Yeah, that’s how we feel about Christmas shopping. Ready for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or a belated Hannukkah? Got a film nerd, a fan of a particular star, or just somebody you don’t know that well on your list? Sick of dealing with all the sale movies, lame gift sets, and “holiday ideas” that are just last year’s DVDs stuffed into shrink wrap three to a package? We’ve got your back. Whether you’re shopping for a film snob or just the family, here are the best discs for your holiday.
Quick note on prices: we’ve gone with the typical price found online, and we’re linking to Amazon, but, of course, always shop around. Prices, especially on media, can drop like a rock during the holidays.
For The Golden Age Fan
Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection
If you know a fan of Golden Age Hollywood, this is the best $99.98 you will ever spend. It’s full of audio commentaries and vintage supplementary materials, including a detailed documentary about Warner Brothers and Bogie, but the key attraction is the movies.
This is basically Bogie’s career in a box, ranging from classics like Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon all the way down to obscure movies like Marked Woman and Black Legion. There are two dozen Bogart movies in this set, lovingly restored by Warner Brothers.
For The Auteur Theorist
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story
Film fans know there’s no better label for foreign, obscure, and classic than Criterion, and they’ve got a doozy of a boxed set just in time for the Holidays. This collection follows the producing career of Burt Schneider, Bob Rafelson and Steve Blauner, who created The Monkees and decided to follow that up by… completely revolutionizing Hollywood. The six disc set from Criterion includes classics like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and The Last Picture Show, all with Criterion’s typical impeccable transfers, detailed essays from respected critics like J. Hoberman of the Village Voice and incredibly deep and detailed extras.
Plus, the Monkees’ feature film, Head, which is just fun to say and lends itself to legions of obscene puns.
For The Family of Cineastes
Toy Story Trilogy
How much content is with the Toy Story Trilogy? So much that there’s no less than ten discs worth of material. Holding with Disney tradition, cutesy, disposable stuff for kids is cheek-and-jowl with incredibly in-depth materials for the adults, such as Pixar’s editors talking about their career paths or one of their screenwriters, Michael Arndt, breaking down the opening scenes of several movies and explaining how they work. Great for both touching the heart strings AND teaching your kids about the 180-degree rule.
For Your Cranky, Armed Grandpa
Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years
OK, so there are actually only 34 films in the set But who cares? This is an incredibly in-depth look at Eastwood’s career, offering up everything from action classics (Dirty Harry) to westerns (The Outlaw Josey Wales) to recent hits (Gran Torino). The only thing it doesn’t come with is a .44. Grandpa will have to provide that himself.
For The Camp Fans
Fantoma’s Educational Archives
The Educational Archives are Fantoma’s collections of educational (and we use the term very loosely) and incredibly dorky (see above) films from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and even the ’80s, all lovingly preserved and restored, with historical notes on each. They range from absolute classics of bizarre awkwardness like The ABCs of Sex Education for Trainables (read: mentally challenged people) to the conflation of religion and “love the bomb” Atomic Energy Can Be a Blessing, featuring no less than Fred MacMurray.
For The Relative Who Always Talks Through Movies
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX
We all have one: the guy who just will not shut up when you’re watching a movie on TV, no matter what it is, no matter how many times he’s shushed. So get the point across, politely, or at least show him how its done with this, the latest collection of the much beloved and greatly missed Mystery Science Theater 3000. Featuring four of their best episodes (and two of the biggest stinkers ever made, Robot Monster and Bride of the Monster), this set will teach him how professionals talk through movies.
And, remember, the MST3K crew is still turning out new episodes under a different name: Cinematic Titanic. They’re doing live tours and putting out DVDs, so check the site for other gift ideas.
For the Callow, Annoying Hipster
Scott Pilgrim fans are still bitter over this movie not doing well, but that’s partially because it’s about teaching a valuable lesson to the kind of people who buy all their clothes at thrift stores and actually say “you probably haven’t heard of them, they’re an indie band”; Scott, the callow annoying hipster, gets this attitude beaten right out of him. As in, literally. So spread the word and see if you can inflict a little self-awareness; it beats starting to drink every time he talks about releasing his new single on iTunes. Although he’ll probably get all self-righteous about having actually seen it, so maybe keep seven of his girlfriend’s exes armed and handy, just in case.
For The Comic Book Fan
Legends of the Super-Heroes
It’s sad but true: due to legal problems, the original “Batman” TV show from the sixties will probably never see any sort of disc format. Fortunately, this legendarily terrible TV special, done more than a decade after the fact with the mayor of Quahog himself, Adam West, can be released, and has, courtesy of the Warner Archive.
The Warner Archive prints DVDs of the more obscure movies in their vaults on demand; usually only available as bootlegs, if they’re available at all, you won’t find them in stores, only on the website. Obscure TV movies, old cartoons, rare movies…it’s a real find for film fans, and useful for the nerds on your list.
For the Person You Don’t Know Very Well
We’ve all got one of these. Somebody who wound up on your list, somebody you know is going to buy a gift for you, but you just don’t know very well. Could be a coworker, could be a significant other of your best friend, could be anybody. So have this in reserve. Inception has something for everybody; a thrilling plot, good acting, philosophical content, action scenes, a tragic romance…it’s all movies to all peo-BBBBRRRAAAAMMM!
OK, we’ll stop now.
For The New Parents
Scooby Doo: The Complete Series
If you know new parents, you know they hate children’s television. So give them something they can actually stand, especially since it comes in the Mystery Machine. The kids get the same mystery over and over again, thus preparing them for most murder mysteries on television later in life, and Mom and Dad get warm nostalgia and jokes about Scooby Snacks that go right over the kiddies’ heads.
Well, that should about do it. We’re going to go have some of the traditional family eggnog: heavy cream, vodka, heavy cream, bourbon, eggs, heavy cream, and rum. It makes the shopping go much easier.