Tried gifting a movie or music stream? The campaign for physical objects starts here
It’s no fun passing on a link to the latest Netflix box set at Christmas
The Favourite, for which Olivia Colman, above, won an Oscar in February, is now on DVD. Photograph: Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight Films via AP
Support the campaign for physical objects. We have all become used to consuming movies and music through the nebulous medium of streaming. But it’s no fun passing on a link to the latest Netflix box set at Christmas. There’s no box for a start.
Give DVDs and Blu-rays of the films your friends may have missed at the cinema. Give them films that start parties. Nothing satisfies that last criterion better this year than the disc of Dexter Fletcher’s super Rocketman. The biopic of Elton John 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 tasty extras: deleted scenes, gag reels and features such as “The Women of the MCU” and “Remembering Stan Lee”. Excelsior! Fans of the super John Wick series will be delighted with the Amazon exclusive version of this year’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: including souvenir gold coin, metal hotel lobby card and suave slipcase artwork. All that and Keanu Reeves being spectacularly violent.
Top 2019 releases
Away from the blockbusters, there are tempting DVDs of top 2019 releases that may be hard to track down on streaming services. There was no more joyful movie this year than Amazing Grace, the much-delayed documentary on Aretha Franklin’s famous 1972 gospel concert in Los Angeles. Shop in the right place and you’ll get a good package deal on the DVD and the classic album it generated. You might even find yourself celebrating “the true meaning of Christmas” while singing along.
The Irish co-production The Favourite, for which Olivia Colman won an Oscar in February, is now on DVD and will play well to fans of sass and salt. Rush also to Nadine Labaki’s deeply moving Capernaum, the story of a young boy making his way in troubled Beirut. Another 2019 masterpiece that may have slipped beneath the radar is Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s Birds of Passage. A nicely packaged DVD of the Colombian drug wars epic is available from Curzon.
The best bet for connoisseurs may be one of the newly packaged sets of vintage TV. Middle-aged men and women will weep to get the new set of classic puppet espionage series Joe 90. They will chortle at the recent “complete collection” of The Goodies: a comedy series that, though more mainstream, was every bit as inventive as Monty Python. Pick of the reissues may be the latest packaging of The World at War. The classic documentary on the second World War has been on DVD for some time, but this Blu-ray box offers (controversially, perhaps) the first wide-screen version.
It’s always worth treading carefully when buying hit records for friends and family at Christmas. Maybe have a rifle through their shelves before committing to an LP they may already own. There were few better records this year than Lana Del Rey’s 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 take a chance instead on the challenging, traumatic Caligula by Lingua Ignota: a terrifyingly compelling blend of nu-opera and nervous breakdown.
Once again, most of the year’s best records had women to the fore: Kelsey Lu’s wistful, melodic Blood, Solange’s intelligent When I Get Home, Weyes Bloods’s epic Titanic Rising. Adrianne Lenker was to the fore in not one, but two brilliant off-centre folk-rock records from Big Thief in 2019: UFOF and Two Hands. Buy the pair for right-thinking, sensitive associates. We also mention that Nick Cave delivered another classic in Ghosteen, but you and your pals already know that.
Re-packaging of vintage material
Again, the best bet for gifts may be lush re-packaging of vintage material. There is plenty of that around. The most conspicuous is surely the massive 50th anniversary box set of The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The four CDs – featuring new mixes, outtakes and all the rest – are mounted in a 100-page book with a forward by Paul McCartney and an essay by rock boffin David Hepworth. There is also a triple-vinyl version and a more economical double CD set. You will know somebody who wants this.
Jazz fans are well-served as ever. Choose between Coltrane ’58, a huge collection of the saxophonist’s recordings for Prestige in that year, or Miles Davis’s The Complete Birth of the Cool, a lavish examination of the breakthrough 1950 album on two vinyl LPs.
As the season ticks on, some ambience is welcome and the new box set of Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks fits the bill nicely. Originally recorded for a documentary on the Apollo space programme, the album was largely ignored on release 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, issued 50 years after the moon landings, adds a whole disc of new music. Who could resist such peace?
Moe Dunford’s top picks
Moe Dunford has been everywhere this year. The Dungarvan actor appeared in the movies Dark Lies the Island and The Dig. He also has a key supporting role in the hit TV series Dublin Murders. As we speak, he is training in Bedfordshire for James Kermack’s upcoming action flick Knuckledust.
“A Star Wars Blu-ray is always good for Christmas,” he says. “That will get you in the mood.” While we wait for Disney+ to arrive on these shores, we can enjoy (or give) lovely new Blu-rays of all the films – from A New Hope to Solo – with lavish bonus features. Dunford recommends an old favourite as his box-set of choice.
“I love Band of Brothers,” he says. “It kick-started the new wave of TV before Netflix or any of that. It’s just 10 episodes long and you can get through it in a weekend. Damian Lewis is terrific as the captain. He plays a leader of men so well. You go on such a journey with them. And it’s great to see how those actors went on to great careers. If I even think of the theme music now, I feel emotional. It’s just one series and in this day and age it’s rare to have that.”
Dunford also points us towards a lasting musical enthusiasm. “I love all Damian Dempsey’s records,” he says. “I like the variation and the styles in all the albums. He experiments while being truthful to his own voice. It’s a cathartic experience going to his concerts. He’s good for the soul.” He is particularly fond of the 2017 album Soulsun. Union from last year is also a strong set.