The holiday shopping season is here and if you’ve got a hardcore fan of movies or television (or both, of course), you probably need some gift ideas. Alternately, if you are a hardcore fan of movies or television, you might be in the market for some gift ideas to give others. Either way, we’ve got an abundance of items below that should appeal to every sort of cineaste and TV junkie.
Specialty Streaming Service Subscriptions
Rumors of physical media’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Blu-rays still offer the optimum viewing experience in the HD era and, as several items below make clear, there are still great packages being put out that offer the sort of bonus features and total immersive experience that streaming just can’t offer. (Plus, if you love, say, Indiana Jones, it’s awfully nice to have the entire series on a shelf somewhere.) That said, streaming has come a long way in terms of quality and there have been some intriguing new developments over the last few years. While Netflix has focused on television of late, letting its rights to many movies lapse, Amazon and Hulu have started to pick up the slack. Chances are you can browse and find a great movie on one service or another. But for some fans, that’s not enough. Hence the rise of specialty services. Time will tell if streaming services focusing on a particular type of viewer will last, but for now, people have options if they want services that are laser-focused on their interests. Let’s break down a few.
Fandor: Online since 2011, Fandor caters to fans of independent and arthouse movies. That covers a lot of ground. Currently boasting over 6,000 titles, its library includes everything from silent classics to of-the-moment documentary shorts. It’s a robust offering filled with hard-to-find oddities and left-of-the-multiplex favorites. And at $10 a month ($7.50 to yearly subscribers), it’s not a bad bargain, either.
MUBI: MUBI covers some of the same territory as Fandor but it takes a different approach, treating the site as a rolling film festival. Every day it introduces a new film that will be available on the site for 30 days, usually lumping it in with some kind of theme. Right now, for instance, subscribers can watch a Johnnie To double feature, the classic French farce The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe and Graceland, a thriller from the Phillippines. It’s a bit like having a new movie chosen by an in-the-know friend every day. And with a gift subscription of $47.88, you can sort of be that in-the-know friend.
Filmstruck: The big new player in this field, however, is the recently launched Filmstruck, a joint project by Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection (a name synonymous with the classic film canon since the laserdisc era). It’s been treated as the great streaming hope for serious film fans since it was announced earlier this year and so far it’s been living up to expectations, though the two-tiered membership can be confusing. Subscribers can sign up for the Filmstruck offerings or pay more to add the Criterion titles, which are numerous and include at least some of the bonus features found on Criterion’s Blu-rays and DVDs. The big question: How does it grow? It’s not clear how often non-Criterion films will be added or how long they’ll remain on the site. Still, it’s easy to navigate with some nifty curated areas and undeniably the best source for capital “G” great movies anywhere.
Seeso and Brown Sugar: Or maybe the future is in really specialized sites. Seeso focuses squarely on comedy, offering new series while also trying to become the comedy lover’s destination for classic comedy. Right now, if you want the full runs of Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, this is the place to go. The just-launched Brown Sugar has a different, even tighter focus: The blaxploitation films of the 1970s with pillars like Shaft, Super Fly, Dolemite, and Coffy. There are also oddities like the zombie revenge thriller Sugar Hill and Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin. Like Seeso, it’s a mere $3.99 a month.
Chances are good you know a fan of Harry Potter and/or Game of Thrones. Chances are also good that they sometimes need to write stuff down. Whether penning a magic-filled novel set in faraway lands or just writing down a grocery list, one of these fantasy-themed notebooks is sure to make every thought a little more charged with possibility.
A financial disappointment in its day, Frank Capra’s 1941 film It’s A Wonderful Life became a Christmas classic in part due to a copyright glitch that made it cheap for television stations to run it virtually non-stop during the holiday season. That’s changed in recent years, and while there’s something to be said for having a film this wonderful playing on a loop, it also means that we no longer have to experience it via TV ragged prints of wildly variable quality that were sometimes cut to shreds by local stations trying to squeeze it into a shortened time slot. This new Blu-ray edition offers little that hasn’t been seen before but, hey, it’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Why mess with it?
One of the best Blu-ray sets released this year, maybe ever, Dekalog collects all 10 episodes of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 1989 series for Polish television. Each episode is themed, often loosely, around one of the Ten Commandments, and each dramatizes how they play out in a Poland nearing the end of the Cold War. Kieslowski had a handful of masterpieces ahead of him — the Three Colors series and The Double Life of Veronique — but this stands up to the best of them, a collection of compact, unforgettable films some wistful, some comic, some tragic that capture the full range of life. Or, for those looking at a similarly deluxe collection of a different sort of master, the Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro collects three of the director’s most personal films: Cronos, The Devil’s Backbon, and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Both typically retail for $99.99 but sale prices around $64.99 have been seen.