Twitch Staff X-Mas Gift Suggestions

Sean Smithson, Contributor
A little late, I know, but there's still time to make those online orders through the weekend. Then again, some things are also worth waiting for. Here's the start of an up-datable X-mas suggestion list. If you are stumped as to what to buy your cinema loving loved ones for the holidays, let us give you a jump-start.

This of course is totally consumer based greedy gimme gimme stuff, this in no way is meant to exclude any theological, scientific, or acapella groups. Now let's go shopping.


STAFF: Sean Smithson
First, let's cover the bookshelf, because there's nothing like reading by a nice warm fire, or glowing television monitor during the Yuletide season.

There are books on movies, then there are invaluable tomes that, for the discerning viewer/reader  absolutely enhance the experience of the films themselves, . Here a couple of  releases that are pretty sure to be hits under the tree if there is a bonafide film geek in your house, and if you are reading this, chances are mighty good there is.

JAWS: Memories From Martha's Vineyard - Matt Taylor w/Jim Beller
Uber JAWS fan/collector Jim Beller and writer Matt Taylor compile in insane amount of never-before-seen photos and never-heard-before anecdotes compiled from the citizen's themselves of the now infamous East Coast island where a monster shark prowled so many summers ago, back in 1975.
JAWS: Memories From Martha's Vineyard is a time machine of a book.This is as close as any JAWS fan is going to get to actually being there with Steven Spielberg and crew. Beautifully laid out, with a text that is informative but also inviting, it's more than eye-candy, it's also a joy to read.
ORDER IT HERE

MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK - Tim Lucas

Years and years in the making, this is the absolute definitive and last word on Italian maestro Mario Bava. The man was a master of baroque morbidity, and whether working in moody and atmospheric black and white, or surreal and psychedelic color, his technique has left a cinematic footprint far deeper than maybe any other primarily genre-bound director. Author, and Video Watchdog magazine head honcho, film historian extraordinaire Tim Lucas has put together something that I can only compare to the Bible. The depth and breadth of this book is just about fathomless. At 1128 glossy pages, and weighing a whopping twelve pounds, this is an undertaking of a read. That said, it's a gift that will literally last through the year, and for a Bava fan it's probably the best gift anyone could get them. I know. I don't have one. Are you listening Santa? Hello? ORDER IT HERE

Some other quick mentions and alternate suggestions, both fiction (F) and nonfiction (NF) are -
NO FLESH SHALL BE SPARED (F) - Thom Carnell - George A. Romero and the UFC collide in this surprisingly smart action novel of Snake Plisken-like fighters going at it with the undead in a dystopian future's most popular sport. Whoever decides to make this an action movie will be my hero. ORDER IT HERE

SHOCK FESTIVAL (F) - Stephen Romano - A mocku-drama of a book about an exploitation film cycle in the 60's/70's that never really happened. Author Stephen Romano taught himself Photoshop, then for two years set about making mock poster after mock poster, and built up a literal universe in an entire fantasy era of grind cinema.
Mind blowing and a lot of fun. Full of some of the best flicks that never happened.
ORDER IT HERE

THE MONSTER SHOW (NF) - David J. Skal - An essential part of any cine-book collection, Mr. Skal is one of the absolute authorities on the classic monsters, and this book takes us back to the roots of legendary creatures such as Frankenstein and Dracula making it onto the screem. It also, by default, contains mini biographies on people like Diane Arbuss and Todd Browning. Somehow Mr. Skal mines material not written to death, and his take is scholarly while remaining entertaining and as pallatable to the non-initiate as it is the elite fanatic. ORDER IT HERE


LOST HORIZONS BENEATH THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN (NF) - David Del Valle - A delicious collection of first hand stories and observations on some of older Hollywood and popular culture's most eccentric, enigmatic, and beautiful players. Timothy Leary. Kenneth Anger. Christopher Lee. Barbara Steele. Terry Southern. This is the perfect chance to peek back on an era,  at the people that made that time what it was, through the eyes of a guy who was there for it all. Alternately uplifting, soul-crushing, and side splittingly funny, Del Valle's voice is the perfect one to tell these tales. ORDER IT HERE

If reading isn't the ticket, here are some dvd/Blu-ray recommendations, and some random stuff. It's Santa's bag, it's going to be a little disorganized. But get in there and rummage around.

First off, when buying dvd's or blu-ray's for a film geek, you can never...and I mean never...go wrong if you choose something from the Criterion collection. Here are two selections that will win big points, and extra time under the mistletoe.


ESSENTIAL ART HOUSE: 50 YEARS OF JANUS FILMS - dvd
The crowning release of Criterion still has to be this monstrosity of a collection. It contains fifty dvd's, with works from nearly any director that matters as far as the classic art house stuff goes. To even begin listing the number of masters and classics in this set would be redundant. Go HERE and look at this wondrous piece of pure joy for any, any, any film geek. This is heart-attack inducing in it's absolute 1000% bad-assness. At a whopping $650 dollars, it better be life-changing...and it is. Another pricey gift, but one that will keep on giving for well throughout the year. ORDER IT HERE IF YOU DARE!
 

