Gift Guide for the Movie Lover

Earlier this week I shared some of my favorite gift ideas for the foodie in your life. Today, I’m back with ideas for your favorite movie lover.

For this particular list, I’ve included a few “experience” gifts. I think those are often the most fun to give to someone because it creates memories and stories to share later. Here’s a few ideas to help you find the perfect gift:

A membership or gift certificate to a local arthouse cinema. You may have heard a particular theater name dropped by your movie fan before, but in case you need a little help finding that arthouse theater check out the lists here or here. This is a great stocking stuffer!

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Castro Theatre, San Francisco

A next level gift to effect is buying a pass to a film festival they’ve always wanted to attend (or the flight that will help them get there). Sundance may be too hard to organize this late in the year (typically finding a place in Park City is difficult by mid-December), but there are several great regional festivals in the spring, summer or fall that are options too. Granted this particular gift may include a discussion before you buy a flight or pass for someone, but I promise this get-a-way trip will be an experience they won’t soon forget!

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SIFF Cinema Uptown, Seattle

A membership to a local film society. There’s not a full organized list online, so your best bet is to google the person’s city plus “film society” or “film festival”. That should help you find the non-profit in that area that has a mission to promote film and art. (If you need help finding a good one, email me.) This is a gift that’s both fun and feel-good. Many of these non-profit orgs do specials around the holidays for just such gifts!

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The Graduate (1967)

Blu-rays are always an option, but the trick is picking the right film. It’s all a matter of knowing taste, both yours a gift giver and theirs as a gift receiver. I think you can never go wrong with gifting a few classics like Casablanca,  Dr. Strangelove, The Graduate, or the James Bond collection.

An alternative to the blu-ray: a gift card for streaming service through iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, HBOGo, SundanceNow (for the doc fans) or TCM/Criterion’s FilmStruck. Films are increasingly moving to these online services, so while it’s not the most fun gift to open it’s the reality of how most people are watching their movies.

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Napoleon Dynamite poster, Etsy

Film art and posters! The options here are endless. You could go with something classic like Sunset Boulevard or The Apartment. Or try something a little different, like a minimalist original design. Mondo is one of the more famous stores for this, but you can also find an assortment on Etsy: Ghostbusters, Funny FaceHarry Potter, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Napoleon Dynamite. Or even a “badly drawn” portrait of Orson Welles for that Citizen Kane fan!

Apple TV. We received this as a gift last year and it has been used far more than our blu-ray player ever since. The Amazon Fire is a decent alternative (though we rarely use the one I received for work). For someone that streams movies through Amazon over iTunes, it may be the one to get.

What have been your favorite movie gifts of the past?  What are you getting your movie lover this year? (Don’t worry, I won’t tell them!) I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

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And now, a list.

Since I was a kid, I have often kept a list of movies I want to see. This started when I cut out the first American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” list in our local newspaper. I taped it to my bookcase and set a goal to watch all 100 films by the end of the summer. That was 1998. I was 15.

Being in a small town, I couldn’t get my hands on some of the older titles. The rental shop wasn’t a Blockbuster, it was a trailer with a drive-thru window. Yes, a trailer converted into a video rental store. I have vivid memories of the floor creaking as I walked up and down the “aisles”. Kat’s Video in small town Louisiana was never going to carry a copy of The Jazz Singer or Modern Times. I was SOL on that front.

The older titles can still be hard to find for most people. If you’re lucky to live near Los Angeles in New York (or another film-friendly city), then maybe you can catch something at your local arthouse theater. I encourage you to see them on a big screen. It is a truly magical experience. I finally saw Lawrence of Arabia two years ago on the big screen. Some things are worth the wait. Check!

For other nights, there is the internet. While finding films is often easier to view, many films are still not digitized. Popularity makes certain films a priority when it comes to updating and preserving.

AFI’s marketing leaders knew a good thing when they saw it. They spent the next ten years creating more lists (Stars!, Laughs!, Thrills!) and then reranking the top 100 again in 2007. Several titles fell off the list completely. It’s interesting to look at this list after some time away and think about what films would be on it now.

