Movies on DVD and Blu-ray disc are, generally speaking, well-received by the ones being gifted. And why not? Most people are movie fans -- with some more fanatical than others -- and when you take a little time to peruse the offerings available in stores or on-line, it's usually not terribly hard to find the right match for each person on your list.
But in case you need a little help figuring out what kind of fan you have to buy for (be they family members, friends and/or whomever else you've elected to give these kinds of gifts), here's a brief suggestion guide. In it, I'll name and define the type of movie fan you're dealing with, then give you a few options.
The High-Volume Collector: This is a person who accumulates movies of sometimes wildly varying quality at an astonishing, perhaps even geometric, rate. (If he or she has a specially-designated room in their living space dedicated to containing their selections, and yet you consistently find stacks of movies in every other room, you're clearly dealing with a High-Volume Collector.)
For this type of movie fan, one movie at a time may not be enough, but the continuing decrease of storage space is likely fast becoming an issue. Thankfully, in recent years, as packaging technology has improved, disc distributors have developed ways to pack up to five discs in the same amount of space that traditionally held one, or at most, two.
A number of studios are using this advance to package related films together and sell them for one price. Granted, the relationship between the movies can sometimes be awfully thin (Warner Home Video, for example, offers themed film collections under the Turner Classic Movies banner; they and other studios also seem content to also slap a few movies together into a box because they share the same star), but if you are looking to give someone an inexpensive movie gift with plenty of content, you could do worse. A warning, though -- if your High-Volume Collector also values the bonus material that comes with some discs, multi-disc offerings may not be the best choice, since these are usually bare-bones presentations, featuring the movie and little else.
The TV Fan: If you've got someone on the list who enjoys television and wants to watch their favorites again and again -- or maybe prefers to watch the whole season of a series without interruption -- a DVD box set of a favorite show is something that he or she will genuinely appreciate.
It used to be a lot tougher to find box sets -- or at least affordable ones -- because the TV industry was initially resistant to the idea of selling entire seasons directly to the public before the program could go through other channels, such as syndication. But DVD has proved to be a good ancillary market for television series, so most new shows find their way to disc pretty quickly, and often with plenty of bonus material for the fans.
If you're buying something for your TV Fan, it's a good idea to know what they like (duh), but if you have someone who is a little more adventurous, perhaps you could give them a set from a series that they know of, but haven't seen. Shows like AMC's "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" are Emmy-award winners, sure, but they aren't among the most watched programs on TV. An HBO crime drama called "The Wire" is considered by many critics to be one of the finest contributions to the medium, but many people have never even heard of it, even though it aired around the same time as the much-better-known HBO series "The Sopranos."
The Critic: A tough person to buy a movie for -- no, the toughest. Ask them what they want (or worse, make a few suggestions), then stand back as they make their feelings known. (And by the way, I am well-aware that I am describing myself here.)
Buying a movie for a Critic means paying close attention to what they like -- and what they don't -- then doing your own research (and perhaps praying for strength). Thankfully, DVD and Blu-ray offers some fantastic options again this year, especially for those Critics who are looking for immersive experiences.
If your Critic is into classics, there are new deluxe anniversary editions of "Ben Hur" and "Citizen Kane" that feature not just the restored films, but also hours of additional material. The "Ben Hur" set, for example, contains a disc with the original silent film version from 1925, as well as book of production photos, a reproduction of lead actor Charlton Heston's production diary, a pair of feature-length documentaries and much more. "Citizen Kane" also contains two other feature films, the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" and a made-for-HBO docudrama about the making of the movie called "RKO 281," plus a commemorative booklet.
Other great options for Critics are offered through the Criterion Collection, a series of films both foreign and domestic, known and obscure. Criterion Collection discs are often loaded with bonus material, including interviews with the filmmakers, additional documentary material and other new and exclusive content. The people who put together the Criterion Collection expend a lot of time and energy to make their editions the definitive ones of the films they select for their showcase, and that comes through loud and clear. If you get stuck trying to think of what to buy a Critic, go to www.criterion.com and check out their offerings. Better yet, print off a list of the films they have available, hand it to the Critic on your list and watch his or her eyes light up. (I know mine did.)
So that's it for my guide. I hope I've given you a few good ideas for items to give the movie fans on your list -- or at least helped you identify what not to give them. As for myself, I'm moseying over to the Criterion website again. They've got a shiny new version of "12 Angry Men" over there...hint, hint.