Best Gifts For Movie Lovers 2023
Plus reviews of The Iron Claw, Leave The World Behind, & Godzilla Minus One
The countdown to Christmas is officially in overdrive now. Whether you still need to buy one gift or every single gift, most people have a movie lover in their life to buy for.
Before we jump into some films out right now, wanted to start with the best six gifts for movie lovers this holiday season.
P.S. If you don’t have a movie lover to buy for, you probably are the movie lover. Feel free to use this as a way to nudge the loved ones in your life to get you the gift that you really want this holiday season.
Let’s jump in!
MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios
The Marvel machine has been at the forefront of Hollywood for well over a decade now. The dialogue often centers around why the MCU is ruining the collective cinema. But how did we get to that point? This new book dives into all things marvel - the rugged past, the success, and the rocky place the studio currently finds itself in. My favorite parts of the book are the wild tales from the early days of the studio and first hand stories of what actually took place. The reporting is exquisite and it wouldn’t surprise me if decades from now many will refer to this as the primary source text for the current state of Hollywood. Needless to say, this is a must have for anyone that loves Marvel, movies, or the business of Hollywood.
Cost - $28
A24 Card Set
To celebrate the first 10 years of A24, the studio released a collectors set of playing cards. The cards brilliantly feature characters from their films on each card. And boy did A24 knock the selection for each card out of the park. Choosing Howard Ratner and the Green Knight to be Kings is absolutely perfect. Choosing Evelyn Wang and Pearl to be Queens is simply iconic. Plus my personal favorite, Marcel the Shell as an Ace. Maybe the coolest article of merchandise that a studio has ever released. A24’s shop remains undefeated. If you want to be the one to give a movie lover something out of the box that they will love, this is your gift.
Cost - $20
Where to buy - A24 store
For some people the most wonderful time of the year is the holiday season, but for movie lovers the most wonderful time of the year is Oscar season. Oscar Wars is the definitive account of not only how the awards came to be but how they grew in the American consciousness to the point where they couldn’t be controlled (and now are going the opposite way). From the details surrounding the messy Oscar campaigns in the 80s and 90s or what it was like being in the room for the first ceremony, author Michael Schulman makes the reader feel like they are in all of these important rooms hearing these conversations. There aren’t too many books that weave history and story together as well as Oscar Wars does. Easily my favorite book of 2023 and any fan of movies, Oscars, or Hollywood will think the same.
Cost - $30
Asteroid City Blu-Ray
Guillermo Del Toro recently let the world know that if you own a DVD or a Blu-ray, “You are the custodian of those films for generations to come.” While that is certainly a reason to own Wes Anderson’s latest masterpiece, there are thankfully many other reasons that film lovers would love this as a gift.
As many know, Asteroid City is one of my favorite films of the year. The level of detail and intricacy throughout the production process for any Wes Anderson film is always on another level. His creativity and out of the box thinking to craft the perfect frame is something that is rare in the modern age. This level of detail makes the special features on any Wes Anderson film an immediate must watch for me.
The Asteroid City Blu-ray features one of those iconic behind the scenes looks at the making of the film. The seven and a half minute “making of Asteroid City” video shows what filming looked like on the ground in Spain. If that isn’t enough to put a smile on a film lovers face, the ability to watch the crystal clear 1080p cut of one of 2023s best films over and over will.
Cost - $17.99
Past Lives Print
Past Lives is not only one of my favorite films of 2023, but one of the few movies that stirs in your mind for months after viewing it. To celebrate the success of the film, A24 has released 750 limited edition fine art prints of the picture you see above. There are only maybe a dozen films that evoke enough love for me to want to display a print in my office or home as a conversation piece and Past Lives is a lock on that list. Those who feel just as strongly about the film will jump for joy at the opportunity to have a physical representation of the film with them forever.
Cost - $50
Where to buy - A24 Store
Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film
No one is quick to say that they love war, but many are quick to say that they love war movies. Fatal Alliance is unapologetic in its desire to examine the tension between those two and often the contradiction. War movies tell important stories and are typically box office sensations, but is it an issue that it has shaped so much of the collective memory regarding past wars and even what war is? Film critic David Thomson weaves a story of humanity and culture throughout the book that is so well reasoned even the biggest skeptics would be troubled to argue it.
Cost - $28
Where to buy - Amazon
For those who are more interested in what movies to watch this holiday season and not movie related gifts, I also wanted to jump into a few new releases.
