This is the perfect gift for non-fiction buffs, as author Nathaniel Philbrick’s harrowing account of the early 1800s whaleship Essex disaster is incredibly fascinating. The real-life account of the Essex’s encounter with an angry sperm whale inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick, and the survivors of the Essex found themselves adrift at sea for months, leading to starvation, dehydration, and eventually cannibalism. Reading the book will also prepare you for director Ron Howard’s upcoming feature film adaptation, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker. The book is a fantastic read that I highly recommend.
Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s 2010 collaboration is one of the best films of the past decade, but the Blu-ray release of the film comes complete with a stay-at-home film school for any burgeoning cinephiles. The feature-length documentary on the making of The Social Network is a fantastic resource for those interested in the development and production of feature films, as viewers get an intimate look into rehearsals, script meetings, production, and more from one of the best filmmakers working today. It’s also worth noting that the Blu-ray releases of Fincher’s other films—most notably The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—include fascinating feature-length behind-the-scenes documentaries as well, but watching Fincher and Sorkin hash out the themes and motivations behind the characters in The Social Network is a thing of beauty.
Under the Tree
Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection (Reservoir Dogs / True Romance / Pulp Fiction / Jackie Brown / Kill Bill: Vol. 1 / Kill Bill: Vol. 2 / Death Proof / Inglourious Basterds) Blu-ray
While the odds are good that you or your friends already own some of Quentin Tarantino’s films on Blu-ray, this box set is worth buying for the packaging alone. The fantastic Mondo cover art on the box and on each disc is excellent, and this is a great way to keep your Tarantino library all together. The box set includes every Tarantino-directed film except for Django Unchained, and it also includes the Tarantino-penned True Romance. For eight movies on Blu-ray plus print-worthy artwork, this thing is a steal.
This gorgeous peek into the wonderfully creative mind of Guillermo del Toro makes for one hell of a coffee table book. Filled with drawings from del Toro’s personal notebooks, Cabinet of Curiosities goes film-by-film through del Toro’s filmography up through Pacific Rim. The book also includes thoughtful passages by some of del Toro’s friends, including Alfonso Cuaron, James Cameron, and Tom Cruise. There’s even a section for del Toro films that have yet to be made, offering a look at what might be/could have been (yes, At the Mountains of Madness is included). This is an excellent gift for anyone with a passion for the arts, in any form.
Speaking of art, this collection of color scripts and select artwork from the past 25 years of Pixar films also makes for a swell coffee table addition, especially for animation aficionados. It’s easy to get lost for hours in the gorgeous imagery on display in this book, which chronicles every Pixar movie up through Cars 2 as well as many of the studio’s short films. The book is divided in two halves, the first being the color scripts (which are an overview of the colors used in each scene of a movie), and the second being selected artwork from the films, including concept art and storyboards.
I’ve loaned my personal copy of this complete series DVD set to numerous friends over the years, and not one of them has had a less than enthusiastic reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s endlessly entertaining political drama. It’s not only a smart and insightful show, but it’s also flat-out hilarious. The cast is incredible, and while the quality dips in season five after the departure of Sorkin, the show finds a different but still compelling groove in its final two seasons. You don’t have to be into politics to appreciate The West Wing, but this would be a particularly solid gift for those who have plans to one day join the ranks of those working in the capital.
Here’s something a bit more expensive for movie lovers, but it’s a fantastic resource nonetheless. The Masterpiece Collection includes 14 films from legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, including Vertigo, Rope, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Psycho, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and many more, all of which are worth poring over on repeat viewings. Additionally, each film comes loaded with extras including newsreel footage, photographs, and excerpts from the Hitchcock-Truffaut interview. Even if you’re not a Hitchcock superfan, The Masterpiece Collection is an invaluable look into the process of one of the best directors of all time.
Better to Give
I recommend donating to the Best Friends Animal Society, an organization committed to rescuing pets and finding them good homes in an effort to reduce the number of animals that are killed at shelters. We’ve already seen how terribly animals can be treated in the movie industry, and there are millions of homeless pets under the threat of euthanasia every day. If you’re thinking about getting a dog or a cat, I implore you to consider adoption rather than purchasing one from a breeder. You’ll be saving a life, and by donating to Best Friends Animal Society, you can aid even more pets in finding homes.
Click over to Page 3 for Dave’s picks.