DVDs for All: A Gift-Giving Guide

Merry Christmas, moviegoers! What does Hollywood have in store for you this wintry holiday season? Paris Hilton with clothes? Lindsey Lohan tying up loose ends with dear old dad in rehab? Creepy men with masks stalking around the opera house? Super-mega-ultra-epic biopics directed by Martin Scorcese? Nope. Sorry. You’ll be too busy buying late presents for the family you’ve neglected to catch a flick any time before New Year’s. What to buy? DVDs, of course.

Now that the CD-sized medium has taken over the world with greater speed than the Nicole Kidman Chanel No. 5 ad, the impersonal gift of digitized cinema, with the disclaimer that each present is carefully tailored to individual taste, is entirely appropriate. Below are some selections to fill your family stockings, mined from the multitude of excellent titles on the shelves at a store near you.

For Mom, the best DVD to give is clearly The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Though traditionally a “guy” movie reserved for dads and Tolkien nerds with thick spectacles, the average American mother endures a lot of hardship during the holiday season, and a good dose of fantasy is likely what she needs. After dealing with loads of banal domestic tasks, a husband who imbibed a gallon of eggnog and hit on her brother, and snobby, demanding children home from Swedish boarding school, the comfort of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is a great way for your mom to unwind. Aragorn’s hunky, old-fashioned persona, combined with his well-groomed beard and slavish devotion to his muse, Arwen (Liv Tyler), is more than enough to make up for another crappy holiday. Conveniently, LOTR: ROTK is available this week in a four-disc box set complete with over 50 minutes of footage not shown in theatres, which makes the film even longer than your grandpa’s World War II stories. And surely your mom will enjoy the hours of making-of featurettes included in the set.

Dad’s DVD gift can be none other than the remake of The Stepford Wives. Though the film has a lot of difficulty presenting women as anything but bimbo-blonde housewives or bull-dyke businesswomen, and thus fits nicely into a shameful tradition of post-feminist narratives that ultimately regress to gender stereotypes and thinly-veiled Victorianism, Dad can still learn a few lessons from the film. For example, don’t turn your wife into a sex robot because she is occasionally bothersome. Most importantly, Christopher Walken is actually a machine, carefully programmed by Glenn Close.

Grandma and Grandpa can be notoriously hard to shop for. How many sweaters and kitchen utensils can two people really own? But with the advent of DVD, the problem is solved with a trip to their favorite store, Wal-Mart. Here you will find the Ultimate Matrix Collection, a 10-disc set featuring all three Matrix films and loads of tantalizing extras, for an unbeatable price. When you give your unsuspecting grandparents this fantastic gift, preface it with the following question—“Grandma, do you remember the good old days of tight black vinyl?” Though this epoch of history did not in fact exist, when you’re 80 years old nostalgia comes easily. It may seem rude to inform them so late in life, but your grandparents should also know that the world they fought so hard to create by enduring countless wars, President Reagan and ’80s music is actually a carefully constructed computer simulation. It may be a huge shock, so encourage them to watch the films through first with the commentary by Cornel West turned on. Regardless, the rave scene in The Matrix Reloaded will time warp Grandpa straight back to the sock-hop in 1959 where he caught your dad petting with the Marilyn Monroe look-alike.


Siblings can be considerably more difficult to buy for than even your grandparents. Even the ready availability of thousands of quality DVD titles sometimes can’t solve the problem of purchasing gifts for people you don’t like. This year, get them copies of the Macaulay Culkin classic The Good Son, the ultimate Satanic sibling movie. Paste pictures of the siblings over Culkin’s face on the jacket covers. Your Christmas shopping woes are now behind you.

—Staff writer Clint J. Froehlich can be reached at