Are you having a hard time trying to figure out what to buy for your favorite movie collector this Christmas? This project can be a particularly acute challenge, especially if you are not actually living with that collector, or have easy access to their home video library. There are workarounds, of course; when the holidays roll around, for example, the Best Fiends exchange up-to-date databases to ensure we’re not picking up a film the other already owns. But what if the movie collector you’re buying for hasn’t been as diligent (that is to say, obsessive) about keeping precise records of the thousands of movies in their collection? And, more importantly, what if they already own most (if not all) of the most famous and beloved movie “classics”? How will you fill your movie collector’s Christmas stocking?
Maybe you’re looking for the “safest” holiday buying strategy. Here’s how you take advantage of that. If you bop over to the Movies Unlimited site, you can enter any title of any movie into our search field. Click on any of those results, and underneath the listing for the main title, you’ll see a slew of “if you like this, maybe you’ll love these”-type suggestions corresponding to stars, era, upcoming releases, hard-to-find titles, what others who bought that title have also purchased, and so on.
Click here to see what that looks like.
On the other hand, maybe you prefer to be a more “adventurous” type of gift giver. Maybe you don’t trust what The Machine tells you. And maybe the movie collector you’re buying for likes surprises, or has really eclectic taste when it comes to their cinema preferences. That’s where I think the challenge really gets fun; that’s how I like people to buy for me, and that’s how I most like to buy for the movie collectors on my Christmas list.
With a forceful disclaimer offered right up front that (a) I probably don’t know your favorite movie collector, and so (b) I can’t be certain at all what they might actually enjoy, I’ll just plow straight ahead now to offer some alternative suggestions I came up with based on the tried-and-true movie classics movie lovers (probably) already own—which also happen to be ones I really enjoy. You’ll see some “safe” picks here, but you’re also going to get some out-of-left-field selections that should demonstrate how a creative movie gift-giver can think a little outside the box. Time’s running out; let’s fill your movie collector’s Christmas stocking!
They own CITIZEN KANE…so you get them:
To tell the hard truth right up front, I’d have preferred to be recommending Orson Welles’ Othello in this space rather than his take on the Scottish play. But that film is not currently available, so for my money, this Welles-Shakespeare outing is the very next best thing. He plays fast and loose with the text (but any Shakespeare fan is used to that), but there are some wonderfully weird images and powerful moments to be found in this modestly-budgeted take on the Bard’s macabre tragedy, with the witch scenes an especially creepy highlight.
(Macbeth-on-film fans should also take note that the lively, bloody Roman Polanski version has just emerged from The Criterion Collection)
The Redford-Hoffman Watergate classic is an obvious nod to Kane being a story (in part) about journalism. If I recall correctly, Roger Ebert called All the President’s Men the best film about reporting at the time of its release; having just re-watched the terrific Blu-ray release recently, I’m pretty certain that still applies. (I might place Michael Mann’s The Insider a close second)
And when it comes to There Will Be Blood, that film makes the cut here for me because Paul Thomas Anderson is one of our most talented contemporary auteurs, with a visual authority as striking in its own way as Welles in his day. This adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! is, like Kane, the sprawling saga of a man’s great rise and fall. Daniel Day-Lewis’ (second) Oscar-winning performance is a marvel to behold, and he gives us a character every bit as magnetic and impenetrable as Welles’ Charles Foster Kane.
They own THE GODFATHER…so you get them:
I rate Marlon Brando’s performance in Don Juan DeMarco as his final great work. Yes, he’s large as a house in this picture, but that hardly prevents him from delivering a graceful turn of subtle passions and playful humor as the psychiatrist treating a troubled young man believing himself to be the “real” Don Juan. It’s a pleasure to see Brando play opposite Faye Dunaway (as his wife), and Johnny Depp’s positively delightful performance is a reminder that he can (and has, and hopefully will again) play a quirky character without ostentatious affectations.
My second recommendation is an “under-the-radar” pick, a documentary about an under-the-radar actor. Tragically, the talented John Cazale made only five feature films (The Godfather among them), and any movie lover who appreciates the contributions of gifted supporting/character actors would surely be pleased to have this tribute film on their shelves. (Pair it with the marvelous Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction for an amazing double-bill celebration of character actors!)
