Film Gift Recommendations
March 27, 2006 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I need some good quirky film recommendations for a gift to a film lover.

My boyfriend's birthday is coming up soon -- we've only been going out for a few weeks and trying to figure out the appropriate gift (not too personal but I'd like it to be meaningful) is driving me crazy. A friend suggested going the hobby route, which should be easy enough because he's a huge film nut, but I know nothing about film and wouldn't even know where to start. So, I'm hoping some film lovers with similar interests might be able to recommend either a quirky movie or some film related thing. In terms of genre, he likes foreign language films (esp. Asian), horror, film noir, -- generally anti-Hollywood (other than Burton and some Spielberg). He's just recently gotten into making films, so there might be some cool gift related to that.

Or, if anyone has any general suggestions for how to deal with present-giving in the awkward beginning stages of a relationship, that would be much appreciated!
posted by purplevelvet to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Incident at Loch Ness comes to mind. It's sort of a spoof about the making of a Werner Herzog documentary about the Loch Ness monster (and stars Werner Herzog). It combines quirkiness, a legend in film, and the plot follows the making of a film.
posted by amro at 1:54 PM on March 27, 2006

Any disc (or set) from the Director's Series.

I thought the one for Michel Gondry was particularly entertaining.
posted by junkbox at 1:55 PM on March 27, 2006

I think it would be pretty dangerous trying to get him an actual movie; the odds are too good that either 1) he already has it, or 2) he despises it and will grit his teeth noticeably when he thanks you for it. How about a gift certificate, say to Criterion? (I assume they have them; if not, there's always Amazon.)
posted by languagehat at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2006

Consider The Last Broadcast, which about some mysterious deaths in the Jersey Pine Barrens and a documentary about the case. Best appreciated if your friend has also seen Errol Morris's documentary, The Thin Blue Line.
posted by SPrintF at 6:10 PM on March 27, 2006

is about... criminy...
posted by SPrintF at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2006

I would suggest the lurid, disturbing, yet almost riveting Something Weird DVD Toy Box that includes the film Toys Are Not For Children. Hoo... BOY! You're friend will hate you for it and love you for it at the same time.
posted by smallerdemon at 6:15 PM on March 27, 2006

I think languagehat is spot on: actually purchasing a film is fraught with pitfalls. Try a gift certificate. Or maybe just take him out for a nice meal and to some current film he really wants to see.
posted by jdroth at 6:15 PM on March 27, 2006

How about a quirky, almost indie Hollywood films about making Hollywood films, but with distictive Anti-Hollywood themes?

My two all-time favorites are:

The Player and Swimming with Sharks - both in Special Editions

and less cinematically excellent - Hurly Burly

This is one is a great film and probably fits the bill, but he's probably seen/owns it: Get Shorty (be sure to avoid the sequel though).
posted by marc1919 at 6:25 PM on March 27, 2006

Highway 61 is wonderful.
posted by tomble at 6:28 PM on March 27, 2006

The Cruise just came out on DVD so he more than likely doesn't have it and I'd guess he's probably not even seen it as it had a limited run. It is indeed quirky--well, it's star is, anyway. In addition, it's shot by the director so that may inspire him. The filmmaker is Bennet Miller, who last year directed Capote. It's one of my favorite documentaries.

And just to be contrary, I disagree with tombie. I hate Highway 61. :)
posted by dobbs at 6:45 PM on March 27, 2006

anti hollywood? Living in Oblivion. An indie film about making an indie film. Starring Buscemi.
posted by filmgeek at 6:50 PM on March 27, 2006

How about an intelligent film guide with lots of independent and foreign films? Like this or this.
posted by kdern at 6:51 PM on March 27, 2006

Criterion Collection has really fantastic editions of Kurosawa. Something like Throne of Blood or Seven Samurai would make a very fine gift.
posted by ori at 6:52 PM on March 27, 2006

Let's take it back a level. I think it's a bad idea to try to play to this interest if, in fact, you "know nothing about film and wouldn't even know where to start." Any gift in this vein is going to come across weakly, even if you miraculous happen to get it right. You two are dating, you must share some common ground. Mine that area -- find something you love that you think he'll love too, based on what you have together.