THREE COLORS - Krzysztof Kieślowski - dvd and blu-ray
Another defining release from Criterion, this time of the incredibly moving trilogy from one of the greatest directors of modern French cinema, the late Krzysztof Kieślowski . Dying far too young at 55, the COLORS Trilogy was the final work he left behind. based on the colors of the French flag, and each story mostly independent of the other, themes of
liberty, equality, and fraternity permeate the subtexts and metaphor, which Kieślowski himself refused to go into detail about. Artsy reputation or not, these three films are beautiful to any eye, and quite romantic, even at their most tragic.
ORDER IT HERE

Other suggestions would be -

THE STANLEY KUBRICK COLLECTION on blu-ray
Ohhhh man, a large collection of many film geeks' favorite director, Stanley Kubrick. From his epic Spartacus, to his mega-classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, and even a loving edition of his sometimes maligned and highly misunderstood final film EYES WIDE SHUT. Packed with an amazing amount of extras, I'd be surprised if there is much left in the vaults after this baby. And hey, watching FULL METAL JACKET on Xmas in all its high def booming glory will make Gramma happy! ORDER IT HERE


As for gear, the two coolest things I think would be to find under the tree this year

Clean up all those wires and centralize where your entertainment comes from. The Nyrius NAVS500 HD 1080p HDMI Digital Wireless Audio Video Sender Transmitter & Receiver System with IR Remote Extender will do the trick, and supports 1080dp. I need this. Oh how I need this. ORDER IT HERE

Also, another out of the box suggestion for the person who likes dead formats and collecting rarities on the cheap, hitting eBay and getting a Laserdisc player is always a good idea. For any film geek that lives in a populated area, like a major city or college town, probably has a plethora of mom and pop shops. A lot of vinyl specialty shops will have a nice used Laserdisc section. I know my area in Seattle/Olympia does. Also, again, eBay. You can pick up Laserdiscs on the cheap right now, ironically many times cheaper then the hip-right-now VHS. If you don't mind flipping the disc now and then, many old laser discs contain extras and commentaries that are out of print, and never coming back due to rights reverting, etc. Again, a great gift for the collector who loves to dig for gems.

I now pass the gift bag to -

STAFF: Peter Gutierrez

Reading...

MOVIES: FROM THE SILENT ERA CLASSICS OF THE SILVER SCREEN TO THE DIGITAL AND 3D ERA - Edited by Phillip Kemp
Like a lot of you, I own tons of reference books on film--probably too many, in fact. The point is, it takes a lot to make me sit up and take notice of a new title, especially when it attempts to be yet another all-in-one-volume that covers the entire history of all of world cinema. That's why it's all the more remarkable that I was so impressed when Rizzoli/Universe published MOVIES From the Silent Classics of the Silver Screen to the Digital and 3-D Era, the book itself is anything but unwieldy despite its nearly 600 pages. Using a standard chronological approach, the talented editors, designers, and writers behind this project (Philip Kemp is credited as "series editor") streamline a vast amount of data, doing a terrific job selecting a handful of films and striking visuals to illustrate particular eras, genres, trends, and so on. The biggest positive? The innovative "key scenes" feature that calls out 3-6 classic moments in landmark titles via iconic stills and informative captions--it's a fun, addictive memory-refresher or maybe just the perfect crib sheet to impress cocktail party attendees. Well executed on just about every level, Movies should make an absolutely wonderful gift for the cinephiles in your life whether they're newbies or smug know-it-alls like me. ORDER IT HERE

Watching...

Just to be upfront about it, there are plenty of reasons not to place the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy home video release of THE TREE OF LIFE  on this list. The DVD contains no extras at all and the Blu-ray contains exactly one, thus making the plural form ("extras") in the menu a bit of a misnomer. But as any self-respecting film geek will tell you, legendary director Terrence Malick is notoriously private... so was there really any 2011 release less likely to include a director's commentary and, say, a blooper reel than this one? 

All of that said, the half hour-long featurette that is included on the Blu-ray provides a nifty care package for today's cinephile; for example, both David Fincher and Christopher Nolan appear in the opening minutes to reminisce about the inspiring role that Malick played in their own creative lives. And, oh yeah, folks like Douglas Trumbull and Brad Pitt also show up as some of the talking heads. What's more, "Exploring The Tree of Life" also does a nice job explicating the film's key themes, which might come in handy if you're giving this as a gift to someone who's been daunted by the film's reputation of being impenetrable or perplexing. But the main reason to consider purchasing this item? It's a Blu-ray of what's arguably the year's most visually stunning work, and it simply looks, well,
wow. With a price of only US$15 on Amazon, I say grab it.

There was a handful of old school martial arts/period flicks released in the U.S. during 2011, but of those that I caught DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME was easily the most satisfying. As with THE TREE OF LIFE, then, the Blu-ray of DETECTIVE DEE not only represents a home video release of a film that's simply worth seeing/owning/giving on its own merits, but also allows for the full appreciation of one of the year's most visually stunning films. In fact, with DEE you could almost just sit there and enjoy the ultra-vivid eye candy with the volume turned down--except you wouldn't want to do that because the film sounds great on this release as well.

A series of well-produced featurettes highlight elements such as the stunt work and production design, and my only gripe about them is that they are too fast-paced and economical: they all run between four and five minutes but would clearly not outstay their welcome if they were two or three times as long. And the galleries of stills and posters, which I usually just consider filler, are exquisite in terms of the richness of their imagery. Oh, and thanks to the good folks over at Indomina, I happen to have a copy of this wonderful Blu-ray to give away: just be the first person to "@" me at Twitter (@Peter_Gutierrez) with a link to this article and the words "Detective Dee Blu-ray" in your tweet. [Update Dec 18: we have a winner -- thank you!]
ORDER IT HERE






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