The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Friday, January 25, 2008


Looks like Starshmucks, I mean Starbucks, is in trouble

In a not unrelated story, in an effort to curb off incipient insanity as much as possible, I've been watching a movie almost every night (thanks to the Internet). This will sound funny, but I saw You've Got Mail for the first time the other night. The film first came out in 1998 (damn, I was in high school!), and it seems charmingly nostalgic ten years later. Here are a few of the quintessentially 90s elements in the film that made me feel old:

-Dial up modems! Remember those? As my friend says, that's back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
-AOL. Who the heck still uses AOL? Really.
-Chatrooms/email. Back in 1998, the internet/email was still new to most people, and I remember going to random chatrooms was the thing to do. Do those still exist? I think Instant Messaging software took over that role.
-Starbucks is featured prominently in the film. This is before they became ubiquitous but right around the time they started becoming so.
-Last but not least, the story involves a mom n pop bookstore in NYC closing its doors owing to the arrival of a "Fox Books" giant. Something very similar occurred in Toronto at about that time: Chapters and Indigo, back before they merged, were pretty much making smaller independent shops close their doors back in the lat 90s and early 2000s. Something similar probably happened in the states, most likely with Barnes and Noble.

The film was half decent, but I noticed something odd. First, one could argue that the film is nothing but an allegory for big business' usurpation of smaller ones, in which case, it paints the message that it's inevitable and ok. I'm not even a Marxist and I can easily write a Marxist critique of the film.
Apart from that, it was ironic that there was such heavy product placement in a film that is seemingly anti-corporate. Starbucks, IBM, and AOL get prominent product placement. I also found it ironic that Meg Ryan's character, the owner of the threatened small business who complains of the evils of big corporate stores ruining America, gets her coffee at Starbucks.

One of the few movies I will ever recommend is the little known Cashback. Very briefly, imagine a less dark, funnier version of American Beauty, whose attempt at profundity actually makes sense, and it doesn't try too hard. The film has its flaws and rough spots, but this can be forgiven since the director is a rookie (Sean Ellis). The camerawork, by the way, is stunning.


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