(Oh, and gift certificates are lame.)
posted by TonyRobots at 7:00 PM on March 27, 2006

get him the movie book by phaidon press the makers of all great interest related books...

it's an a-z listing of 500 people who have contributed something important to film with a relevant photo on each page...

it will likely go over better than a movie he may already have or may not like...

i would say i have similar taste to your boyfriend though likely skewing more toward the bizzare, and i have only seen one or two movies mentioned so far that i would actually want...

but then everyone is different...
posted by MonkNoiz at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2006

Does he like to read about film? You might consider giving him a subscription to Film Comment.
posted by Snerd at 7:09 PM on March 27, 2006

Ditto on the whole "hard to buy for a film hipster" point. Otherwise this thread just becomes a "recommend movies you like" thread.

I think the film paraphernalia idea is a good place to go. Other places for gift certificates would be Criterion DVDs or YesAsia (a site to order unavailable asian dvds). Or take a look at books or products recommended at Self-Reliant Filmmaking. BTW, Film Comment isn't a terribly great magazine (I'm a subscriber). Try Cinema Scope or CineAction. I think they both have websites.

Also, can you look at his library? Maybe get him a book on film, like Manny Farber's Negative Space. If he's into Asian film, there's a new incredible book of interviews with all the famous Chinese art directors that just came out in paperback, edited by Michael Berry. I don't know anyone who has it and it seems like the kind of thing anyone interested in Asian film should own. In fact--I think I just talked myself into buying it!
posted by kensanway at 7:20 PM on March 27, 2006

I would also caution about getting a movie or even something related to movies; he knows his hobby really well and has probably gotten everything he wants related to it. Having said that, I would recommend The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide, written by film buffs from the eponymous store, which has all the obscure flicks which can be found nowhere else.

I'd also recommend flowers, books that you like, a subscription to the New Yorker, or a dessert that you made.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:26 PM on March 27, 2006

John Sayles wrote a book called Thinking in Pictures, which is a really interesting and instructive book about the process of making a film (on a budget, outside of the Big Guys in Hollywood.) It was written in 1987 and largely based on the making of Matewan, so obviously it predates much of the work for which he is now best known.

As for how, I think a simple "I saw this and thought of you" is best.
posted by desuetude at 7:36 PM on March 27, 2006

I was going to start recommending movies that I adore and think everyone else should, but I had another thought. You are getting to know him. Maybe his gift should be something about you, say a favourite book, film or something quirky, like a souvenir of a place you love. Trying to interpret his likes this early might be hard, even off putting. He knows more about his taste than you do, and a gift is an exchange, not a tax or a duty.

The best gift I ever received from a boy (well, besides ... nevermind) was a flamingo feather he had saved from a camping trip in Spain when he was 15. It came with a really sweet story.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:36 PM on March 27, 2006

Here's a good film noir collection.
posted by scody at 7:41 PM on March 27, 2006

GreenCine for a few months.
posted by fionab at 7:47 PM on March 27, 2006

You could show your DIY TLC by making some big, color Rastorbator posters on good paper of his favorite films. Try searching for large images to use. Email me if you want me to send you any of the fifty plus .pdfs I've already made.
posted by glibhamdreck at 7:47 PM on March 27, 2006

Excellent Asian film just released on DVD: Raise the Red Lantern

Excellent general foreign language film: Festen (The Celebration)
posted by awesomebrad at 8:01 PM on March 27, 2006

Why don't you offer him the URL of this page?
posted by bru at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2006

How about passes to your local art-house theater? Or tickets to cinephile events? Look into festivals, lectures, discussions, special presentations--more than just movie tickets. Plus you can go too. Or browse the movie section of your local big chain bookstore. They should have a few books of serious film criticism, etc.

Besides all that, your boyfriend sounds like he'd like The Night of the Hunter. (I would link to the Amazon page, but it has a spoiler.)

But I like glibhamdreck's idea--nothing shows you care like a hand-made gift. Posters are good, and there's also iron-on t-shirts, or patches to sew on his messenger bag. Or get some movie stills from ebay and frame 'em yourself. This month's Readymade magazine has some ideas for simple frames.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:17 PM on March 27, 2006

Ditto on the whole "hard to buy for a film hipster" point. Otherwise this thread just becomes a "recommend movies you like" thread.

