Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the nightclub for night-owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Thank you for joining us after tonight’s National League Wild Card game. Please bring your own beverage. Turn off your camera. Please, no photography.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
The Dodgers won the National League Wild Card game 3-1 in dramatic fashion as Chris Taylor hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Taylor didn’t even start this game, entering the game in a double-switch before the seventh inning. The Cardinals went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers scored all three of their runs on home runs, with Justin Turner tying the game 1-1 in the fourth inning.
Last time I asked you who would be the National League’s representative in the World Series. You appear to be believers in the magical season the Giants are having this year as 51 percent of you thought the Giants would win their fourth NL Pennant in the last 12 seasons. Another 25 percent of you thought that the Wild Card game would be no problem for the Dodgers to overcome. In third place were the Brewers as 16 percent of you thought that the Brewers would win their first NL Pennant (and second overall). The already-eliminated Cardinals got six percent and only two percent of you believe in the Braves. I’m sure Atlanta will use that as bulletin board material.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I went to YouTube to look for a jazz video for tonight’s edition and I was blown away to discover that the great bassist/singer/songwriter Esperanza Spalding had just dropped a new music video. If the YouTube view counts are to be believed, I was one of the first 300 people to watch “Formwela 8.”
I know absolutely nothing about this song. It strikes me as being pretty experimental and a bit avant-garde. You may like it and you might hate it, but I think you owe it to yourself to listen to it and make up your own mind. Personally, I was at first put off by it, but as the song went on, I found myself warming up to it. I really liked it by the end. But your experience may be different. I won’t judge.
It’s certainly the work of a cutting-edge jazz musician at the top of her game and doing her own thing.
On Monday night/Tuesday morning, I wrote about Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 classic romantic comedy, The Shop Around the Corner and I promised that I’d have something to say about the 1998 Nora Ephron-directed remake, You’ve Got Mail. Honestly, I’d thought I’d seen You’ve Got Mail before, but when I sat down to watch it, I realized that all of this was totally new to me. I guess all those Meg Ryan rom-coms of the 1990s all sort of merged together in my mind.
Ephron had earlier directed Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the mega-successful Sleepless in Seattle in 1993 and You’ve Got Mail was a much-awaited follow-up to that picture.
You’ve Got Mail updates The Shop Around the Corner by having the couple meet on the internet, which was still a novel thing back then. They correspond through email and AOL Instant Messenger. Ephron also changes the two main characters, Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) and Joe Fox (Hanks) from co-workers to business rivals. Kelly owns a small bookstore in Manhattan and Fox is the heir to the Fox Books mega-chain, which is clearly meant to stand in for Barnes & Noble. While Joe and Kathleen are anonymously corresponding with each other over the internet, Fox Books moves into the Upper West Side of Manhattan and drives Kelly’s bookstore out of business.
Overall, You’ve Got Mail is a mixed bag, but I think the plusses mostly outweigh the minuses. The original plot of The Shop Around the Corner holds up well. Ephron expands it in some ways that are quite good but in a few negative ways as well. There are better rom-coms out there, including ones starring Ryan and Hanks, but if you want still more, you could do a lot worse. If it were still 1998 and I was on Siskel & Ebert, I’d give it a mild thumbs-up.
Here’s what I thought was good about You’ve Got Mail, what I didn’t like and what I’m still unsure about.
- Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Period.
Tom Hanks has been compared to Jimmy Stewart so many times that frankly, he’d like you to stop doing that. But the two actors on-screen personas are so similar. They are both best-known for playing common men who are defined by their uncommon decency and gentle humor. Yes, both actors tried to break away from that genial everyman character from time to time in their careers (Vertigo, The Road to Perdition), but that archetypal character is clearly what the movie-going public wanted from both of them. Hanks is so good at that character that we see Joe Fox as a decent, regular guy, even though he’s playing the scion of a rapacious capitalist family that owns a chain of huge bookstores that drive small, family-owned stores out of business. All the while, Joe quotes The Godfather about how it wasn’t personal, just business. Yet Hanks still makes him lovable.
Meg Ryan isn’t a perfect fit for Margaret Sullavan. Sullavan had much more of a bite to her portrayal of Klara Novak, for example. Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly is almost more of the Mr. Matuschek role in The Shop Around the Corner—a kindly small-business owner who cares about her employees and about the product she sells. Like Mr. Matuschek, she sometimes lashes out, but then she feels terrible afterwards. (No suicide attempts, however.)
There was a reason that Meg Ryan was the undisputed queen of the ’90’s rom-com. She’s very good in them. Ryan played plucky, independent women who fought for what they believed in and whom audiences loved to root for. She played strong women looking for an equal partner in love, and would settle for nothing less. She was the “You can have it all” woman.
Some have even argued the rom-com has never quite recovered from Ryan aging out of the genre in the mid-aughts.
Like Sullavan and Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner, You’ve Got Mail was Ryan and Hanks’s third film together, after Joe Versus the Volcano and Sleepless in Seattle. Nora Ephron had clearly been tasked to recreate the hit chemistry between the two actors again for You’ve Got Mail. For the most part, she succeeded.