I still haven’t finished the original AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list. I enjoy coming back to it every few years to see my progress. I’m ok with knowing I may never mark all of them off. The list was merely a step in a process, an education and an inspiration that led me to where I am today. For that I’m grateful.

Do you have a “movies to watch” list? Do you track what films you’ve seen? What movies on this list have you not seen yet?  What films are missing from this list (granted, you’ve traveled through time and it’s still 1998, so There Will Be Blood can’t be added!)

# Title Watched it?
1 Citizen Kane (1941)
2 Casablanca (1942)
3 The Godfather (1972)
4 Gone with the Wind (1939)
5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7 The Graduate (1967)
8 On the Waterfront (1954)
9 Schindler’s List (1993)
10 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
11 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
12 Sunset Blvd. (1950)
13 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
14 Some Like It Hot (1959)
15 Star Wars (1977)
16 All About Eve (1950)
17 The African Queen (1951)
18 Psycho (1960)
19 Chinatown (1974)
20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
21 The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
22 2001: A Spae Odyssey (1968)
23 The Maltese Falcon (1941)
24 Raging Bull (1980)
25 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
27 Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
28 Apocalypse Now (1979)
29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
30 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
31 Annie Hall (1977)
32 The Godfather Part II (1974)
33 High Noon (1952)
34 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
35 It Happened One Night (1934)
36 Midnight Cowboy (1969)
37 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38 Double Indemnity (1944)
39 Doctor Zhivago (1965)
40 North By Northwest (1959)
41 West Side Story (1961)
42 Rear Window (1954)
43 King Kong (1933)
44 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
45 A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
46 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
47 Taxi Driver (1976)
48 Jaws (1975)
49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
51 The Philadelphia Story (1940)
52 From Here to Eternity (1953)
53 Amadeus (1984)
54 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
55 The Sound of Music (1965)
56 M*A*S*H (1970)
57 The Third Man (1949)
58 Fantasia (1940)
59 Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
60 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
61 Vertigo (1958)
62 Tootsie (1982)
63 Stagecoach (1939)
64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
66 Network (1976)
67 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
68 An American in Paris (1951)
69 Shane (1953)
70 The French Connection (1971)
71 Forrest Gump (1994)
72 Ben-Hur (1959)
73 Wuthering Heights (1939)
74 The Gold Rush (1925)
75 Dances with Wolves (1990)
76 City Lights (1931)
77 Americna Graffiti (1973)
78 Rocky (1976)
79 The Deer Hunter (1978)
80 The Wild Bunch (1969)
81 Modern Times (1936)
82 Giant (1956)
83 Platoon (1986)
84 Fargo (1996)
85 Duck Soup (1933)
86 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
87 Frankenstein (1931)
88 Easy Rider (1969)
89 Patton (1970)
90 The Jazz Singer (1927)
91 My Fair Lady (1964)
92 A Place in the Sun (1951)
93 The Apartment (1960)
94 Goodfellas (1990)
95 Pulp Fiction (1994)
96 The Searchers (1956)
97 Bringing Up Baby (1938)
98 Unforgiven (1992)
99 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
100 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Films that feel like October, Part I

October has always been one of my favorite months. As a kid, I loved getting into the Halloween spirit and thinking of creative costumes. In my 20s, October seemed like the month when a routine for the season finally set in. I love that changes in temperature and maybe discovering a golden leaf. In the South, the break in the heat was a much-needed relief. In Los Angeles, the land of no-seasons, the change isn’t as clear. There are moments when the breeze comes through the window and we wake up to our apartment being chilly. Suddenly, autumn has arrived.

There are some films I revisit every October. They give me a sense of the autumn spirit and remind me of the passage of time no matter what the weather is outside. This is part one of two posts this week about films that set the autumn mood for me.

Good Will Hunting not only has the “back to school” vibe, but I feel the cool Boston air as the camera moves through the Harvard and MIT campuses. Robin William’s cozy sweater wardrobe can’t be ignored either. They are on point.

