The Pitch’s 2020 gift guide for the movie fanatic in your life
Gifts for cineastes, horror nerds, and everyone in between
The holidays are upon us! While the winter shopping season (at least for me, anyway) usually conjures up visions of traveling between various fun stores toting an armload of bags, the current state of public health means most of us will be doing even more online shopping and gifting via mail than usual.
If you’re the kind of person who thrives on giving special gifts that specifically fit the person you’re giving them to, finding a dependable resource for awesome niche items can be tough if you don’t know where to look. So let us help! Gathered here you’ll find great options for film nerd-centric gifts, whether you’re looking for something fancy and impressive, want to support local businesses or just give something your friends, family or loved ones will never forget.
For the one who wears fandom on their sleeve
Girls on Tops
Maybe you’ve seen the photos: talented luminaries like Tracy Letts, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Rooney Mara or Annie Clark wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned simply with the name of a great female filmmaker or actress. The source of these basic but impactful shirts: Girls on Tops, which celebrates women in film through their designs. Every purchase supports female-led film projects and writing on film by female writers. Do a little good with your gifting this year, and let the cinephiles in your life dress like famous people without breaking the bank. Orders ship from the UK, so make sure you get yours in early.
There are plenty of wearable options out there for casual fans of Star Wars, Marvel or Wonder Woman. But what about those of us who want to boldly wear our obsessive love for Judy Greer, Joan Cusack or Rian Johnson? If you or your giftee’s movie love runs hyper-specific, Super Yaki has what you need. This online designer of clothes, hats, pins and more caters to fans’ strongest cinematic opinions; whether that’s demanding justice for Kelly Marie Tran, proclaiming love for Josie and the Pussycats or requesting a third National Treasure movie. These items make a statement that, when we’re out in public again, will draw attention and start conversations (I speak from experience: I’ve had two Super Yaki-based interactions with strangers in the last year just in KC).
For the person on your list who loves classic horror and good personal style, look no further than Future Monsters, which offers throwback designs that look cooler than your average novelty shirt, in addition to actual vintage items. Designs range from reproductions of 70s iron-on graphic tees (with a print that’ll stick around longer than the plasticky DIY version) to wacky PSAs featuring Bigfoot and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, to psychedelic graphics starring the Phantom of the Opera and Nosferatu’s Count Orlok. Even the shirts themselves are old school: all the original design items are made exclusively for the store. No matter what their preferred spooky beastie is, your favorite horror fan will thank you for your impeccable taste.
For the art connoisseur
Maybe you’re looking for a movie-themed gift that’s a little more subdued. Something your giftee can display in their office or a prominent spot in their home that looks, dare we say, adult. If that’s where you’re at, Frome is your answer. The company makes its distinctive art by breaking movies down into the average color from each film frame, and smooshing those colors together onto a panoramic canvas, creating a unique spectrum of colors that represent each film. It’s a modern, sleek piece of design with hundreds of choices in varying sizes, letting your friend or loved one proudly display their love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a way that won’t embarrass them at work.
Artist Tim Doyle creates and curates fantastic pop culture-themed artworks at Nakatomi Incorporated, with exclusive, gorgeous prints that celebrate great movies and TV shows. Snag a trio of Twin Peaks-themed gig posters, a portrait of your favorite Wes Anderson antihero, or a realistic-looking version of Moe’s Tavern or the Spirited Away bathhouse. Support independent artists and give the gift of aesthetically-pleasing, profoundly nerdy wall art.
Gallery 1988 is a revered entity among pop culture nerds, with a history of showcasing prints, original artwork and more that cater to a variety of tastes and price points. Know someone who’d love a one-of-a-kind Heathers-inspired slushie painting? How about a set of custom-painted Robocop nesting dolls? Maybe they’d dig a set of graffiti-style art prints starring the cast of Wet Hot American Summer. Whether you’re looking for highbrow or lowbrow, luxe or simple, there’s something here for everyone.
Jack Pullin’s art collective TitleCards is bringing attention to Black filmmaking and supporting Black Lives Matter with its unique prints by illustrators depicting great Black films. The handsome prints come with a baseball card-like description featuring information about the film, as well as the illustrator. All proceeds go to Black Lives Matter-related organizations, so you can help your favorite movie fan display their love of Get Out, I Am Not Your Negro or Boyz in the Hood while also helping do some real good.
For the reader
Binging with Babish: 100 Recipes Recreated from Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows
Andrew Rea’s YouTube cooking show Binging with Babish, in which he painstakingly recreates famous foods from movies and TV, boasts millions of fans. His cookbook, published last year, features recipes for one hundred of the most popular items from the show, which combines pop culture nerdery with foodie knowledge and learning. Some of the recipes are easy and fun to whip up in your home kitchen (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, or Seinfeld’s Babka, for those still feeling the quarantine baking bug). Others, like the gargantuan timpano from the movie Big Night are more aspirational in nature, but no less enjoyable to read about. Pop culture-inspired cookbooks can feel gimmicky or non-reproducible. Rea’s recipes–even the ones you’ll never make yourself–contain tasty results and genuinely useful techniques that will up your culinary game.
