(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood or how classic Hollywood continues to influence modern filmmaking.)

In 1941, in the midst of World War II, the Walt Disney Studios put out a movie about a little elephant with big ears. Dumbo was the savior of the Disney Company at the time, swooping in to save them after a huge financial loss after their experimental musical, Fantasia, the year prior. The film became Disney’s biggest hit of the 1940s, producing an iconic moment with the sweetly tempered “Baby Mine” sequence. With 78 years passed, it’s time to remake Dumbo, at least according to Disney, and Tim Burton’s feature owes more to the circus worlds of his own films (Big Fish) and the studio era than it does to its predecessor.

Somewhat similarly to the original, the film follows a playful pachyderm named Dumbo whose large ears give him the ability to fly. He’s helped in his quest to rescue his mother by the precocious Millie Farrier (Nico Parker), a budding scientist, and her father, former cowboy star, Holt (Colin Farrell).

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(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood or how classic Hollywood continues to influence modern filmmaking.)

Jordan Peele’s Get Out reinvigorated a horror landscape rife with jump scares and standard monsters. Horror features with political overtones have existed since the genre was created, but in the Blumhouse era, they were sometimes harder and subtler to find. Peele’s second feature, Us, similarly infuses the filmic and the societal in a way that’s just as fresh and unique as Get Out, while being even more cerebral. Where some movies easily lend themselves to classic film comparisons, Us uses them more as influences. Several times, I saw wisps of a classic film though the name escaped me. I’m eager to see what other references people catch while watching Us.

Us follows the Wilsons, a family spending a quiet vacation at their summer house in Santa Cruz. When a family arrives at the end of their driveway the Wilsons must confront their greatest fear: themselves.

This article contains major spoilers for Us.

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serenity film noir

(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood.)

By this point audiences have been scratching their heads and questioning their film choices with the release of Steven Knight’s Serenity. It’s a movie that is as compellingly bonkers as it is exceedingly dumb. It’s a fun bad movie that you’ll enjoy if you’re into that kind of thing. But, in watching it myself (and loving everything about it), the classic film comparisons flew fast and furiously. Knight certainly did his homework for key portions of the film and it’s worth using the Classically Contemporary forum to examine all things dark, noir, and silly about Serenity.

Serenity follows Plymouth fisherman Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) who seems to spend his days doing little more than fishing and getting laid. When his ex-girlfriend, Karen (Anne Hathaway) shows up with a proposition, Baker isn’t having it. She wants to pay him $10 million to murder her husband. Will the fisherman do it? Will Karen and Baker get together at the end? I’d say yes but the movie goes FAR further than that.

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(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood.)

When classic film fans heard Bradley Cooper was directing A Star is Born a collective sigh went out. Telling a story that’s been done no less than three times already isn’t exactly innovative, and yet A Star is Born has been a popular story to tell since its inception in 1932.

Unlike the previous Classically Contemporary article, we won’t be looking at outside influences from the classic era, but how this incarnation of A Star is Born is influenced by the versions that came before. How does Cooper’s story hold up alongside its previous iterations, and what does its placement in 2018 say about us and celebrity? Let’s go far from the shallow and get classically contemporary with A Star is Born.

This post contains minor spoilers for all four versions of the film, including the new one.

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A Simple Favor Influences

(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood.)

Director Paul Feig is no stranger to reference and parody, with the strongest example being his 2015 James Bond-esque Spy. Feig enjoys playing with classic film genre and his best representation of the past is found in A Simple Favor.

Based on Darcey Bell’s novel, A Simple Favor follows mommy vlogger, Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), who falls into a fast friendship with the beautifully acid-tongued Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). Emily seems to have a wonderful life, but when she goes missing Stephanie quickly learns she didn’t know much about her new (and only) best friend.

This article contains spoilers for A Simple Favor.

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(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood.)

In 1998, a new generation of filmgoers got an opportunity to visit the Walt Disney Studios classic, The Parent Trap, with a hip, modern remake (that hit theaters 20 years ago this week). The film followed the basic tenets of its predecessor, originally released in 1961, that saw two twins, separated at birth, who decide to reunite their estranged parents. The Parent Trap was a film of its time back in 1961, with a peppy, beach-inspired soundtrack (with a title song sung by Annette Funicello). By 1998, with divorce more common, The Parent Trap became timelier, with two tween girls (both played by Lindsay Lohan) tackling a new scheme to stop their father from marrying the “evil” Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix).

Blake is the character who dominates the film 20 years later, with a cool style and confident air that’s pulled straight from the world of classic cinema.

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Ocean’s 8 Inspirations

(Welcome to Classically Contemporary, a series where we explore the ways in which new releases echo classic Hollywood.)

Every movie seeks inspiration from films made before. Whether the homage is intentional or not, Hollywood is a land known for cannibalizing itself. Ocean’s 8 builds off several pre-existing properties, and we’re not talking about the film’s obvious inspirations, like the Steven Soderbergh trilogy starting in 2001 with Ocean’s Eleven, nor are we discussing the 1960 Frank Sinatra incarnation of the film of the same name.

What Ocean’s 8 does with its story of eight women and the jewel heist they pull off is draw from the crime capers of the pre-Code, studio era, most notably the 1932 features Trouble in Paradise and Jewel Robbery, where each emphasizes a world where women are in control and crime can be a fun adventure all its own.

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