- The plot of You’ve Got Mail deals with the change in feelings between Joe and Kathleen much more realistically than The Shop Around the Corner does. It takes Joe Fox months for him to get over the shock of Kathleen being the other end of his email affair and decide that she’s really someone he could fall in love with. When he does, he spends months simply trying to be her friend and he offers advice as to how to deal with her mysterious email companion. Basically, he tries to win her love on his own before revealing the secret. Kathleen is much smarter than Miss Novak as well. When the reveal comes, she reveals that she already had a pretty good idea that it had been Joe all along.
- For all the changes they made to the plot of The Shop Around the Corner, Ephron leaves the basic outline of the romantic plot the same. The wonderful café scene in The Shop Around the Corner is wisely recreated almost exactly in You’ve Got Mail, with Dave Chappelle, of all people, in the Felix Bressart role.
- The name of Kathleen’s children’s bookstore is “The Shop Around the Corner,” which is a nice tribute to the original film. The warm feeling of a small business represented by the employees of Matuschek and Company in the original film is recreated with Kathleen’s bookstore. The legendary Jean Stapleton, in her second-to-last film role, does a lot in a small role as Kathleen’s bookkeeper.
- The film wastes the first 15 to 20 minutes introducing us to Joe and Kathleen. They’re portrayed as warm, likable people—even taking the time to make it clear that the sliminess of Joe’s family hasn’t rubbed off on him. (The two first meet when Joe takes two children, his aunt and his brother, to Kathleen’s bookstore. Don’t ask.) But you don’t cast Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a movie and then worry about whether or not the audience is going to take to them. It’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan! Unless you have them torture a puppy in the opening scene, we’re pre-conditioned to love them.
- The film portrays the Upper West Side of Manhattan as a kind of storybook utopia until Fox Books comes in. I’m not buying that.
- Whereas Alfred Kralik and Klara Novak were decidedly working class, Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly are quite wealthy. Joe is a literal multi-millionaire and while Kathleen is a small businesswoman who loses her shop, she’s still got a huge apartment in a fashionable part of New York and seems to have no concerns about losing it. She claims to have had five job offers after the shop closed, and we know at least one of them was real because it came from Joe’s girlfriend.
- About that. You’ve Got Mail invents a current boyfriend and girlfriend for the two protagonists, so their clandestine on-line affair is behind the backs of their current partners. It’s really an unnecessary change since the two don’t do much other than magically move the plot along a couple of times. They are not established in any way that we’d feel sorry for them when their relationships fall apart. They’re also a waste of the talents of Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey.
- The dialogue isn’t as clever or sharp as in The Shop Around the Corner. Modern audiences tend not to take to unrealistic quippy-ness anymore. People make fun of Aaron Sorkin for trying.
- PRODUCT PLACEMENTS! I’ve got no problem with most of the America Online stuff. How else were two people like this going to communicate on the internet in 1998 other than through AOL? Maybe they don’t have to show them logging on quite so often, but otherwise, it’s fine.
But for all of Kathleen’s championing of the small business owner over giant chain stores, she sure loves to take her time getting her coffee at Starbucks rather than from a local coffee shop. And there is a scene where literally the only point of it is to maneuver Tom Hanks into holding up a Visa card to the camera.
I doubt that they were even approached, but Barnes & Noble wisely do not have a sponsorship deal here.
- The way the internet looked in the late-’90’s gave me bad flashbacks. Maybe that’s just me.
- Nora Ephron appears to want to make a point about modernity and its costs. The internet eliminating the printed page. Chain stores eliminating family-owned shops. She’s not exactly praising or condemning modernity, but she seems to think it’s inevitable and that something good will be lost. There’s no happy ending that saves “The Shop Around the Corner,” but Kathleen ends up OK in the end anyway. I give Ephron a lot of credit for trying to stick something in her rom-com more profound than “boy meets girl,” but I’m not sure how well she pulled it off. Her attempts to make her point sometimes pull the film away from what we really care about, and that’s how Joe and Kathleen are going to end up together.
Here’s the same café scene from The Shop Around the Corner that I shared on Monday night done with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail.
Last week I asked you about the completely unclear race for the National League MVP Award. But as difficult as that award is to vote for. the race for the NL Cy Young Award may be even harder to decide.
Last week, Paul Casella wrote up this summary of all the candidates. There’s no point in me repeating what Casella wrote—just click on the link if you need help in deciding who to vote for. In case you were wondering, the Dodgers Walker Buehler was the only pitcher on that list who pitched over the weekend. Buehler allowed one run on three hits over five innings as he won his 16th game. He struck out 11 and walked just one, if that makes a difference in your vote. Buehler finished at 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA and 212 strikeouts.
The candidates are:
Dodgers Walker Buehler
Brewers Corbin Burns
Giants Kevin Gausman
Dodgers/Nationals Max Scherzer
Phillies Zack Wheeler
The only guy who won 20 games this year, Juilo Urias from the Dodgers, isn’t even considered a candidate. The game has changed.
Who should win the NL Cy Young Award
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave in comments)
Thank you so very much for stopping by. I’ll have them bring your car around for you. Be sure to tip the valet. We hope to see you again next week with another edition of BCB After Dark.