able to enjoy the film without spoiling Oscar night. If ever there was a killer app for digital video, that has to be it, right? Maybe the DVD release could allow me to substitute a range of lead actors that I don't mind thinking of as lightweight bozos - Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Ralph Macchio and so forth. Already I can pick my soundtrack, so this kind of breakthrough must be just around the corner.
And why not? Everyone knows Hollywood only has seven plots. What's to stop someone from developing a program that allowed the user to choose one of those seven plots (perhaps with variations) and insert a range of actors from "plus packs" available separately? Choose a dialogue style from a range of easily emulated writers such as Oliver Stone ("that freakin' freak couldn' of killed Kennedy, he was freakin' on the other side of the freakin' country ya piece of shoot!") or Quentin Tarantino ("I'm gonna do it like Gilligan doin' one of Maryanne's coconut cream pies, you dig me bro?") and away you go.
If this isn't THE hot item next Christmas trading period, I'll be very disappointed.