Support the campaign for physical items. We’ve all gotten used to consuming movies and music through the nebulous medium of streaming. But it’s no fun passing along a link to the latest Netflix box set on Christmas. There is no box to start with.
Gift DVDs and Blu-rays of movies your friends might have missed at the theater. Give them movies that start the holidays. Nothing satisfies this last criterion better this year than Dexter Fletcher’s super record. Rocket man. Elton John’s biopic comes with a sing-along version that will annoy as many guests as it delights. The highest grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame, is available to stream, but the 4K Ultra HD disc comes with some tasty extras: deleted scenes, gag reels, and features like “The Women of the MCU” and “Remembering Stan Lee.” Excelsior! Fans of the John Wick super series will be delighted with this year’s Amazon exclusive version of the series John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: including a souvenir gold coin, a metal card for the hotel lobby and an illustration of the suave case. All this and Keanu Reeves of spectacular violence.
Best versions of 2019
Away from the blockbusters, there are tempting DVDs of the best releases of 2019 that can be hard to find on streaming services. There hasn’t been a happier movie this year than amazing Grace, the much delayed documentary on Aretha Franklin’s famous gospel concert in 1972 in Los Angeles. Buy in the right place and you will get a good package on the DVD and the classic album it generated. You might even find yourself celebrating “the true meaning of Christmas” while singing along.
Irish co-production The favourite, for which Olivia Colman won an Oscar in February, is now on DVD and will play well on fans of sass and salt. Also rush to the upsetting of Nadine Labaki Capernaum, the story of a young boy making his way through troubled Beirut. Another 2019 masterpiece that may have slipped under the radar is that of Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra Birds of passage. A well-packaged DVD of the Colombian War on Drugs epic is available from Curzon.
The best bet for connoisseurs may be one of the newly packaged vintage TV sets. Middle Aged Men and Women Will Cry For The New Classic Puppet Spy Series Set Joe 90. They will chuckle at the recent “complete collection” of The candies: a comedy series which, although more mainstream, was just as inventive as Monty Python. The choice of reissues may be the last wrapping of The world at war. The classic WWII documentary has been on DVD for some time, but this Blu-ray box set offers (controversially perhaps) the first widescreen release.
It is always worth using caution when buying hit records for friends and family on Christmas. Maybe have a gun in their shelves before committing to an LP they might already own. There have been few better records this year than Lana Del Rey Norman F ** King Rockwell (our asterisks), a sprawling collection of awkward romance and lush melody, but it may already be in the DVD box. You could try your luck instead on the challenge, traumatic Caligula by Lingua Ignota: a terrifying and irresistible mixture of nu-opera and nervous breakdown.
Most of the year’s best records once again put women front and center: the melancholy, melancholy vocals of Kelsey Lu Some blood, Solange is smart When I come back home, the epic of Weyes Bloods Rise of the Titanic. Adrianne Lenker featured prominently on not one, but two brilliant off-center folk-rock records from Big Thief in 2019: UFOF and Two hands. Buy the pair for thoughtful and sensitive associates. We also mention that Nick Cave delivered another classic in Ghosteen, but you and your friends already know that.
Reconditioning of vintage equipment
Again, the best bet for giveaways may be a lush repackaging of vintage material. There are plenty of them around. The most remarkable is surely the enormous 50th anniversary box set of the Beatles Abbey Route. The four CDs – containing new mixes, clips and everything in between – came together in a 100-page book with a foreword by Paul McCartney and a rock-boffin David Hepworth essay. There is also a triple vinyl version and a more economical double CD box. You will know someone who wants it.
Jazz fans are more than ever served. Choose between Coltrane ’58, a huge collection of recordings by the saxophonist for Prestige that year, or that of Miles Davis The complete birth of cool, a lavish review of the groundbreaking 1950 album on two vinyl records.
As the season progresses, a certain atmosphere is welcome and Brian Eno’s new box set Apollo: atmospheres and soundtracks does the trick well. Originally recorded for an Apollo space program documentary, the album was largely ignored when it was released in 1983, but went on to become one of Eno’s most popular records – heard in films such as Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. The new version, released 50 years after the moon landing, adds a whole record of new music. Who could resist such a peace?
Moe Dunford’s Top Picks
Moe Dunford has been everywhere this year. The Dungarvan actor appeared in the films Dark Lies the Island and The Dig. He also has a key supporting role in the hit television series Dublin Murders. As we speak, he’s training in Bedfordshire for James Kermack’s upcoming action flick, Knuckledust.
“A Star Wars Blu-ray is always good for Christmas,” he says. “It’ll get you in the mood. While we wait for Disney + to hit these shores, we can enjoy (or gift) some pretty new Blu-rays of every movie – from A New Hope to Solo – with some lavish bonuses. Dunford recommends an old favorite as the cabinet of choice.
“I love Band of Brothers,” he says. “It started the new wave of television before Netflix or anything else. It’s only 10 episodes long and you can go through it in a weekend. Damian Lewis is great as a captain. He plays a leader of men so well. You are taking such a trip with them. And it’s great to see how these actors have made great careers. If I even think about the musical theme now, I feel emotional. It’s just a series and these days it’s rare to have that.
Dunford also steers us towards lasting musical enthusiasm. “I love all of Damian Dempsey’s records,” he says. “I like the variation and the styles in all the albums. He experiments while being true to his own voice. It’s a cathartic experience to go to his concerts. It is good for the soul. He is particularly fond of the 2017 Soulsun album. Union of last year is also a strong set.