So you wanna watch something…
Cabinet of Curiosities: This perfect eight-episode Halloween anthology from Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro aims to upend the traditional definition of horror. Each episode is a self-contained tale with a different theme—and is introduced by del Toro a la Alfred Hitchcock. He has also written two of the stories including the first titled ‘Lot 36’ about a military veteran slowly being swallowed whole by “alt-right” talking points. Another compelling episode—‘The Outside’—stars Kate Micucci as a socially awkward woman whose makeover goes terribly wrong when she uses a product ordered off a television infomercial.
The Guardian is all praise for the anthology—that is “as elegant as it is grotesque”—with each episode keeping “their offering rooted in Guillermo’s signature style of the twisted fairytale, packed with stomach-churning effects and morbid morality.” CNN is less impressed, complaining that the “intriguing premises” don’t always pay off—and that the “overall impression of an exercise that despite its promise proves pretty consistently disappointing.” ‘The Cabinet of Curiosities’ released on Netflix on Wednesday.
All Quiet on the Western Front: Adapted from the classic 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, the movie follows a 17-year-old German soldier (Felix Kammerer) who enlists for World War I along with his friends—eager to fight for “the Fatherland”. This is an anti-war movie that captures the loss of innocence and patriotism in the face of the horrors of the battlefront—a theme common to all World War I writing. Unlike WWII—which offered the grim satisfaction of defeating fascism—this ‘great war’ was a senseless bloody conflict that decimated entire generations of young men.
Hollywood Reporter praises the filmmaking only to take issue with its beauty—for “indulging a nearly universal need to impose aesthetic sense on senseless horrors.” And it seems mostly cranky at World War movies, in general, for feeding on a certain kind of nostalgia—which isn’t exactly ‘anti-war’. The AV Club, however, argues the movie gives us “something bleaker, more brutal, and perhaps more honest” than Sam Mendes’ ‘1917’—and says “its story proves both deeply affecting—and surprisingly timeless”. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ releases on Netflix today.
Dubai Bling: Who better to epitomise insane lifestyles and general insanity of the fabulously wealthy than Arab millionaires. There are DJs, influencers, socialites and real estate moguls—and, of course, lots of gold, yachts, fancy cars, diamonds etc. Plus fights, lots of fights. There are limited reviews of the show, most of them limited to publications based in Dubai. The National says it strikes a similar tone to ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’—but doesn’t really have much to offer than a re-narration of the entire first episode. Guess this kind of stuff is either your thing or not. ‘Dubai Bling’ began streaming on Netflix on Thursday.
A list of good reads
- Vulture takes a panoramic look back at the fairytale of Brangelina—the love story between Brad Pitt and Angelina that came to a toxic end.
- The Guardian reports on the very odd problem troubling the residents of Singapore—a plague of otters which aren’t quite as cute as you think.
- Is the cheese on your pizza really cheese? The answer to that question determines how much tax the government will slap on it. BBC News uses the debate over pizza toppings to illustrate why the GST structure is totally messed up.
- Rama Lakshmi reviews Nikhil Mehta’s play ‘For the Record’ in The Print and mulls over the big question it raises: if told to pick one object that represents India, which one would you choose?
- Wired looks at cutting-edge attempts to increase the lifespan of dogs—which may also one day be a springboard to developing similar drugs for humans.
- Jackie Molloy in NPR describes her joyous experience at Roundup—a summer camp that celebrates fat instead of getting women to lose it.
- Gen Z is pouring all its anguish over climate change into ‘apocalypse pop’—and Vox is here to tell you all about it.
- Washington Post (splainer gift link) has the most awesome—and very scientific, mind you—deep dive into zombies.
- Ian Taylor in BBC Science Focus looks at why men struggle to make and keep friends.
- The Atlantic has an excellent read on the long history of naming our pets.
- BBC News explains why talking to strangers can make us happier.