Tuesday, July 07, 2009

More on Happy Endings

I feel like I've been working on the ending of this book for weeks. I wrote about 3,000 words yesterday, most of which are total replacement for what I had, and I think I have at least that much more to go. Maybe I'll get it done today, but it seems like it keeps expanding as I get closer to the end. I know I'll have to do some tinkering with what I've done because right now I'm mostly focusing on the choreography, just the who did what, when and where. I'll need to add things like description and emotional reaction. But I do think all this tinkering is worth it because this may be the best I've written, and I'd like it to see the light of day. It won't if the ending doesn't hold up to the rest of the book. So, after I post this I'll be hauling the computer downstairs and forcing myself to work the rest of the day.

I do think I've discovered the right trick for the early-morning walk: eat breakfast first. When I walk before breakfast, I end up tired and starving all day, but today I ate first, and I seem to have more energy while not being nearly as hungry.

Meanwhile, I had yet another one of those coincidences happen where I encountered something I've been thinking about elsewhere. Last week, I was talking about happy endings and how I define them, with one of my examples being the movie Casablanca, which I think would have actually had more of a downer ending if the couple had ended up together, and them making the right choice was what made it a happy ending for me. Well, more than a week ago, I found out that the city library system had a Connie Willis book I hadn't yet read, one I'd never seen in stores, and I put it on hold to pick up in my neighborhood branch. I read it late last week, and it totally fit the discussion of happy endings.

The book is Remake, and it has a semi-cyberpunk sensibility to it. It takes place in a near-future Hollywood where they don't make movies anymore. They just remake the same movies over and over again, making digital changes, recasting with digital versions of other actors -- like Sylvester Stallone starring in Ben Hur. They also digitally change movies to remove things that have become offensive, like smoking. And they can give old movies a happy ending. Casablanca is cited as one that gives them problems in that area because everything they do to make the couple end up together ends up ruining the movie (one version has Nazis storming the airstrip and killing the husband, so Ilsa can go off with Rick -- which doesn't really work as a "happy" ending). The story kicks off when a girl arrives in Hollywood with stars in her eyes and a big dream. She wants to dance in the movies. Never mind that they don't make movies with live actors anymore, and no one wants musicals. There aren't even any dance teachers anymore, because of this. That doesn't dim her hopes at all, and she finds a way to do it.

The really interesting thing is that this book was published in 1995 -- before the Star Wars special editions that had Greedo shooting first and before the federal agents in ET were suddenly holding walkie-talkies instead of guns. It may have been written around the time that Forrest Gump managed to interact on film with a lot of historical figures (but given Connie's writing pace, it's possible she was already at work on this book before that movie came out).

We may not yet be at the point of digital mashups instead of new films, but there aren't a lot of movies these days that aren't remakes of some kind or another -- sequels, comic book adaptations, remakes, remakes of comic book adaptations, amusement park ride adaptations, sequels to amusement park ride adaptations, toy adaptations, book adaptations, etc. (Though, as someone who stands to potentially make a lot of money if a certain book is adapted for film, I'm all for book adaptations.) Interestingly enough, the movie with the most original story this summer was digitally created, so it's not the technology that's to blame. It's the lack of imagination.

Anyway, it's nice to see that I'm not alone in thinking that Casablanca has a happy enough ending without any help, and I now have a strange urge to watch a lot of old movie musicals with great dance numbers.

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