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Dec 17, 2020

Father Vince's Guide to Cinephile Christmas Gifts

“It’s better to give than receive.” Fair enough. Another Christmas saying should proceed as, “Read the list, stick to the list, gift me an item from the list.” Otherwise, something like the 1987 Christmas Meltdown will happen, when my Mom unwisely convinced my Dad I didn’t really need the videogame Airborne Ranger.

Fortunately, in the years subsequent, I’ve grown wiser and come to accept that I’m my own best Christmas gift giver. Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that cinephile in your life? If your loved one holds similar cinematic tastes as I do, know that I’ve gifted myself most of the suggestions below and have thus avoided any hissy fits since the age of 10.

The Gift of Streaming

If I were made to cut my streaming services subscriptions down to one, I would happily settle with the Criterion Channel. Formerly known as Film Struck, the Criterion Collection and Janus Films no longer carry most American classics from Turner Classic Movies, but instead showcase films from their own vault.

If you’re a fan of auteur directors, popular and obscure foreign films, documentaries short and long, a year’s subscription to the channel will do the trick. Unlike other services that overload your screen with content, Criterion leaves the selecting to the subscriber, offering filters and sorting functions for viewers who probably already have an idea of what they want to watch.

The Gift of Reading

Whether your loved one prefers dog-eared novels from the nearby used bookstore or the ease of e-books, a film-related book might stuff the proverbial stocking this Christmas season. Although the Netflix  film adaptation omitted the critical second act, the memoir Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance was the best source material I read in 2020.

The Gift of Education

My alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, pulled off one of 2020’s minor miracles by finishing its fall semester the week before Thanksgiving. Spring semester doesn't resume until the feast day of the Presentation, thus missing the worst of flu season. That’s a good 10 weeks off.

If your college student winds up in a similar predicament, consider gifting an informal education in film. Online site MasterClass offers classes with several A-listers (and it's currently offering two yearly subscriptions for the price of one). Director David Lynch’s frank advice made for one of the best classes.

The Gift of Screeners

To get to the screeners you’ll be reminded of another saying, “membership has its privileges.” Film Independent and the International Documentary Association are two of the best. With awards season delayed two months, it gives you a chance to gift an annual membership. Its perks are screeners for year-end films, some of which are later nominated for Oscars.

The Gift of … Well, a Physical Gift

In our virtual world, I realize my previous suggestions entail gifts which are, in part or in entirety, digital. There’s nothing, though, that quite replaces the physical gift of a movie.

In the inner sanctum of what’s otherwise known as my work office is the 100 Years of Olympic Films boxed set. It is the perfect storm for the sports fan, cinephile and history buff in your orbit. Watch in order and you will watch technical film history unfold: black and white to color; boxed aspect ratio to widescreen; mono sound to the more enveloping 5.1 Dolby.

Auteur directors of Berlin, Tokyo, Grenoble and Munich Olympics contrast with the more conventional one-size-fits-all style of Bud Greenspan.

Christmas is the season of joy. Relish the Criterion Collection’s masterwork in an ode to that joy.

Image: Adobe Stock

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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