Armchair Vacation Holiday Gift Guide Part One: Five Books Or Graphic Novels To Buy This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year folks. The year is nearing its conclusion, and in that, various outlets will be giving you insight as to what books, albums, films or artwork one should purchase for a loved one during this holiday season.  AICN writer Quint is once again at it with arguably the best geek gift guide that the web has to offer, and with various Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales making waves this year, it’s a good time to be a fan of film, television and culture in general. Well, we here at The CriterionCast thought it would be fitting that, along with a really great episode of Off The Shelf to wet your appetite, that we take this chance to give some insight as to what bits of artwork, cinema, fiction (and non-fiction) and everything in between caught our eyes, and should catch yours for this holiday season. To start, we’ll look at books, comics and graphic novels. Here are the five bits of writing you should stuff into as many stockings as possible.


5.  Cary Grant: A Biography  (Marc Eliot, Three Rivers Press)

The oldest book here on this list, this is absolutely the most personal pick I’ve added here on this list. Penned by Marc Eliot, this 2005 masterwork of biography is the perfect stocking stuffer for the cinephile with a classic film taste. A moving and absolutely engaging read, Eliot’s book looks into the myth that came of the man once known as Archie Leach, and the life behind one of the greatest actors of all time. From his continually questioned sexuality to his finding of a cinematic soul mate in none other than Alfred Hitchcock, the book is a really dense take on the life of Cary Grant, while being evocative enough to never let the musing get in the way of what was one hell of a life lived by this icon. Also, it has one of the best covers you’ll find on bookshelves.


4.  Saga  (Brian K. Vaughan, Image Comics)

If you have a film fan in your life, he or she is also likely a fan of another visual medium, the art of graphic storytelling. While the world is inundated with superhero story after fantastical superhero tale, there is not a single greater bit of graphic storytelling (I even hesitate to toss the ‘comic’ tag around, as this book is so much more) than Brian K. Vaughan’s latest masterpiece,  Saga. A proto-futuristic take on  Romeo And Juliet, the story follows a star crossed couple, a man and a woman of two warring alien races, as they make their way through the universe attempting to save their own lives, as well as the one that they’ve just tossed into this world, their newborn child. Featuring all-time great art from Fiona Staples, this book is an absolute gem of not only graphic storytelling, but storytelling in general. It’s simply the greatest comic since the last time we all had a continuing story from Brian K. Vaughan in the form of  Y The Last Man.


3.  Do The Movies Have A Future?  (David Denby, Simon And Schuster)

2012, seemingly more so than most years, has seen writers around the country proclaim that cinema is truly dead. However, with this year being one of the best cinematic years in quite some time, the debate has been raging at arguably its highest pitch. One of these arguments has been collected into the latest book from film critic David Denby entitled  Do The Movies Have A Future?.   A collection of essays and reviews penned by the New Yorker critic, the writer discusses his appreciation for films as large and blockbusting as  Avatar  or as experimental and format pushing as Malick’s  Tree Of Life. As with any film related discussion, you may agree or disagree, but in having this debate in and of itself, you are aiding in the forward movement of the format. Almost playing as Denby’s State Of The Medium address, it’s a fantastic read, and something any cinephile will rejoice in engaging with.


2.  The Collected Works Of Milo Manara  (Milo Manara, Dark Horse Comics)

Back to the world of comics for one of the most interesting collections the graphic novel world has seen in quite some time. Always playing as a seemingly fourth wheel to publishers DC, Marvel and the always beloved Image, Dark Horse has routinely put out some of the best comics and graphic novels within the medium.  Hellboy  and its spin-off  BPRD  play to action hounds, while their horror works like Guillermo Del Toro’s  The Strain  and the underrated  Ragemoor  give readers the creeps, it’s their classic collections that make geeks wallets run in fear. One of their best happens to even have some Criterion Collection connections. Starting back in November of last year, Dark Horse has released a handful of library editions of the work of Italian icon Milo Manara. Best known, arguably, for his more erotic work (Dark Horse doesn’t skimp on that either, giving fans various editions solely dedicated to his work in this arena, which is every bit as thrilling and vital), Manara also work alongside one Federico Fellini. In fact, their work together is giving the Library treatment with the company’s third Library Volume. Two works, ‘Trip To Tulum’ and ‘The Voyage Of G. Mastorna’ are collected here, ‘Mastorna’ hitting in the English language for the first time ever. Toss in a handful of short stories and a collaboration with Silverio Pisu, and you have as beautiful a piece of art that you’ll ever see.


1. Film history one book at a time.

What are we if not film addicts? Well, if I know film addicts as well as I think I do, nothing wets our appetites more than a binded collection of interviews featuring some of cinema’s greatest filmmakers. Personally? I’m partial to one in particular. Entitled Woody Allen On Woody Allen,  the book features Allen chatting about the making of and his response to the films that make up his filmography, alongside writer Stig Bjorkman. It’s absolutely one of the greatest collections of interviews I’ve ever read, finding Allen both at his most candid about his personal life, and most up front about his craft and his appreciation for his own work. It’s a thrilling read for Allen fans, and for film nerds alike. There is always Truffaut’s interviews with Hitchcock  , or the “Interviews” series that compile interviews with directors ranging from Stanley Kubrick to Quentin Tarantino. Looking for a book that looks at film as a whole, but through the lens of history? David Thomson’s new book,  The Story Of The Movies  is a fantastic and engrossing read looking at everything from early movie palaces to YouTube. It’s really a must own, as are any of these collections.

Other recommended reading? Here are a few other books any cinephile might like:

- What better for the holidays than a collection of crossword puzzles from TCM in their  Classic Movie Crossword Puzzles  collection?

- Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore’s  The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode  is a beautifully violent original graphic novel that may be one of the best original books this year has given us.

- Nate Silver’s  The Signal And The Noise  is arguably one of the most important books to hit store shelves this year.

- Ed Brubaker’s  Fatale  features beautiful noir artwork from Criterion-approved artist Sean Phillips.

- Film Comment is always open for subscriptions.  Get on that.