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The Playlist’s 2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Feb 16, 2023

Film fans are notoriously hard to shop for: hoarders by nature, obnoxiously opinionated, and weirdly unpredictable in our tastes. But the good news is, there are so many options for the movie lover on your gift list – so many must-have box sets, 4K discs, deep-dive books, and other essentials – that only the rich ones (and seriously, how many rich movie nerds do you know) could possibly have them all, already. So whether you’re shopping for a film freak or you are one yourself, these are our recommendations for this holiday season. 
BOX SETS:“Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 4” (review here) is a must-have movie-nerd totem: after all, it combines Scorsese, the Criterion Collection, and unsung foreign films in one easy-to-transport box. (Plus, bonus, the movies are fantastic). Criterion also came through big with their set collecting “The Infernal Affairs Trilogy”(review here), which, of course, inspired Scorsese’s Oscar-winner “The Departed.” (The circle of life!)
If you like your Asian cinema to lean a little grimier, Shout Factory’s “The Sonny Chiba Collection” (review here) assembles seven of the hard-nosed actor/martial artist’s best non-“Street Fighter” titles. Or you can go with Arrow’s essential “Shawscope Vol. 2,” their follow-up to last year’s killer collection of Shaw Brothers classics, featuring 14 vintage martial arts titles (including the entire “36 Chambers” trilogy). And speaking of grime, exploitation fans can collect all three of AGFA and Something Weird’s sets of “The Films of Doris Wishman,” from the nudist and nudie-cutie movies of “The Daylight Years” to the roughies and softcore of “The Moonlight Years” (review here) to the truly sleazy titles in “The Twilight Years” (review here). And giallo fans will work themselves into a black-gloved tizzy over Arrow’s “Giallo Essentials: The Black Edition” (review here) and Vinegar Syndrome’s “Forgotten Gialli Vol. 5” (review here).
The documentary lover on your list will love “The Rob Epstein – Jeffrey Friedman Collection,” which features three titles from acclaimed directors, including their Oscar-winner “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.” Film noir aficionados (at least, the ones who own multi-region players) will delight in Powerhouse/Indicator’s  “Columbia Noir Vol. 5” (review here), featuring six terrific Humphrey Bogart potboilers. Edgar G. Ulmer was one of the masters of noir – his “Detour” is one of the foundational texts – but he was also a journeyman who followed the tide of the times, so it’s fun to watch him flex his muscles in the three-film “Edgar G. Ulmer Sci-Fi Collection” from KL Sudio Classics. That distributor also gave us the delightful three-film “Paravision Dreams: The Golden Age of 3-D Films” set (review here), featuring the kind of non-genre titles we seldom associate with 3-D, as well as the “Francis the Talking Mule: 7-Film Collection,” which will be a big hit with all the… talking animal fans on your list. 

4K DISCS:The crisp images, fine grain, and vivid audio continue to make 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray the format of choice for serious collectors, and the good news is that we’re still early enough in its proliferation that capital-C classics are still hitting 4K for the first time, but the deep-cut sensibilities of collectors means we’re also getting a steady diet of genre movies and obscurities. That’s variety, baby!
“Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 3” (review here) definitely fits the former description, another decade-spanning set from the venerable studio (this one featuring “It Happened One Night,” “From Here to Eternity,” “To Sir, With Love,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Annie,” and “As Good As It Gets”). For fans of artier fare, there’s the “Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Collection,” featuring (sharp breath in) “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Orlando,” “The City of Lost Children,” “The Celluloid Closet,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Run Lola Run,” “Still Alice,” “Volver,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Call Me By Your Name,” and “SLC Punk.”

Universal’s 4K box of classic monster movies was one of the highlights of last year’s gift guide, so it’s not surprising to see “Universal Classic Monsters: Volume 2” (review here) showing its mutilated face; this one is arguably just as good as its predecessor, featuring such finely-tuned titles as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Mummy,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and the all-time classic “The Bride of Frankenstein.” 
Of the major studio/distributors, Warner Brothers were probably busiest this year at bolstering its 4K catalog; some of their essential titles include “Casablanca” (review here), “Singin’ in the Rain” (review here), “Giant” (review here), “Poltergeist” (review here), and “The Lost Boys” (review here). And if you’re in the holiday spirit, they just put out a top-notch quartet of season favorites: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” and “The Polar Express” (reviews here).

