Typically, I would spend my December popping into local stores and finding the perfect gifts for my friends and family. As the pandemic rages and my anxiety for public places spirals, shopping online is an absolute necessity. I went into Ace Hardware a few days ago to buy a Christmas tree stand and almost had a panic attack because of the crowds. Luckily, many small businesses in Ann Arbor have done a great job adapting to this weird ass time. Curbside pickup and online ordering are available at many of my favorites – Nicola's Books, RoosRoast Coffee, Dear Golden – and solid digital gift options have steadily increased. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere (which, lucky you) the same options are likely also available in your town.
I'm sorry to be another one of those people screaming, "please shop local" but seriously ... I don't want to hear about any of you buying shit on Amazon this year. If something isn't going to arrive on time, who gives a fuck? Do you really need to have a gift on Christmas or during Hanukkah in order for it to feel special? You shouldn't. And anyway, who doesn't love to receive an unexpected treat during the bleak recesses of January? Unless your recipient is an asshole, they shouldn't mind if something takes longer than usual to arrive.
As with last year's guide, I've included a mix of physical and digital gifts that should be perfect for even the most persnickety person on your list. If you're ordering something that isn't going to arrive on time, you could always do something creative, like send the recipient a quick illustration or hand-written note describing the gift. But honestly, what does "late" even mean this year? We're stuck in an incomprehensible vortex that makes time feel like more of an illusion than ever before. Why not lean into it?
Subscriptions - Digital & Print
Digital and print magazines, newsletters, and other memberships are included in this list. Life is much more palatable when I can look forward to something smart and engaging.
- Seventh Row's Film Adventurer Membership - $31.31 for an annual membership. I talk about 7R so much because I love it deeply and want to see it thrive. If you're looking for a real sense of camaraderie amongst fellow film lovers, this is the place! The membership includes a weekly newsletter with curated film selections, access to the podcast archive, a private community for in-depth film discussions, and one free e-book.
- Rue Morgue - $19.99 for an annual digital subscription, $49.95 for print (6-12 issues). This genre magazine is a necessity for any horror fan in your life. While I'm definitely not as hardcore as some fans, I've always enjoyed horror and like to keep up with the most-hyped releases from those in the know.
- Bitch Magazine - $34.99 for an annual print subscription (4 issues). My friend Sydney got me a subscription for my birthday this year and I am loving it so far. Bitch doesn't focus solely on film, but "aims to put a lucid, balanced face on feminism for all kinds of folks, including people who aren’t really aware that feminism refers to more than women who don’t want to shave their legs, or simply getting more women into positions of power."
- Hunter Harris' Newsletter - $50 for an annual digital subscription. Full-disclosure: I've only done the free version so far. I just quit my full-time job and need to be more frugal for a few months while I figure out my shit; however, I love Harris' writing and plan to support her when it's financially feasible. This pandemic has been weird for everyone, but even more so for those in creative fields. If you're lucky enough to have a stable job, find a writer you love and prove it to them with money.
- Samantha Irby's Newsletter - $50 for an annual subscription. Irby sends out a hilarious daily-ish newsletter where she writes about whatever she wants, which includes a "Judge Mathis" deep-dive. As someone who grew up watching all of the judge shows with my grandma, this shit brings me back.
You can never go wrong with buying someone a book, even if they currently have a huge stack of unread material taunting them on the daily. Call a local bookstore in the recipient's area to see if these are available or can be ordered.
- "This Was Hollywood" by Carla Valderrama - $29. This book (and its corresponding IG) have brought me so much joy during the pandemic. It is meticulously researched, beautiful to look at, and full of history that I was entirely unfamiliar with before reading. For example, do you know about Puzzums, "the cat who conquered Hollywood?" The section on the 1937 "A Star is Born" is another highlight.
- "Ida Lupino: A Biography" by William Donati - $34.95. Some of you may know that I'm currently working on a podcast (TK in 2021) that highlights women in film -- both BTS and in front of the camera. Each "season" will focus on someone new, but the first one is centered around Ida Lupino. I've read a bunch of books on Lupino to prep, and this one is the best of the bunch.
- "Women Make Horror" edited by Alison Peirse (various authors) - $29.95. Another good option for horror fans. Valeria Villegas Lindvall, who you might remember from this interview, wrote an excellent chapter on Gigi Saul Guerrero. Molly Kim's chapter on Korean cinema is another favorite.
- "Be More Keanu" by James King - $18.35. I haven't actually read this one, but the Internet says it's good and I like James King's writing, so it feels like a safe recommendation. It's described as a book of pocket philosophy on what makes Keanu special and how we can all adapt more of his qualities. Sold.
- "Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking by Annie Atkins - $32.20. Perfect for the pedant in your life who always notices the tiniest details. This book provides a close-up look at prop design from films the author has worked on, like "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Isle of Dogs," and "The Boxtrolls."
Art, pins, t-shirts, ornaments, and other things I think are cute can be found in this section. They probably won't ship in time, but 🤷🏼♀️ maybe you'll get lucky.
- Something from Super Yaki, like this Judy Greer sweatshirt. They also have pins, patches, stickers, and hats if you're looking for small gifts.
- A giclée Enid Coleslaw print for the person in your life who is always sighing deeply and saying stuff like, "Everyone's too stupid!"
- "Gilmore Girls" fanatics will appreciate this Pop Tart ornament.
- You can never have too many tote bags, especially when they come in a cheery red color and feature the beloved Agnès Varda.
- I have strong feelings about this "Jurassic Park" inspired wall hanging.
- An Elaine May t-shirt from Nathan Gelgud should go over well.
- Fans of "The Good Place" will get a kick out of this print from Lynn Fisher.
- Yes, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is pretty fucking racist and its enduring celebration is slightly grating, but I wouldn't judge you for buying a replica of Holly Golightly's sleep mask and staging a photoshoot with your cat.
- The Dead Blondes coloring book from "You Must Remember This" is on my holiday list. Pair it with some high-quality colored pencils and call it a day.
- Who wouldn't love their favorite member of "The Golden Girls" in tiki mug form? I'm partial to Dorothy Zbornak.
Places to Donate
As this provocative headline from The Nation states, "Movie Theaters Aren’t Dying—They’re Being Murdered." I desperately miss going to the theater and feeling connected to a bunch of strangers who are all having the same immersive experience. Watching at home is not -- and never will be --the same. If you care about this as much as I do, please contact your legislators and demand support for the Save Our Stages Act. Making a donation to your gift recipient's favorite local theater or buying them a gift card is also a great way to show support. If anyone wants to donate to my favorite local theater, please check out Cinema Detroit.
Below are some other worthy film-related organizations.
- Reel Stories, a non-profit filmmaking program for girls and non-binary youth aged 12–19.
- Women Make Movies, a non-profit feminist media arts organization.
- Brown Girls Doc Mafia, an initiative advocating for women and non-binary people of color working in the documentary film industry.
- The Transgender Film Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping trans creators bring finished films to audiences around the world.
- Frameline, the oldest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world.
If none of these ideas are appealing, you can always check out the Seventh Row gift guide, purchase a streaming services subscription (Mubi, Criterion, HBO Max), or buy a virtual film festival ticket. We might all be trapped in our houses for who knows how much longer, but we've got options, baby. Books, movies, and trinkets will get us through this shit storm.