First, let me begin by admitting how much I hate the holidays. They're never as good as movies (or social media) want us to believe. Instead of making my heart feel happy and light, Christmas cheer weighs it down with existential dread. If you already feel like an outsider in your own family, nothing amplifies it quite like forced gatherings and obligatory presents.
The best thing I can say about Christmas is that it means 1 less day of work, 1 more day of lounging around with snacks and movies. Am I bumming you out yet? I'm sorry! Here's a palate cleanser c/o "The Family Stone" (2005).
If you've also been in denial about the rapidly approaching holidays and still need to buy some presents, you are in luck. I hate to encourage consumerism in the vein of some disgusting lifestyle blog, but this is a once per year occasion. None of these are affiliate links and all are something I can personally vouch for unless otherwise mentioned. Let's make Jesus proud! Woo-hoo, capitalism!
A streaming services subscription
Here are a few that are worth the money:
- Criterion Channel - $10.99/month or $99.99 yearly. The channel includes Criterion and Janus' entire libraries, along with a rotating selection of independent movies from around the world. There are tons of special features, interviews, old trailers, and other gems that you'd be loathe to find anywhere else.
- Shudder - $5.99/month or $56.99 yearly. If your gift recipient loves thriller, horror, or suspense films, this subscription is a no-brainer. There are playlists curated by directors, live-streaming marathons, and it's the only way to watch Joe Bob Briggs' show, "The Last Drive-In."
- Acorn TV - $4.99/month or $49.99 yearly. The golden age of television extends far past the US, my friend. Acorn TV features shows from the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Spain. Instead of wasting time trying to find an illegal stream of "The Hour," hook a pal up with this subscription.
If you can, buy these at a local bookstore and support small businesses.
- "Suite for Barbara Loden" by Nathalie Leger - $14.10. "Wanda" is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I think Loden is a fucking genius who deserves widespread recognition and it is my personal goal to expose as many people as possible to her work. Leger's book does a really nice job of dissecting the film in a conversational way that is intelligent, but not as rigorous as academic writing. Fans of the movie will definitely enjoy the book.
- "House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films" by Kier-La Janisse - $19.48. This book is an invaluable companion for anyone who likes horror films. It's equal parts memoir, film analysis, and encyclopedia. There are plenty of films that I never would have given a chance if it weren't for Janisse. Check out my interview with her last year (about a different book) if you want more information.
- "Naked Cinema: Working with Actors" by Sally Potter - $23.54. I found a cheap used copy at The Strand a few years ago and had no idea what to expect. The book is split into 4 parts: Preparation, The Shoot, Post-Production, and Interviews. Even for non-filmmakers, the insight into Potter's creative process is fascinating and as readable as a good thriller. If you're not as interested in the filmmaking particulars, the interview with Dame Judi Dench is well worth the price alone.
- "Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood" by Katrina Longworth - $17.99. To be completely honest, I like the idea of Longworth's podcast, "You Must Remember This," more than I like the actual podcast. I really appreciate her thorough research and impeccably organized content, but I struggle to connect with her persona. I mention this not to be a hypercritical asshole, just to say that if you fall into the same boat as me, you should still give her writing a chance -- it's very good! If you ever wondered how a monster like Harvey Weinstein flew under the radar for so long, this book gives a nice primer c/o Howard Hughes.
- "I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution" by Emily Nussbaum - $16.37. I'm sorry to say that I haven't actually read this one yet. I've been saving it for the right time! Nussbaum, a longtime culture critic for The New Yorker, is one of my favorite writers. This book is a collection of her old essays (with at last two new ones) organized to make a strong case for TV as a valuable medium, not just a mindless idiot box.
Print Subscriptions - Magazines, Journals, Zines!
Who doesn't love getting a fun surprise in the mail on a regular basis.
- Another Gaze: A Feminist Film Journal - $28.61 for an annual print subscription (2 issues). You'll receive a beautifully bound journal (similar to the feel of The Paris Review) that contains over 200 pages of smart criticism about "women and queers as filmmakers, protagonists and spectators."
- Movie Jawn - $25 for an annual subscription (4 issues). I haven't actually received my first copy of this yet, but I know I'll like it based on the their subscription questionnaire alone.
- Film Comment - $29.95 for an annual subscription (6 issues). I've subscribed to this one for a long time. There isn't enough of a focus on women writers/creators, but the interviews alone make it worthwhile.
- Bright Wall/Dark Room - $15 for the first year (digital only). I love the way they describe they the site: "Bright Wall/Dark Room offers a different lens on film: no hot takes, no hype, no movie news, no clickbait, no “content,” no ads. We’re an online magazine devoted to exploring the relationship between movies and the business of being alive." Hell yeah!
- Cineaste - $24 for an annual subscription (4 issues). Their website is trash but trust me: if you're only going to subscribe to one film magazine, this it it! It's one of the oldest and generally has amazing interviews.
None of this will arrive on time but fashionably late gifts rule.
- A donation in their name to a cool film non-profit like the Light Leaks or Women in Film. I would love it if people did this for me instead of buying gifts.
- Stickers, pins, and prints from Pan and Scan. I bought Dee Rees and Suzy (from "Suspiria") stickers for my 2020 planner.
- A nice box set from Criterion Collection. I would love to own the "Before" trilogy or the Chris Marker collection.
- Anything from A24. I'd go with the beach towel or one of the candles.
- A poster of their favorite film from Posteritati. The Czech poster for Agnes Varda's "Vagabond" is wild. If you want to be especially nice, you could even get it framed for the recipient.
- A badass lady director shirt from Girls on Tops - starting at $28.61. I have the Andrea Arnold one and can confirm that it is comfortable and cute.
I hope this post gave you some good gift ideas that are a little more exciting than the standard garbage. If all else fails, you could always go with a gift certificate to an indie theater in their city. My cousin got me one last year that I've used for many Saturday matinees and Diet Cokes.