A brief personal note: there was a temptation to "suspend normal programming" with this column in light of recent events. Certainly it is difficult to think of anything funny. However, since I believe that terrorists win by disrupting normal life, I have elected not to give them that satisfaction. I hope you understand and don't think me insensitive.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting watching "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" when an ad came on for Steven Spielberg's "AI: Artificial Intelligence", and I wondered to myself why it is that Hollywood wants to turn itself into a kind of mega-budget dictionary of abbreviations. The fact that Spielberg is also responsible for "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial" suggests it's been going on for a while.
I'm not, of course, talking about catchy teaser campaigns in which only the initials of the film's title are used, as in "M:i2" (Mission: Impossible 2), "JP3" (Jurassic Park 3), "ID4" (Independence Day -- for whatever bizarre reason the original film was promoted with a number . . . go figure) or "EWS" (Eyes Wide Shut). Although occasionally these abbreviated titles end up being more widely known than the film's title (I'd almost forgotten that "T2" had the lame "Judgement Day" subtitle until I bought the DVD).
What I want to know is, why hasn't a movie been made about the technology industry using this singularly memory-catching technique? "AI" is certainly a step in the right direction (although its depiction of artificial intelligence owes less to science and more to fiction), but this industry is fairly dripping with abbreviations and acronyms just begging to be turned into hit movies. Like "TWAIN", which I'm told reliably stands for "Technology Without An Interesting Name". Even if you couldn't come up with a decent plot, the title is hilarious.
A few suggestions:
"API: Application Programming Interface" -- industrial intrigue is the focus of this one, with a brash young programmer (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) working hard to create the ultimate application. Then, without warning, the faceless, heartless corporate monolith responsible for her operating platform changes the rules, creating its own set of APIs incompatible with existing industry standards. It claims this makes the standards more "open", but our heroine knows the truth. Should she stay with the standards? Bow to the will of the corporate bully? Or go it alone. . .
How about "ATM: Asynchronous Transfer Mode" -- an exciting action movie in the tradition of Die Hard, in which our hero, a networking guru played by Bruce Willis, solves the problem of combining voice, videoconferencing and data communications on a single network. He thinks he's overcome the limited bandwidth of the LAN by using a variable bit rate, but the CIO (chief information officer) is sceptical: a sudden unexpected surge in traffic could lead to catastrophe . . .
Problem is someone could rush to market with a cheap rip-off called "ATM: Automatic Teller Machine" and cash in (excuse the pun) on our expensive teaser campaign. As if there haven't been enough movies about the banking industry.
"POP: Post Office Protocol" -- somewhat in the vein of Scorsese's "Casino", this features a lengthy introduction to the inner workings of a traditional "snail mail" post office and then segues to the secretive corridors at an ISP, the sworn enemy of traditional communication systems. As our story develops, the post office tries to modernise and streamline itself to compete with its bitter rival, while the ISP murderously slashes prices and integrates services like SMS messaging to mobile phones, preemptively locking the post office out of potential opportunities. Amidst all this chaos, a young sysadmin (Leonardo DiCaprio) falls in love with the girl behind the counter at his local post office, and suddenly realises that old-fashioned face-to-face customer service is best.
The best thing about this one is its in-built sequel potential, as POP2 and POP3 could practically be made simultaneously.
"USB: Universal Serial Bus" -- this is obviously a road movie, involving a nostalgic trip across the country with a star-studded cast including regulars from "The Sullivans", "Number 96" and a few kids from "Home and Away". One of the screws from "Prisoner" is keeping a diary of the trip on her iBook, complete with digital video clips, photos and MP3s of all the passengers singing along to the theme from "Neighbours". Then disaster strikes: she needs to attach a scanner in order to preserve Abigail's autograph, but there are already 127 devices on the chain. What do you do, what do you do?
Finally, "TCP/IP: Transmission Connect Protocol/Internet Protocol" -- a heartwarming love story this, with a title to match. Cast Daniel Day-Lewis and Christina Ricci as the leads, and it pretty much writes itself.
Matthew JC. Powell would love to hear from any Hollywood executives interested in his ideas on firstname.lastname@example.org.