The story of When Harry Met Sally covers all the seasons, but the shots of Harry and Sally walking amongst those bright red and orange trees in New York City are saved like a screen shot in my brain. Watching that comedy is like preparing yourself for the oncoming holiday madness, no matter your dating or marriage status. As Sally mentions, you just have to get through Thanksgiving to New Years.

Days of Heaven‘s stunning cinematography reminds me of how the days are getting shorter. Set in the early 1900s on the panhandle of Texas, this Terrance Malick film was shot mostly during “magic hour”. The sky glows beautifully during the harvesting scenes and its easy to get lost in this love triangle story. (I may have to curl up in a blanket and write a longer post about this one.)

As soon as the weather turns slightly cooler here, I start baking. Because we don’t have central air/heat, we are particular about when we use the oven. The moment I realize I can turn it on and it wouldn’t make the house too hot, my mind and stomach immediately goes to baking. I’ve been on a low FODMAP diet for the last several months for health reasons and including gluten is still a little tricky at times. While deep in the recipe-rabbit-hole, I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Granola Bars. I’ve made it each week for the past month (despite a short heat wave last week). So yes, we’re now a little obsessed with them. It’s perfect as a snack or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it “feels” healthy because OATS, so that’s good, right?

What are some of your autumn favorites? Any non-horror films put you in the October mood for tricks-or-treats? Do you find yourself craving pumpkin (or do you hate the non-stop marketing and vow to eat all things non-pumpkin)?

Stay tuned for more autumn picks on Thursday!

Pumpkin Granola Bars
from The Well Balanced FODMAPer
*I have experimented a little with the amounts for this, using a little more pumpkin or adding ginger spice at times. It’s always turned out amazing, so go for it.

Should make about 10 smaller size granola bars. Serving size: 1 bar

2 cups oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon all spice

Preheat oven to 325°.
Blend all ingredients together. Press very firmly into lightly greased 8 x 8 square pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.
Refrigerating will keep the bars firmer.

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
– Good Will Hunting – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– When Harry Met Sally – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– Days of Heaven – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue (make sure you get the Blu-ray!)
– Or support your local rental store!

 

A Classic Combo: Casablanca (1942) & Champagne Cocktail

I’m not the first person to say how amazing Casablanca is, nor will I be the last. It only seems fitting to kick-start this blog with one of my favorite films and a celebratory champagne cocktail.

Rick, an American expatriate played by Humphrey Bogart, runs a saloon in Casablanca as the Nazi’s have invaded Europe. When his former lover, Isla (Ingrid Bergman), arrives to town with her husband, Victor Lazlo, Rick is forced to face the bitterness of his past. Victor, a renowned Nazi resistance leader, is on the run. Rick must choose between assisting Victor’s escape and his love for Isla.

There are so many wonderful things about this film that we could be here forever. But first, there’s Ingrid. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing Ingrid. Oh, how I wish I was her. Those eyes! Those hats! Her careful lighting makes her leap off the screen during every scene. Besides my massive girl crush, Casablanca truly is one of the best romance stories ever. Trust, love, war and making the ultimate choice. This film wraps you up and takes you away. Hollywood has been trying to top this ever since (and has failed often as we all know and will discuss later).

The champagne flows throughout Casablanca as refugees make the best of their war-torn situation. Rick and Isla share a glass of it often, most notably as the Nazi’s march into Paris (so the Nazi’s won’t have any to drink upon arrival).

Dating back to the early 1860s, the champagne cocktail is a sweet and bubbly delight. How could drinking a glass not make you feel like Isla or Rick, making you just light-headed enough and falling in love all over again?

If you haven’t seen this movie, seek it out immediately to remedy. Find a retro screening (support your indie theater or local film society!) or download from your favorite Silicon Valley tech giant. It is the perfect film for a weekend evening, perhaps with a glass of champagne by your side.

1 Champagne Cocktail
Champagne
2/3 oz Cognac or Brandy
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sugar cube

Dash the bitters onto the sugar cube, add the cognac and chilled champagne. Garnish with a cherry or citrus twist if you like

So here’s the classic question: Would you get on the plane? Have another Champagne cocktail favorite? Tell me in the comments below!

-Watch Casablanca on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue. Or even better, support your local rental store!-