A is for Auteur
Cory Everett’s Cinephile card game is a cult favorite among Film Twitter, with Zoom-based game nights now taking the place of culture writers bringing a set along with them to play during scant down time at film festivals. Everett followed up his game this year with A is for Auteur, a cinema-themed alphabet book designed to encourage future generations of film nerds. Everett’s book, gorgeously illustrated by Cinephile artist Steve Isaacs, is an alphabet of famous directors written in cheeky verse that covers filmmakers both mainstream (Alfred Hitchcock, Kathryn Bigelow, Nora Ephron) and arthouse (Yasujiro Ozu, Agnes Varda, Edward Yang). It’s a fun aspirational checklist for the cineastes-to-be in your life–and their parents–as well as an entertaining conversation starter for grown-ups.
$80 for one year
Since 1979, Fangoria magazine has been beloved among horror fans for its behind-the-scenes set visits, deep-dive interviews, and genre commentary. Resurrected as a quarterly print magazine in 2018 by editor-in-chief Phil Nobile, the current iteration of Fango runs outstanding articles and fiction from some of the best writers and critics in the business. It also contains regular contributions from legit horror legends and A-listers (Barbara Crampton, Jordan Peele, Edgar Wright, and Patton Oswalt have all lent their voices to recent issues). Snagging a gift subscription for the gorehound in your life is a double service since you’re not only providing an awesome present but supporting a tradition of editorial quality and next-level nerddom.
For the one who shops local
Local independent theaters have struggled this year, and need our help more than ever. Consider supporting indie theaters with a gift card that your recipient can use to rent online titles (proceeds go to the theaters hosting them), pick up snacks and concessions to enjoy at home, or use when it’s safe to go back to the theater. Lawrence’s Liberty Hall and KC’s Screenland Armour both offer gift card options in varying amounts.
Film Society KC membership
$30-$65 for an annual membership
For years, Film Society KC has been a great resource for local filmmakers and movie fans, offering support to artists, and events and education opportunities for area cinephiles. Annual membership comes in at three price points, and includes access to Film Society KC screening events and mixers, as well as special perks at local theaters. The first 50 new and renewing memberships get a swanky face mask in addition to the knowledge that they’re helping support the KC film scene.
If you’re considering going full-tilt horror with your gifting this year (because 2020), KC’s Rotten Rentals makes a fun smaller gift, stocking stuffer or item to ship to an out-of-town friend. Their classic VHS clamshells feature vintage or limited edition custom art, and are packed with novelty items including pins, trading cards, figurines and stickers. The Happy Horrordays section features holiday and winter-themed movies, which is a perfect gift for the Silent Night, Deadly Night fan in your life. Starting January 2021, Rotten Rentals will also offer items for kids, just in case you want to get a jump on planning for next year.
For the one who just wants movies
Criterion Collection Essential Fellini box set
The one-two punch of quarantine and winter weather means we’re all about to spend even more time indoors than we already have been. If you’re feeling generous (or want to give your partner, family member or friend something they’ll share with you), Criterion’s gorgeous box set celebrating the work of Italian director Federico Fellini provides education and entertainment in equal measure. In typical Criterion fashion, the set’s 14 blu-rays are pristine 4K restorations crammed with extras including feature-length documentaries, interviews, video essays and audio commentaries. In addition, the set includes two illustrated books: a volume of notes on the included films from scholar David Forgacs, and a set of essays on Fellini by filmmakers like Kogonada and Overland Park native Michael Almereyda, as well as writers like critic Bilge Ebiri and novelist Colm Tóibín. There’s enough content and beauty here to keep your intended recipient occupied for months, and indebted to you for even longer than that.
Weathering with You box set
Know an anime fan who needs a gift? Try Shout! Factory’s limited collector’s edition of Makoto Shinkai’s critically lauded 2019 film Weathering with You. Shout! Factory’s set comes with a 4K blu-ray, a 108-page book, soundtrack of the film, mini-poster and sticker, along with a boatload of special features. Any fan of Shinkai’s work (and if your giftee is even a casual anime fan, chances are good they are) will find lots of fun stuff to sink their teeth into here.
Dial Code Santa Claus (aka 3615 code Père Noël) Ultra HD blu-ray
Perhaps you know a Home Alone superfan who needs to branch out a little. Maybe you’ve got a hardcore cult film junkie in your life. Or, possibly, you just want to lightly traumatize your friends and family. If any of those statements describe your situation, the deranged 1989 French thriller Dial Code Santa Claus, in which a wealthy child genius fends off an home invading honest-to-god psycho murderer dressed as Santa, is your ticket. Thanks to streaming services like Shudder and specialty houses like Vinegar Syndrome, Dial Code Santa Claus (which also goes by the names Deadly Games and 3615 code Père Noël) has gained a reinvigorated cult following in recent years. Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K blu-ray release is sharp and colorful, with extras that include featurettes, short films and a music video for Bonnie Tyler’s single Merry Christmas. Depending on the desired reaction, it’ll either be the high point of your holiday, or the gift that gets you un-invited from celebrations for the foreseeable future.