Let’s go even farther behind the scenes for my third suggestion—the creatively-realized documentary about Godfather executive producer Robert Evans. Evans is rightly a legend, and The Kid Stays in the Picture is not just a valuable buy for the movie lover who enjoys juicy backstage gossip (though, as Evans would say, “You bet your ass” there’s plenty of that here), but also for any aspiring filmmaker who wants to truly appreciate the moxie required to wade into the waters of showbiz.
They own KING KONG…so you get them:
The year before Kong was released, Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper teamed up to produce a compact and thrilling take on Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” Kong star Fay Wray is also on hand, and she’s every bit as glamorous (and eventually harried) here as she would be in the ultimate “beauty and the beast” tale. It might be sacrilege, but I’m actually going to remind you that the colorized home video version of this film is actually worth looking at—that particular release was supervised by effects legend Ray Harryhausen—but it should also be stressed that you’d be rolling the dice if you purchased that version for your movie collector. Despite its inclusion of an unsullied black-and-white version, the safer bet is probably to stick with a monochromatic-only release.
Maybe your movie collector loves Kong because they love apes! If so, they’ll probably appreciate director Michael Apted’s Gorillas in the Mist, a finely wrought biofilm of controversial primatologist Dian Fossey. Sigourney Weaver’s work in the film is stellar, and there’s some admirable special effects work by makeup master Rick Baker with regard to the blending of real apes with people-in-ape-suits.
Lastly, if your “giant monster” fan has felt let down by the recent crop of computer-animated creature features, fear not: the South Korean film The Host is one of those rare beastly romps where the effects are wonderfully realized and not cartoonish in the least. The rampaging whatchamacallit here is a real original, and the film has a wicked sense of humor to go along with its more traditional thrills.
They own HIGH NOON…so you get them:
We’ll go for the obvious first. Many film fans have a prickly attitude towards remakes, but it’s worth noting that Outland is a sturdy rethink of the Western classic. Rather than go on too much more about it here, I’ll direct you to the post Classic Space Movies, where I elaborate on its merits a bit more.
(My other advice is: Go for the Blu-ray, which is far superior to the infamously unsatisfying DVD edition. Your movie collector doesn’t own a Blu-ray player? Spring for that! They’re pretty inexpensive today, and your movie collector will be grateful, because the picture quality is far superior on an HDTV, and you can still play your entire DVD library with a Blu-ray player.)
Huh? What? The Vincent Price Collection, you say? What’s that got to do with High Noon at all? Ah, now we’re approaching a real cinephile’s approach to stocking-stuffing. The connection here is that Floyd Crosby, the cinematographer of the Gary Cooper classic, also served as a regular member of Roger Corman’s crew of resourceful craftsfolk—and this recently-released collection of Corman’s Poe efforts includes Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, both beautifully photographed by Crosby. You might have to explain this one to your movie collector, but the nerdier they are, the more grateful they will be. (And this collection is only available on Blu-ray, where the cinematography will really pop. See advice from previous paragraph!)
As for The Three Amigos? I include it because (a) it’s a Western, too, and (b) it’s really, really some good-natured, dopey fun. Any respectable Western collection ought to break things up a little.
They own the STAR WARS TRILOGY…so you get them:
Most fans of Star Wars probably know that George Lucas was “inspired” by the works of Akira Kurosawa when he was creating his swashbuckling space opera, and The Hidden Fortress is the film most associated with that inspiration–so this selection is our “no-brainer” of the bunch.
Star Wars purists have begged, screeched, and pleaded for ages now to have pristine versions of the Original Trilogy’s theatrical versions released; many have given up hope by now. I’m of the mind that, despite Lucasfilm protestations, many of us are going to live to see the day that it happens. In the years since those releases, Lucas has notoriously tinkered with the films to represent his preferred vision—and oddly enough, the results now “date” the look of the films much more than if he’d left them alone. But if you really want to see a sci-fi flick that looks “dated,” and you want to revisit the tacky grandeur of the 1970s, look no further than Star Crash. Call it classic or call it craptastic, but in any case, you may safely call it a worthy offering to the star-films junkie on your Christmas list.
For the thinking man’s movie collection, let’s finish our alternate picks (for the moment) with the 25th anniversary release of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, a six-part PBS series where Bill Moyers picks the brain of author/mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose writings—especially The Hero with a Thousand Faces—informed Lucas’ storytelling as he prepared his first game-changing blockbuster.
We’ve only begun to stuff this stocking! Next time, we’ll have a look at five more all-time classics your movie collector probably owns, with more lively and alternative gift-giving ideas.