Criterion made its splashy entrance into the 4K marketplace late last year, and their 2022 releases have, unsurprisingly, proven must-haves; our recommendations would include “Raging Bull” (review here), “In the Mood for Love” (review here), “Blow Out” (review here), “Double Indemnity” (review here), “A Hard Day’s Night” (review here), “Devil in a Blue Dress” (review here), “Shaft” (review here), “The Last Waltz” (review here), “The Piano” (review here), “The Virgin Suicides” (review here), and “Night of the Living Dead” (review here).
KL Studio Classics had a helluva year as well, gifting us with their essential “Touch of Evil” set (review here), featuring all three cuts of Orson Welles’ noir masterpiece, as well as marvelous new editions of three early Stanley Kubricks: “Killer’s Kiss” (review here), “The Killing” (review here), and “Paths of Glory” (review here). They also followed up last year’s eye-popping “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” 4K with new editions of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s earlier “A Fistful of Dollars”  (review here) and “For a Few Dollars More” (review here). Eastwood fans on your list will also love the more recently released “Escape from Alcatraz” (review here) and “High Plains Drifter.” Classic lovers will also drool over “The Great Escape” (review here), “The Apartment”(review here), “Some Like It Hot” (review here), and “In the Heat of the Night,” which also almost qualifies as a box set – featuring, as it does, not only the 1967 Best Picture winner, but its two sequels, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” and “The Organization.”  And on top of all of those favorites from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, KL’s editions of “Out of Sight” (review here), “Dressed to Kill” (review here), and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”(review here) make great gifts as well. 

