Presents of mind: Stuck for a Christmas gift idea?
Whether it’s music, movies or television, we’re here to save the day
Jenna Coleman as the eponymous queen in ITV’s ‘Victoria’, a series from the old school
Prime among the nostalgic delights is the enormous David Bowie boxed set ‘Who Can I Be Now 1974-1976’
‘Fargo’ season two was one of film director Lenny Abrahamson’s cultural highlights of 2016. Photograph: Alan Betson
It’s Christmas. Time to give people you love stuff they hate. There’s every chance that Andy Williams CD you bought Uncle Joe in 1997 is still in its shrink-wrap. Fear not. We are here to offer suggestions for every mood imaginable.
For the mellow fellows
Do they want to laugh at something a bit more sophisticated? Then have them chortle at Whit Stillman’s unexpectedly fast-paced Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship: filmed locally, beautifully cast. If still more calmness is required, then curl up with the complete series of ITV’s Victoria. Jenna Coleman plays that Queen in a series from the old school. For imaginative calm, grab a copy of Laura Mvula’s delectable LP The Dreaming Room: soul with a luscious classical flavour. If your mellow friend has been especially good then they deserve a copy of Before the Dawn, the massive boxed set of Kate Bush’s 2014 live shows.
For the serious set
It’s been an amazing year for Irish film and Lenny Abrahamson’s inspiring Room, an Oscar winner in February, comes with a fascinating commentary led by the director. If you’re feeling indulgent, the new boxed set of Krzysztof Kielowski’s Dekolog and Other TV work comprises an essential collection of powerful images. In celebration of Steve Reich’s 80th birthday, we find The ECM Recordings bringing together some of the minimalist’s greatest work on three CDs. Nick Cave’s stunning Skeleton Tree, released in the aftermath of his son’s death, is among the year’s most harrowing LPs.
Younger folk want fun of various hues
Few films this year have been quite so much fun as Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book. Couple that DVD or Blu Ray with Finding Dory and you have a whole afternoon of high-quality entertainment. If the tiny ones have any taste they will also savour the vintage series The Animals of Farthing Wood, which has just been released in a scrumptious six-DVD set. Can they still not be content? Well, The Angry Birds movie ended up being many times better than we had a right to expect.
Friends who like it hard and loud
If Robert Eggers’s The Witch really is a horror film – and it might be a historical fable – then it is the best horror film of the year. A double bill with Jeremy Saulnier’s brilliant Green Room, an extraordinary siege film, will make the evening fly by. If loudness is your pal’s thing, then they’ll savour Led Zeppelin’s The Complete BBC Sessions. The three-CD set is nice. The vinyl version is even nicer. If you’re not so quite loaded – and in search of adventurous metal – then consider The Gospel by Norwegian weirdos Årabrot.
Old git who can’t let the 1970s go.
There is so much this year for the 1970s addict. Prime among the nostalgic delights is the enormous David Bowie boxed set Who Can I Be Now 1974-1976. Comprising unreleased material, the package includes an entire album that was put together before the great man moved on to Young Americans. There have been several boxes of The World at War, classic series on the second World War, but the latest is the first to offer the original full-screen format. Gerry Anderson’s great contemporaneous science fiction show UFO is also out in a lovely new box. Mmm!
The adventurous sort with an open mind
Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+Evolution is a real contender for the best and most underrated album of the year. The jazz bassist takes in a wide range of styles – jazz funk to avant garde to straight-up pop – in a work that confounds expectations at every turn. Matteo Garrone’s film Tale of Tales is a delicious reimagining of Italian folk tales that manages to be as romantic as it is horrid. The soundtrack LP to Brady Corbet’s debut film The Childhood of a Leader (not yet on DVD, alas) finds the great Scott Walker sawing away to unusually melodic effect.
For the fan of local heroes
There are unending delights for those who like to keep it domestic. John Carney’s wonderful musical Sing Street, set in Dublin during the 1980s, has received an attractive DVD and Blu Ray release. The Gloaming 2 by The Gloaming offers yet more nuanced delight from the folk super-group. Van Morrison’s Keep Me Singing, his 36th album, continues to deliver the expected comfort sounds, but the real treat for Morrisonions (Vannies?) is the indescribably delicious It’s Too Late to Stop Now . . . Volumes II, III, IV & DVD. The set offers endless hitherto unreleased takes from the 1973 tour that inspired the original double LP.
LENNY ABRAHAMSON, OSCAR NOMINATED DIRECTOR OF ROOM, ON A FEW CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS
I didn’t connect with the first season of Fargo on FX but I heard great things about season two and when I watched it I was completely seduced. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons are spectacular at the centre of the story. It’s as good as it gets on US cable and that’s pretty good. The fine four-disc DVD issue features a documentary on the films of Ronald Reagan with an audio commentary by square-jawed Bruce Campbell (who plays a version of the president). There is also a decent documentary on the creation of Fargo: Year Two. Towards the end of the year I saw two superbly made Polish films which moved me greatly: The Last Family and The United States of Love. Representaives from the IFI ere at the same festival in Poland, so I think there’s a good chance they’ll get an airing, at least in Dublin.