Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

No More Sweaters: How to Shop For the Film Geek In Your Life

Posted by CinemaPsycho on December 4, 2011

Before I begin, let me just say that I use the term “film geek” with affection, not as an insult or generUnknown.jpegalization. As far as I’m concerned, everyone’s a geek in one way or another. I consider sports fans to be “sports geeks”, car guys to be “car geeks”, etc. I don’t really see the difference between obsessing over one thing and obsessing over another thing – the only difference is that some obsessions are more socially acceptable than others. So when I use the term “film geek”, I’m absolutely including myself in that category, and proudly so. I think film is a perfectly legitimate subject to be interested in (certainly more so than a lot of other things out there), and should be acknowledged as such. I don’t mean it as a slight in any way, and I’m aware that there are different types of film geeks out there. If I generalize here, it’s more for expedience than anything else. I’m directing a lot of this at the non-geeks, the “normals” as I call them, so some generalization is necessary. Let’s not make an issue out of it, OK?

I don’t know how many of us have this problem, but I’m willing to bet that most of us have at least one friend, relative, significant other, etc. who just don’t know what to buy us for Christmas. This is because they’re not film geeks themselves, don’t know our interests or tastes, and simply aren’t motivated to find out. I personally have relatives who give me sweaters and gift cards every year, without fail. Even though I drop hints here and there from Thanksgiving on, it doesn’t seem to register. Now, for some people a sweater might be a perfectly adequate gift, but I don’t like sweaters and I don’t wear them. So they’re basically giving me something I don’t want and will never use. Gift cards technically get the job done, I suppose, but to me they deliver the message, “I don’t know you or your tastes well enough to get you an actual present.” I honestly feel that the whole point of giving presents is to give someone something they would actually want, but might never actually buy for themselves. There’s nothing like tearing the gift wrap off of a present and actually getting something you really like and appreciate. Just as you wouldn’t get a rock fan a Black Eyed Peas CD (one would hope), or a sports fan a book of poetry, you should give the film geek you know something specific to their tastes and interests. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So what I intend to do here is to give the “normals” a few general tips on how to shop for the film geek they know and love. These tips will seem obvious to us fellow cinephiles, but I assure you that the normals have no idea about any of this. This is not a gift guide, I’m not going to tell anyone exactly what to buy. I just want to encourage people to make a little effort and give them some general hints to help them do so. So feel free to share this with the normals you know who have trouble buying gifts for you, if you think they wouldn’t be offended. I just don’t want any more damn sweaters, and I’m sure a lot of us feel the same way. Let’s get started:

Obviously, the best gift to buy a film geek would be a movie. While it may seem too obvious to some, this is not the worst way to go. Whether you shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores (yes, some people still do that), buying a movie is a pretty simple thing to do if you know what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend. So here are some tips in that direction:

– First and foremost, be format-specific. If the person has a Blu-Ray player, they’re not going to want a standard DVD. Conversely, if the person uses a standard DVD player, they’re not going to have much use for a Blu-Ray disc except maybe as a tiny frisbee or a drink coaster. While Blu-Ray is the hot thing in home video now, many people can’t afford to buy an HDTV and upgrade their systems, so you might be surprised how many of us still use standard DVDs.

– Make an effort to find out what directors and genres they like, and try to get a sense of what they already own. This may not seem easy, but if there’s anything film geeks love talking about, it’s movies. If a person is into horror, sci-fi and/or action films, they’re probably not going to want a copy of Steel Magnolias. But if they prefer comedies and animated films, they might not appreciate Hostel Part II. Use common sense when it comes to this aspect.

– Try not to go for the most obvious choices. This may be difficult but it is crucial, and a little bit of online research might be necessary. For example, if the person is a big Hitchcock fan (and who isn’t), they probably already own the major staples like Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, etc. So try something like To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder or The Trouble with Harry. If they already own those, go for something even older like Saboteur or Lifeboat. It might take a little extra effort, but I guarantee you they’ll appreciate it. This goes for pretty much every major director with a long-running career. A Coppola fan probably owns the Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, but they might not yet own The Conversation. If they do, at least they’ll know you took a decent shot.

– If you’re willing to spend a little bit, a nice box set is always welcome. There are plenty of them out there, and many are specific to directors and actors. Even if they already own one or two of the films, there’s a good chance they don’t own all of them. If you want to go cheaper, a good double-feature disc is nice too. Especially if the person loves a specific genre like film noir or gangster films or Westerns, you can usually find something to fit the bill there. The more extras on the disc(s), the better.

– Don’t be afraid to go obscure. Just because you haven’t heard of something, that doesn’t mean a film-obsessive person hasn’t. Most of us love discovering some obscure flick we’ve never gotten around to yet, or rediscovering a film we haven’t seen in years. Check out the Warner Archives website or Amazon’s MGM On Demand section for some choice obscure flicks. If they know you ordered something specifically for them that’s not in general release, that works in your favor because you made a special effort. Generally, they cost around $20 each, about what you would pay for a new release.

– Conversely, try to stay away from the cheap compilations you find in the $5 bins. The transfers are usually not good and they often border on unwatchable. If the covers look like crap, they’re probably crap on the inside. And the person you’re shopping for will know that you spent the bare minimum on them. You don’t want that. And don’t buy a Christmas movie just because it’s Christmas. That’s lame.

– If you just want to pick up a recent blockbuster and be done with it, that’s fine too. But make sure it’s something that is “geek-approved”, not just popular. This year, you can’t go too far wrong with films like X-Men: First Class, Captain America or Super 8. But whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t buy them a Transformers movie. This is extremely important. There are exceptions, but the majority of film geeks hate Transformers and Michael Bay with a passion. If you buy them that, they will not forgive you for it. Ever.

– If the person is not a film geek but a film snob (an entirely different species), then you’re really going to need to dig deep. The more obscure, foreign and old the better. Preferably black-and-white and/or silent. Keep an eye out for labels like Criterion and Kino International. If it looks like something a normal person wouldn’t watch on a bet, a film snob will love it. If it’s an 8-hour documentary on the Holocaust by a director whose name you can’t pronounce, it’s a sure thing. You don’t want to buy that person anything that even approaches mainstream Hollywood cinema.

– If the person already owns every movie ever made, you can’t go wrong with a book about their favorite film, director or genre. We love reading about movies almost as much as watching them. There are lots of great books out there about every subject imaginable in the world of film. If you don’t have any decent bookstores left in your area, just go online and search.

– Several film sites like AICN have their own Gift Guides up if you’re really hard up for ideas, and they have links to a lot of the latest discs, books and other film-related products, ranging from the relatively cheap to the extremely expensive. You don’t necessarily have to buy something from those pages, but they might give you some general shopping ideas.

So that about covers it. If anyone has any other shopping tips, feel free to post them in the Comments section. Now go and get your favorite film geek something he or she would love. I know they’ll appreciate it, just as I would. Then we can all have a Merry Christmas.

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