Yeah, I just want to reemphasize this. People, seriously: Raise the Red Lantern? Seven Samurai?? Do you honestly think a "huge film nut" doesn't own these movies (and pretty much anything else you can think of) if he likes them? Get creative; we've had a million "movies I love" threads, and this is not one of them.
posted by languagehat at 11:39 PM on March 27, 2006

Best answer: You mentioned Tim Burton, so what about his book of short stories with hand-drawn illustrations The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy (gothic-cutsey so probably quite a good girlfriend gift).

There are of course loads of books on films, books on film, anthologies of reviews, books by filmmakers etc. Difficult to second-guess your boyfriend's library, but in terms of cool and quirky how about Kyle Cooper's monograph - he's THE designer of title sequences [the bit at the start of the film where you get the film title and credits] (his work includes Seven, Mimic, Arlington Road etc).

Others have made good points about not buying films, but I think Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography might be worth considering. It's a documentary with interviews with Directors of Photography and film clips, and should inspire an aspiring filmmaker.
posted by boudicca at 1:33 AM on March 28, 2006

As a film fan, I've always dreamt that my partner will one day book a cinema for me, choose one of my favourite films and get me 10+ tickets to distribute to my nearest and dearest. Unfortunately, my partner doesn't exactly like films. At least not as much as I do. So I shall dream on.

If he's into *making* films, then how about a book? It's not so much about making films, but Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew is fantastic, and hilarious.

Alternatively, there are books which chronicle the love affair people have with films.

You could scare him by showing him what real hardcore movie geeks without girlfriends (or a life for that matter) turn into with Cinemania. It is a fascinating hilarious documentary about the lengths some movie fans have/will go to, as well as musing on the conflict between cinematic images and humdrum reality. I will bet my hat that he doesn't already own this...
posted by badlydubbedboy at 3:34 AM on March 28, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Philip Kaufman. A beautiful love-story, created by a creative film-maker.
posted by volandmast at 6:04 AM on March 28, 2006

On the book side, Directors Close Up is, in my opinion, a perfect gift. It's a thick compilation of interviews with nominees for Best Direction from the Directors Guild for the past fifteen or so years. People like Scorsese, Tarantino, etc are interviewed in depth and talk at length about managing an army of egos as well as the logistical aspects of making a film. I loved it.

It doesn't come out until the end of April but it looks like you can get used copies on Amazon already.
posted by Atom12 at 6:45 AM on March 28, 2006

Yeah, I just want to reemphasize this. People, seriously: Raise the Red Lantern? Seven Samurai?? Do you honestly think a "huge film nut" doesn't own these movies (and pretty much anything else you can think of) if he likes them? Get creative; we've had a million "movies I love" threads, and this is not one of them.

Not to second someone agreeing with me agreeing with them, but yeah, totally! This is just a step away from buying him Citizen Kane!

But, if you're going to go the route of buying him actual movies, you should try to get him something so obscure that most only the most dedicated film hipsters have heard of it. Obviously, it's hard for us to gauge the degree of obscurity you want, since we don't know him. However, to momentarily engage in foundationless and unfair stereotyping, he doesn't sound like his tastes are super obscure, since he's still into Burton and Spielberg. So, one recommendation would be stuff from Super Happy Fun: They're a site that copies unavailable movies from other formats onto DV-Rs. (However, he needs a laptop or a DVD player that can play this stuff). But they have all kinds of stuff that just doesn't exist in any other format.

If you want something unconventional but more gift-like, I'd recommend going to Chinatown and just spending $20 on anything that looks cool. You might be able to get six to twenty movies out of it. You should just pick randomly and get either stuff that looks really old, from the '80s or whose cover you like. If you know he doesn't have it yet, you can get him the DVD to Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the new Park Chanwook movie that, judging from what you've said about his tastes, he'd probably like and it hasn't had a mainstream theatrical release in the US or a US DVD release. (Other options: Seven Swords, Eros, McDull Prince de la Bun, Dumplings Three Extremes. You might also consider ordering a Jia Zhangke movie, SurviveStyle 5+, or "Spring in a Small Town" (the Fei Mu version), one of the best movies I've ever seen, but one that almost no one's seen, from YesAsia.) However, if he's a big Asian film buff, he may have already seen these.