Paramount came strong this year as well, and if you know a crime movie lover who somehow doesn’t have their 4K set of  “The Godfather Trilogy” (review here) yet, snap that up with a quickness – and while you’re at it, grab “The Untouchables” (review here). And while you’re at it, pick up “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (review here) and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (review here), because why not? Arrow Video’s 4Ks of note this year include “An American Werewolf in London” (review here), “Robocop” (review here), and “12 Monkeys” (review here), and while some might say “Wild Things” (review here) is entirely too horny for holiday gift-giving, I am not one of those people. Shout Factory, meanwhile, gave us the eternal gifts of “Escape from New York” (review here), “Carrie,” “Black Christmas,” and “Alligator” (review here) on 4K, and if you don’t mind cutting it too close, their new 4K steelbooks of  “Coraline” and “Paranorman” (both out on December 13) are perfect gifts for the young genre weirdo in training.
Other essential new-ish 4K releases: “Lawrence of Arabia” (review here), “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (review here), “The Limey” (review here), “Heat” (review here), and “God Told Me To” (review here).
BOOKS:No gift says “I love you, and I have enough upper-body strength to carry this to you” like “Cinematic Life,” a big, beautiful collection of Golden Age of Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby’s knockout portraits, featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock, and cover girl Audrey Hepburn. Lovers of the latter will want to pick up the similarly impressive “Our Fair Lady: Audrey Hepburn’s Life in Pictures,” by Chiara Pasqualetti, which charts the rise and rise of the style icon, star, and humanitarian with plentiful illustrations; publisher ACC Art Books has also bestowed upon book-buyers, hard on the heels of the “Last Movie Stars” docu-series, the gorgeous “Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool,” in which author James Clarke gathers some of the most striking portraits of the star, along with quotes from the photographers who shot them. 
Less bulky but still impressive are the Little White Lies/ABRAMS Books collabs “Sofia Coppola: Forever Young” by Hanna Strong and “Bong Joon Ho: Dissident Cinema” by Karen Han – two of our favorite filmmakers, given the shrewd, insightful, film-by-film treatment by two of our favorite film writers. As has become the ABRAMS standard (hello), layout and illustrations are handsome, yes, but just as much attention and ink is given to the deep-dive analysis. 
The most talked-about film book of the fall, of course, is Quentin Tarantino’s “Cinema Speculation,” a hybrid of film criticism, film history, and personal essay in which our man Q zips through some of the movies that most influenced him, in the cinematic era he spent the bulk of his career recreating. His picks won’t surprise those who have paid much attention to his career (“Taxi Driver,” “Rolling Thunder,” and “The Getaway” all get the magnifying glass), but you’ll find a couple of surprises. Those hunting for more deep cuts will want to grab “TCM Underground,” chief programmer Millie De Chirico and film critic Quatoyiah Murry’s round-up of 50 essential cult titles – but including the less discussed likes of “Fleshpot on 42nd Street,” “Emma Mae,” “Satanis: The Devil’s Mass,” and “Secret Ceremony.”
Few filmmakers have been the topic of as many tomes as Hitch, but Christine Madrich French’s “The Architecture of Suspense: The Built World in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock” takes a new and hyper-focused approach to his oeuvre, approaching the spaces of his heroes, villains, and the set pieces they fill with a critical, analytical eye. And if your gift recipient loves New York movies as much as I do (again, hello), they’ll dig “Filmed in Brooklyn,” Margo Donahue’s energetic and exhaustive round-up of Brooklyn movies, organized by neighborhood, auteur, genre, and more.If you’re interested in more recent classics, pick up “Bring It On: The Complete Story of the Cheerleading Movie That Changed, Like, Everything (No, Seriously),” Kase Wickman’s meticulously detailed history of the cheerleading classic and its many offspring. Younger cinephiles – and I mean really, really young – will love “My First Movie: Vol. 1, a three-book collection of board books on French New Wave, film noir, and (really, seriously) giallo horror. But they’re pulsing with affection and knowledge, as they should; they’re the latest bit of movie magic from the makers of the Cinephile card game.
And finally, if your film aficionado somehow, somehow doesn’t yet own Dana Stevens’ “Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the 20th Century,” Keith Phipps’ “The Age of Cage: Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career,” or Isaac Butler’s “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,” well, get on that, and here’s why. 
VINYL:Boutique record labels and film-centric merch lines found their natural intersection in the release of deluxe film soundtracks on vinyl, and this year, we’ve got some beuts. Chief among them is “Life Moves Pretty Fast: The John Hughes Mixtapes,” a collection of music from Hughes movies curated (with the participation of the Hughes family) by his longtime music supervisor Tarquin Gotch; it’s available in two-CD and two-LP versions, but what the hell, just splurge for the six-record set.
Cameron Crowe is another director all but defined by his musical sensibility, which makes the new Mondo 2-LP 30th anniversary soundtrack to his underrated 1992 gem “Singles” a must-have – not only for fans of the movie but disciples of the Seattle grunge sound (featuring, as it does, songs by Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and more). Varèse Sarabande has been doing God’s work on the movie score front for a while, and their latest two releases are more than welcome to any respecting movie music aficionado’s collection: a new deluxe, 2-LP edition of Michael Kamen’s score for “The Iron Giant” (featuring alternates, outtakes and rare demos), and the LP reissue of Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic music for “The Omen.” 
And finally, while it’s not technically a soundtrack, or a movie-related release at all – have you heard that new special edition of The Beatles’ “Revolver”? Holy shit! Actual speed “Rain” for the win!
ODDS AND ENDS: Of course, there’s always the subscription route; we film fans love our streaming services, and a gift of The Criterion Channel, Shudder, Metrograph at Home, Arrow Player, Kino Now, Magnolia Selects, Film Movement+, IFC Films Unlimited, HBO Max, or MUBI (particularly the latter’s hybrid MUBI GO, which combines the MUBI curated streaming membership with a ticket to a new, hand-picked theatrical release, every week) is truly the gift that keeps on giving. But the one to watch these days, for my money, is Night Flight Plus, named for the ‘80s late-night video variety series (featuring music videos, cult movies, short films, interviews, and more) and featuring a ton of its original episodes, but augmented by scores of cult movies, music documentaries, vintage TV, oddities, and more. It’s less than five bucks a month and a bargain at twice the price. 
Or – and this is always a safe bet – just pick up a gift certificate for your film fan from their favorite movie theater. Those things never go unused. 

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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