The Iron Claw Review
In my last post, I noted that the Iron Claw was my most anticipated film for the remainder of the year. While the film is not set to release until December 22nd, I had the opportunity to see an early screening this week and I am thrilled to report that it didn’t disappoint. Since the film will make an appearance on my year end list and has not been widely released yet, I will keep this brief and spoiler free. The main takeaway - SEE THIS FILM! There hasn’t been a movie since Past Lives that has evoked this much emotion and thoughts inside my soul.
What the film is about - “The true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who make history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.”
My Thoughts - Many may be thinking to themselves, this movie isn’t for me, I don’t really like wrestling. Just know that I have never watched a minute of wrestling my entire life and this was still one of my favorite films of the year. While yes, there are many wrestling elements in the film, the heart of the film is much more a family drama than a wrestling movie.
In almost every pivotal frame of The Iron Claw director Sean Durkin makes the deliberate choice to give the audience a wide frame followed by a slow zoom towards where he wants your attention. In each instance your eyes immediately go where he wants them. But it’s that slow progression towards that spot that really gives you a second to sit with the whole frame, live in it, and breathe in where it is headed. You may not realize it at first, but the same is true for the film as a whole. At the outset we see the whole frame and have a pretty clear idea where we are headed. But it’s that slow descent to that specific place that makes the film so special. Not only do we get rooted in a deep understanding of the whole frame, but we live in it and understand the world we are operating in before we really zoom in. By the time we reach the destination, it’s so raw and real that you feel it in the depths of your soul. One of the most authentic, tragic, heartbreaking films of 2023. It’s not a question of if you will cry but how many times.
Career best performances from everyone involved. Beyond baffled that Zac Efron isn’t getting more awards chatter for this. One that will weigh on your heart and soul for a long time.
Rating - 4.5/5
Leave The World Behind Review
What the film is about - “A family vacation on Long Island is interrupted by two strangers bearing news of a blackout. As the threat grows, both families must decide how best to survive the potential crisis, all while grappling with their own place in this collapsing world.”
My thoughts - On paper everything about this should be a home run. An acclaimed novel adapted into a film. Julia Roberts. Ethan Hawke. Mahershala Ali. Sam Esmail directing. It all should work. And it kind of does. I say “Kind of” because there are moments where I really love what the film is going for and exploring, but the whole thing is wrapped in a shell that doesn’t sit well with me. Often an end of the world type thriller is focused on giant set pieces and watching the world around you crumble. Leave the World Behind is not that. Instead, it is a character study into human connection and communication. The problem is, the film spends far too much time trying to tease the audience that the former is coming at some point. Many will be frustrated by the ending of the film (or lack of ending as some will put it), but I actually don’t mind that choice by Sam Esmail. What did frustrate me is how pretentious the whole film is, how much Esmail twirls the camera for no point, and how much the audience is continuously fed dialogue that makes them thing something else is going to happen. Part of the whole point of Leave The World Behind is that there is no pay off and that by itself is no problem. I have no problem with there being no payoff. What I do have a problem with is large chunks of dialogue and giant set pieces that all make you think for 2 hours and 40 minutes that there will be a payoff when there really isn’t one.
This film is streaming on Netflix if you want to check it out for yourself and see if you agree or disagree!
Rating - 2/5
Godzilla Minus One Review
What it is about - “Japan is already devastated by the war when a new crisis emerges in the form of a giant monster.”
My thoughts - I have a spreadsheet to track upcoming movie releases so that I can chart out when I will see films certain films. Godzilla Minus One wasn’t even on that spreadsheet. It caught me and the rest of America by surprise. Before this, I had never even seen a Godzilla movie. Nor did I have any interest in seeing one as it is not my cup of tea. That all changed when I started hearing the buzz around Godzilla Minus One.
While the buzz may be slightly excessive, the film is really good. The movie ultimately works because of how little Godzilla has to do with the actual movie. The film really gets back to the roots of the Godzilla character being a stand in for Nuclear annihilation, which really works in its favor. There is also deep exploration into post war Japan, the idea of Kamikaze pilots, and how societies can change/learn through time that is all just brilliantly done. More genre movies should commit to this playbook of tone and exploration of the deeper themes instead of being just a stereotypical genre move. I wish it was a tad tighter, but still worth a watch.
Rating - 3.5/5
That is all for this week! Stay tuned for my top films of 2023 list coming to your inbox over the next few weeks. Last year I left it at the top 10 films of 2022, but there have been so many great films to celebrate this year that I may expand it to the top 25 or even top 50 for this year.
In the meantime, enjoy all of the wonderful films out in theaters right now.
Until next time!
If you want to get all future posts (including my top films of 2023) directly to your inbox, subscribe below! It is free, why not try?