I thought of Greencine--which looks great--but they don't have circulation outside of the west coast.
posted by kensanway at 7:59 AM on March 28, 2006

Best answer: so obscure that most only the most dedicated film hipsters have heard of it

kensanaway, not directed at just you specifically, but to this idea, stated by several...
I agree in theory, but I'm a film geek. But since SHE's not a dedicated film hipster, I think this attempt would fall flat. Unless she'd previously rented the chosen movie and liked it, it's a little weird to give someone a gift of a movie you've never seen and know nothing about. Certainly not the way to smooth over those awkward "first birthday present of a new relationship" issues.

purplevelvet, I don't know where you live, but is there a major film festival? If so, you could find out the pricing scheme (there's usually a five-pass or ten-pass) and promise to get this for both of you. Then you can watch new independant films with him.
posted by desuetude at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2006

independent , that is.
posted by desuetude at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2006

I agree in theory, but I'm a film geek. But since SHE's not a dedicated film hipster, I think this attempt would fall flat. Unless she'd previously rented the chosen movie and liked it, it's a little weird to give someone a gift of a movie you've never seen and know nothing about. Certainly not the way to smooth over those awkward "first birthday present of a new relationship" issues.

Yeah, I agree totally actually, which is why I said she should give him something related to film but not a film itself. The problem with movies is that if you're not a film geek, they might just seem like commodities, but if you're into film, each film has connotations that are relevant to your identity.
posted by kensanway at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the excellent ideas! Point taken about the problems with buying a film, although I was planning on checking his library before actually buying something, but desuetude is probably right that giving a movie I've never seen might seem a little insincere. Nevertheless, I'm definitely keeping all these film ideas on file to suggest watching in the future!

Some of the other film related ideas were great -- I think I'll probably go with something like that. Thanks especially to boudicca, I think the Tim Burton book might be right up his alley and since I'm a bookworm, it would probably be appropriate.

If anyone's still reading this, can you think of any good books about filmmaking for social change or something similar -- he's about to start on his first film trying to change people's behaviors and it might be cool if I could find a meaningful book about that theme.
posted by purplevelvet at 9:01 AM on March 28, 2006

If he really likes foreign films, I recommend the Italian Epic The Best of Youth on DVD. It's 6 hrs, but it's a beautiful way to spend a rainy day.

Also, A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies is a fascinating documentary. Scorsese basically takes you on a tour through all of the films that influenced him.
posted by surferboy at 9:13 AM on March 28, 2006

Here are a couple of films that I would recommend and why. Primer was made on a shoestring budget, takes place, primarily, in a storage facility and a hotel and is one of the highest concept Scifi films ever made. This film can teach any aspiring filmmaker that story will always trump budget. Never have so few done so much with so little.

Two of the most oddball films I have ever seen are El Topo and Forbidden Zone. EL Topo is a western freak out. The hero of the movie carries a naked boy on his back for a majority of his journey. He encounters bandits who are forcing priests to put on cabaret shows and other nonsense. I didn't think that a movie could be any weirder; enter Forbidden Zone.

This was made by the Elfman family in their basement. You probably know Danny Elfman from his movie soundtracks (batman, nightmare before xmas) and his band Oingo Boingo. The plot is a science fiction standard - saving a damsel in distress from an evil king in another dimension, but the difference is in the details. Everyone and everything, both in the real world and in the 'Sixth Dimension' is wildly dysfunctional. For instance, at the school of our heroine, we see frequent gunfights in the classroom - sometimes between the students and the obviously transsexual teacher. All of Frenchy's family are mentally unbalanced, mentally deficient, or usually both.

Lately, my favorite foreign films have been asian. I couldn't recommend the movie Ping Pong any more. It is a feel good film that manages to successfully develop 10 characters at the same time. It is so successful that you wind up caring as much for the "good guys" as the "bad guys". Any of Chan Wook Park's Revenge Trilogy would be an incredible gift for a film buff. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Ms. Vengeance and, most notably, Oldboy.
posted by lukeomalley at 9:24 AM on March 29, 2006

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