A gifting guide for the cinephile in your life
Not me, though, because I already own/use these (sorry!)
I sincerely hope you’re not out battling the crowds at a giant retail store this morning! (But if that’s the life you’ve chosen, godspeed.) If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you either know (or are) a cinephile who may be tricky to gift for. As one of these myself, I’ve got some ideas for clever holiday ideas to tickle their fancy.
I’ve bought or experienced everything I’ve recommended, so there are no PR placements buying space here! I’ll vouch for it all.
Movie-related miscellanea on Etsy (any price range)
I suspect I am not alone in having lost a considerable amount of time and money searching my favorite pop culture properties on Etsy. I’ve ordered shirts, stickers, and more — if someone you love has a popular enough favorite movie, there’s surely going to be something catering to their fandom. I’ll give one shout-out to the gorgeous and affordable drawings by Ellie Ediger (Ellie Dawn Designs) because I have two hanging in my apartment: The Shop Around the Corner from You’ve Got Mail and Meryl Streep’s kitchen from It’s Complicated.
Letterboxd membership (starting at $12)
I seriously don’t know how I’d survive without Letterboxd, a database app that helps me keep tracking of my movie viewing. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of all that paying a small yearly sum for Pro membership gets me until I did this research! For me, it’s an invaluable tool to stay on top of trends in my viewing habits (that then helps me correct for big blindspots). But Pro members also get really cool features like setting up alerts when a movie you want to see gets added to a streaming service you use. Worthwhile to invest a little bit to get the most value out of what you’re already paying for!
Boardgame enthusiasts and movie lovers simply must have a copy of Cinephile in their dwelling. It’s really more like six games in one with instructions that guide you toward playing any number of variations of fun activities with the illustrated deck of actors playing iconic characters. You can make it as easy or hard as you want for the assembled players. I am of course not answering this from personal experience, but where else can an extensive knowledge of the supporting cast in 2004’s White Chicks win you prizes and glory?
Girls on Tops apparel (starting at ~$30)
You can’t go to a film festival or any major NYC film confab without seeing one of these Girls on Tops tees, a tribute to female directors who make incredible work. It’s a clever way to both bust the largely male mythology of the auteur while also making space for women masters. I’ve got two for some of my favorites: Andrea Arnold and Greta Gerwig. (I guess I’ve also just got a thing for alliterative auteurs?) I wore the latter shirt to a screening of Frances Ha a few years ago and made a new friend from the conversation it sparked!
Criterion Collection box sets (starting at $40)
The Criterion Collection’s physical media discs are basically Beanie Babies for lovers of great cinema. Their releases form both an unofficial canon for contemporary and classical cinema alike … and allow movie fans to virtue signal by their chosen copies. Individual movies are always good picks (my personal collection is here — no I don’t have a problem, thank you!) but now’s a great time to invest in one of their giant box sets. These can normally run upwards of $200 but also fall under the Barnes & Noble sale for 50% off all Criterion Collection releases! I love my Fellini box set, and I’m sure the Agnès Varda one is really special as well.
Movie theater memberships (as low as $50)
Most movie theaters, especially independently operated ones, offer some sort of membership option that provides additional value for frequent visitors. (And even the wonderful AMC Stubs offers a gift membership option!) These are often crucial revenue sources to help keep the theater afloat, and that’s something we should all be investing in right now. I’m a member at pretty much every major indie theater in NYC, and I love both the material and psychological benefits that purchase provides. One that’s great, even if you don’t live in the Big Apple, is Metrograph’s membership because they also invested in a streaming platform during the pandemic that often features some of the daring programming they play on their screens. If you want the NYC repertory scene from the comfort of your own couch outside the city, this is the closest thing you can get!
A24 script books ($60)
Forget their overpriced merch line, which is basically just Supreme for liberal arts majors. The A24 Store’s best offering is easily their screenplay books, gorgeous tomes fit for any coffee table or bookshelf. They’re so much more than just the mere script document but instead are a fully loving tribute to the images and impact of the work. I own these for both 20th Century Women and Lady Bird, both of which are excellent compilations.
NEON Year 5 Box Set (price TBD)
Upstart distributor NEON is the new A24, if you haven’t updated your bearings from the Vine era. I’d argue they’ve got more of a finger on the pulse of the movies that can pierce the cultural conversation these days, and their 2021 slate was quite exceptional. They’ve got big guns like Spencer and Palme d’Or winner Titane alongside solid docs like All Light, Everywhere, and Flee. Own their great year in packaging sure to impress. (I got a version of this full of awards screeners earlier this week.) Not many details are available yet, but you can buy it starting Tuesday 11/30.
Streaming service memberships (as low as $84)
Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and HBO Max can only get you so far — especially when it comes to curation of less commercial titles. If you know someone who likes cinema that’s more off the beaten path, there are any number of niche streaming services for which to explore gift subscriptions. Two that I can personally vouch for are the excellently programmed Criterion Channel ($90/year) and the unique upstart MUBI ($84/year). The latter service is also now piloting a MoviePass-style subscription service to see theatrical movies in indie theaters, MUBI GO, that’s free for members (currently only in NYC but eventually expanding).
Virtual Sundance Film Festival tickets (starting at $100)
I had a blast doing virtual Sundance with a good friend earlier this year — we just split a full festival pass and paid something like $175 each. The festival is doing an online edition of their program again, though it may be more expensive and less exhaustive for 2022. When it comes to a unique gift for someone who loves to be ahead of the year’s best indie movies — or if you just want to plan a fun day in during the coldest stretch of winter — a day at virtual Sundance can run you just $100!
NB: these do not go on sale until December 17, so all you fellow planners are going to need to hold your horses. For your last-minute gifting needs, however, this could really come in clutch.
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Yours in service and cinema,