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Remake [Paperback]

Connie Willis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1995
Winner of more Hugo and Nebula Awards than any other science fiction author, Connie Willis is one of the most powerfully imaginative writers of our time. In Remake, she explores the timeless themes of emotion and technology, reality and illusion, and the bittersweet place where they intersect to make art.


It's the Hollywood of the future, where moviemaking's been computerized and live-action films are a thing of the past. It's a Hollywood where Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe are starring together in A Star Is Born, and if you don't like the ending, you can change it with the stroke of a key.

A Hollywood of warmbodies and sim-sex, of drugs and special effects, where anything is possible. Except for what one starry-eyed young woman wants to do: dance in the movies. It's an impossible dream, but Alis is not willing to give up. With a little magic and a lot of luck, she just might get her happy ending after all.

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In the Hollywood of the future there's no need for actors since any star can be digitally recreated and inserted into any movie. Yet young Alis wants to dance on the silver screen. Tom tries to dissuade her, but he fears she will pursue her dream--and likely fall victim to Hollywood's seamy underside, which is all to eager to swallow up naive actresses. Then Tom begins to find Alis in the old musicals he remakes, and he has to ask himself just where the line stands between reality and the movies. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Willis (Doomsday Book), a fan of old movies, uses them cleverly and thoughtfully in Remake, her fourth solo novel. Roughly 20 years into the future, computer graphics have ended live production in Hollywood. Tom, the narrator, reluctantly pillages old films for remakes starring dead actors or alters them to suit the politico-social correctness of the moment. When he meets Alis, who has come to Hollywood burning to dance in movies no longer being made, he falls hard. As in Willis's Lincoln's Dreams, while boy is obsessed with girl, she is obsessed with her purpose. Boy loses girl, then sees her, impossibly, dancing in old musicals which couldn't have been altered. After several red herrings he finds both her and an explanation, but, given her higher passion, finders aren't necessarily keepers. Willis's writing, as usual, is transparently clean and deft. She has fun playing with old film references and with the levels of illusion in a Hollywood more irreal than ever, and is discerning both about the way movies inform our imaginations, giving us roles to play, and about desire, purpose and possibility. One flaw is a scene of requited love that neither the form nor tone of this bittersweet romance can support. But if the characters are mostly stock and the sentimentality easy, this is still popular fiction at a high level, entertaining, thoughtful and often touching.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars short but still tiresome Feb. 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The small amount of action in this story is lengthened into description after description of the narrator doing drugs and drinking while altering classic movies. You really want to shout "OK, I get the idea, already! Would you please move on???"
Finally we get to the climax, and it's not much. There is no suspense, more of just an explanation of how the would-be dancer Alis has mysteriously appeared in some of the old movies. It's a required SF explanation (so that the story can be called SF) but really it's hard to be curious when you just want the thing to end, please -- by this point in the story you know it's not going to get any more interesting.
It seems that Willis put all her energy into coming up with the SF premise and watching old movies so she could insert little descriptions of scenes into the text. It needed more attention to the characters and a plot. This would have made a passable short story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic Comedy Feb. 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It takes Willis a long time to write a novel, due to the incredible amount of research that she does for them. Of course, this is also one of the reasons why they are so good. In the early 1990s, her editor had a brilliant idea--why not write shorter novels? Connie, in a rare fit of insanity, agreed. The idea was crazy because she does the same amount of research for a novella as for a novel. If there was a silver lining in this cloud, it is likely the increased amount of shelf space that Willis now takes up with seven different titles instead of four (I'm not counting her new book, nor the collaborations with Cynthia Felice).
There may be another silver lining in that we got three novellas that might otherwise not have existed, and it is a format that Connie excels at, and a format that, rarely, is as financially rewarding. This is the second of the three that I have read (I also commented on Bellwether). It is not a screwball, per se, which is somewhat surprising given that it is about movies. It does, however, contain that signature Willis humor.
Tom is a poor student at the UNC film school, who has to moonlight as a film "editor" to pay his tuition. I have to put editor in quotes, because this is the future, where movies are not made but remade with digitized famous actors. Into this walks Alis, a "face" who confides to Tom that she wants to dance in the movies.
Like many of Connie's stories, this one plays with the concept of time-travel, although the one-way trip into film nostalgia here is an unusual twist. If this was made into a film, the likely category it would fall into is romantic comedy, although comedy and tear-jerker aspects are there. Think of it as Willis' Jerry Maguire.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great fantasy for fans of movie musicals Jan. 8 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alis is a determined young woman who comes to Hollywood to dance in the movies. Unfortunate, that, because in this world of the not-too-distant future musicals are dead, as is most live-action film-shooting. The hot properties in the movies are the images of stars long-dead - Marilyn Monroe, Carole Lombard, River Phoenix, and James Dean, and every new film is a remake. Tom is a freelance movie editor whose primary occupation is fitting classic films with the images of the studio boss's latest girlfriend. This sad fact galls him to no end, since unlike most of the beautiful young people on the make in Hollywood, Tom actually watches movies, and hates to see the classics butchered by the soulless, self-serving, drug-numbed, money-hungry executives who run the studios. Fascinated by Alis and her impossible dream, Tom tries to help her as best he can and gives readers a sardonic overview of how movies will be made in the future in the process, but Alis proves resourceful enough all by herself, and manages to achieve her dream in a way that no one could possibly have imagined.
The novel is structured something like a treatment for a movie script (possibly a hypermodern, science fiction remake of Casablanca), and the first-person narrator shows his obsession with old movies by constantly referencing classics by Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Alis's favorite dancer, Fred Astaire. This is not another tightly knitted time travel story along the lines of Willis's irresistible To Say Nothing of the Dog. The sci-fi/fantasy aspects of the story are extremely hard to follow and may ultimately prove disappointing to fans of such, and the humor tends to fall flat more often than not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book that grows on you... June 8 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Connie Willis is undoubtedly a genius, but even geniuses have their failures. One is tempted at first to think that Remake will be one of her lesser works, even if by no means a failure. But really it's up there with her greater books. The characterizations, of the narrator/hero in particular, are good and entertaining. And the premise/setting of a Hollywood in which thanks to digital technology every actor is entirely interchangeable (but good scripts are obviously still in short supply or can't get made) works vividly well.
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