Christmas shopping was a lot easier five years ago. Not only did most of us own DVD players back then; we actually used them. These days, buying a family member a DVD or (now, for some) a Blu-ray can be a weird act: a potentially lazy-seeming decision that probably won’t be enjoyed by its equally lazy recipient, who would rather click open a link from iTunes, Amazon, or any other streaming service than walk over to a shelf, open a box, and insert a disc.
This gift guide only has a couple of good ideas to overcome this intermediary cultural moment. Your local multiplexes and arthouses are ready and waiting to sell you bundles of gift passes, and you might consider purchasing streaming subscriptions for your more adventurous film-geek pals (MUBI and Fandor are a couple of excellent, affordable options). On the other hand, maybe over the holidays we can take some pleasure in the tactile, not-yet-bygone pleasures of receiving good films and TV shows in lovely or ridiculous packages. Here are a few ideas, along with a couple of great film book options. (These are retail prices; sales are abundant.)
The thrilling misadventures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman haven’t quite slipped out of the cultural consciousness yet. Before it does, the must-have box set of the year is a 16-disc collection of Breaking Bad: The Complete Series ($299.99). Packaged in (what else?) an oil barrel, the set is replete with goodies: 55 hours of extras, a photo book, a commemorative coin of apparently neat utility, and a Los Pollos Hermanos apron for next year’s barbecues.
Care to relive teenage obsessions, or introduce a new generation to oversized cellphones and the evils of marijuana? Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection is, at $49.98, inexpensive enough for a 13-disc, 2000-plus-minute lark, while recent lottery winners might want to pony up for the extras-free Beverly Hills, 90210: The Complete Series, which is going for $349.99 and runs through a staggering 71 discs.
A better bet might be to focus on your elders, or youngsters classy enough to become obsessed with evergreen genre fare. The Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive Collection ($299.99, but available for under half that) offers the full series and a treasure trove of special features: isolated musical scores (by Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith), audio commentaries (Martin Landau, Don Rickles, Leonard Nimoy, many more), and lectures and TV interviews featuring creator Rod Serling. Remastered and packaged in an iguana-skin clutch, Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It ($158.72) is similarly loaded with goodies from the iconic BBC sitcom.
For some intensely local gift-giving, swing by Videoport or damnationland.com and pick up any or all editions of the ongoing Damnationland anthology film series. Individual DVDs are only $10, or you can collect all four online for $30.
For 12 seasons, the most crime-ridden small town in the country was fictional Cabot Cove, Maine, where Angela Lansbury’s English teacher-turned-amateur detective Jessica Fletcher became a Dupin for the 20th century. You can relive her 264 triumphs of ratiocination with Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Series ($199.98).