* Whose Time Has Come? Note: Telephone answering machines are one of the more controversial aspects of modern life. People either love waiting for the tone or they don't. Still, the possibilities for conveying a message to the world via your machine are enormous, as the example of Jeff Cane, a retired British disc jockey, shows. Six years ago, Cane recorded a message that was so interesting people called just to listen to it. Soon he couldn't dial out because so many folks were dialing in. He added another phone line and developed a studio where he creates comedy, interviews and current affairs programming for his machine that the public can call in and listen to. Currently he receives 700 calls a day and estimates that another 3,000 callers try and fail to get through . . .

* Born Under a Good Sign, Note: When she appears in films she may not be on the screen a lot but Elizabeth McGovern makes the most of her minutes and her career has acquired momentum. Nominated for an Oscar for her role in "Ragtime," the actress begins shooting "Lovesick" next week in New York. The film co-stars Dudley Moore and is written and directed by Marshall Brickman, Woody Allen's former collaborator . . .

* Love and Revolution Note: Trevor Griffiths is a British Marxist with a talent for writing commercially successful plays. In 1976, Mike Nichols directed Griffiths' play "Comedians" on Broadway. Nichols is a close friend of Warren Beatty. Introductions were made and the rest, as they say, is history, or at least Beatty and Griffiths' version of it. Together they wrote "Reds." . . . The film opened two weeks ago in Britain to polite, so-so reviews. Of the collaboration of the Marxist and Matinee Idol, Philip French said in The Observer, "Griffiths' convictions that only good revolutionists enjoy full sexual potency goes only too well with the natural Hollywood tendency to turn any film into a love story . . ."

* Over There Oscar Note: The Japanese Academy Awards also have a category for best foreign language film. This year's nominees: "Elephant Man," "Being There," "Ordinary People" and "Les Uns et Les Autres" . . .

* Howl, Howl, Howl, note: Richard Burton, who has been starring in gossip columns more often than the stage recently, told the BBC last week he would play "King Lear" on Broadway. Said the big-voiced Welshman, "I have to play Lear because Lear is the only Welshman of any interest that Shakespeare wrote about." No word on when, who would produce, or whether Burton's great love Elizabeth Taylor will appear. The only women's parts, as you know, are Lear's daughters . . .