Archive for November 6, 2022

By John Ruberry

Late October arrived with what I thought would be a pleasant surprise, a new Netflix horror and suspense series, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Del Toro, known for the superb art direction in his films, is an Academy Award winner for directing The Shape of Water, that film contains a controversial scene which we’ll discuss shortly.

There are eight episodes, set either in the early 20th century or the latter part of the century. Oh, for balance, there’s one set around 1950. All but one of them are based on short stories, two of them by del Torro, and two by H.P. Lovecraft, a horror and fantasy writer, the bulk of his work was published in the 1920s and 1930s.

First the good. The acting is superb and not surprisingly, so is the art direction and cinematography. The bad–well, the stories aren’t very good, and in what is becoming common with Netflix, the episodes are too long, each one of Cabinet of Curiosities‘ segments could be trimmed by anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. The episodes run from 38 minutes to slightly more than an hour. And like many Netflix original series, funding doesn’t seem to be an issue. That was not the situation with the low-budget horror movies that I grew up with and enjoyed, such as Vincent Price’s American International Picture films. Netflix needs to focus on the basics of entertainment, not the frills.

Del Toro, just as Rod Serling did with The Twilight Zone, introduces each episode. The titular character of Alfred Hitchcock Presents performed the same duty, and there is a Game of Thrones-style cabinet animation device as the opening credits run. Del Toro doesn’t direct any of the episodes.

But Cabinet of Curiosities, rather than emulating The Twilight Zone, harkens back to Steven Spielberg’s mid-1980s NBC anthology series, Amazing Stories. It should have been called “Stories,” because that heavily hyped series was anything but “amazing.” The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were rebooted around this time, both fell flat. As the saying goes, if Hollywood ever had an original idea, it would die of loneliness.

I’ll briefly sum up each Cabinet of Curiosities entry, in the order of their release. If you are running out of time with my post, or if you are running out of patience, I have this message. Just two of the eight episodes are worth viewing, “Pickman’s Model” and “The Murmuring.”

Lot 36: Nick Appleton (Tim Blake Nelson) is a bitter Vietnam veteran who is physically and emotionally damaged from that war. This entry is set just as the First Gulf War is breaking out. Appleton, who makes his living by buying abandoned storage units, is a racist who listens to conservative talk radio. The implied message of course is that everyone who listens to what liberals call “right-wing radio” is a bigot. But everyone I know who listens to conservative talkers do so because they are tired of government overreach and they don’t like high taxes, among other things. Appleton purchases a storage unit owned by a Nazi who recently died. Get it? American bigot, Nazi, white supremacy. I’m stupefied that the director of this bit didn’t dye Nelson’s hair bright orange here. “Lot 36” is based on a del Toro short story. I hated this segment.

Graveyard Rats: And this episode is based on what? Okay, the answer to that question is easy. Masson (David Hewlett) is a formerly well-to-do man who is now struggling along as a graverobber in a town known for the macabre, Salem, Massachusetts. There’s plenty of plot build-up here, as is the case with much of Cabinet of Curiosities, but little payoff.

The Autopsy: Minor spoiler alert: Just as with surgeries, autopsies are never solo projects. F. Murray Abraham, who never gives a bad performance, portrays a dying coroner, Dr. Carl Withers, who is investigating a mysterious accident at a Pennsylvania coal mine. Again, the set-up doesn’t match the ending of this episode. Watching the autopsies got me wondering. Why weren’t twenty minutes of this segment sliced off?

There is also an age-restricted YouTube video available here.

The Outside: Set in the late 1970s, as was “The Autopsy,” Stacey (Kate Micucci) is an unattractive and socially awkward bank teller surrounded by pretty but shallow female co-workers. Her hobby is taxidermy. Stacey’s life is altered as she becomes enamored with commercials touting a facial cream; the ads are subtle parodies of the faith healers who were often found on late night television at the time. Some of the facial cream comes to life. There is an erotic scene, an homage to Amphibian Man getting it on with a woman in The Shape of Water, in “The Outside.” I hated this episode too.

Pickman’s Model: Although this offering is extremely disturbing, “Pickman’s Model” worked for me. Will Thurber (Ben Barnes) is a wealthy art student at a Boston area college. All is well for him–until he sees the nightmarish paintings and sketches of Richard Pickman (Crispin Glover). A well-known lesson from the life of Vincent Van Gogh is that the boundaries between creativity and insanity are narrow. Oh, one little correction. Pickman tells Thurber that one of his ancestors was burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, all of the executed accused witches in Salem were hanged, save one who refused to enter a plea. He was pressed to death.

Dreams in the Witch House: After his twin sister dies, a now-middle-aged Walter Gilman (Rupert Grint) is attempting to reconnect with her by way of spiritualists. There is a kissing scene with Gilman and a witch–she has been burnt to a crisp. Eww. There’s a lot of other weirdness here too. And while for the most part it is visually striking, “Dreams in the Witch House,” plot-wise, is vacant. As with “Pickman’s Model,” this segment is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story.

The Viewing: An eccentric wealthy man, Lionel Lassiter (Peter Weller), invites five seemingly unconnected celebrities to his mansion to view a mysterious object. To place them all on the same mental plane, they snort high-grade cocaine. And while there is a lot of action, it’s impossible to ascertain what it all adds up to. Nothing, is what I think. At nearly an hour in length, there is plenty of time for the scriptwriters to present their message. But they don’t. Perhaps the writers were on drugs when the produced the script. This piece was too boring for me to despise.

The Murmuring: Two married ornithologists, Nancy (Essie Davis) and Edgar Bradley (Andrew Lincoln), are devastated by a tragedy. They travel to a remote Canadian island to study the murmurations, that is, the cloud-like flocks of a wading bird species, the dunlin. But the crumbling old house they are staying in offers them plenty of distractions from their work. As a nature lover, I particularly enjoyed this entry–and I could easily see it fitting in as an episode of the original Twilight Zone. Not so with the other seven segments. “The Murmuring” is the other episode based on a del Toro short story.

Each entry is a stand-alone, you can watch one of them, two of them, or all of them. If you choose the last option–you’ve been warned.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is rated TV-MA for violence, disturbing themes, nudity, drug use, vivisection, and gore.

John Ruberry regularly blogs Marathon Pundit.

A Leftist Trope Finally Challenged After Four Years

Posted: November 6, 2022 by datechguy in Uncategorized

If you want to understand the difference an Elon Musk owned Twitter makes, this is it in one image

For four years this has been shouted by leftists unchallenged in the MSM. How many people do you think saw this refuted for the very first time yesterday?

Oh and an odd historical note. the Democrats controlled the US House of Representatives from the late 50’s till 1994. By an odd coincidence the last 50 was the rise of television news and by another coincidence the early 90’s was when Rush Limbaugh and Drudge (before he went never trump) rose as alternative sources of news.

Ask yourself how many decades the MSM narrative was pushed on Americas without challenge.

But also make sure you have other sources, because reliance on Mr. Musk means Klain and his allies on the left are only one heartbeat away from a chance to return to the status quo