Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Johnny California's Christmas Gift Guide

 by JB

What to buy for that impossible-to-shop-for pain in the ass?

Ah, Christmas! The dual responsibilities of celebrating Christ’s birth on the one hand, and satisfying those finicky loved ones with perfectly appropriate gifts that are, at the same time, not too expensive. Sometimes, it’s all a man can do to present a calm, false front while screaming, screaming, screaming on the inside, “OKAY, OKAY, I’LL JUST LET JB PICK ALL THE GIFTS THIS YEAR.”

You are wise in your generation.

1. Modern Praxinoscope, $93.00
I bet you thought this was a Zoetrope! Nope-trope! (That’s okay; it’s a mistake anyone can make. ONCE.) The praxinoscope was the early motion toy perfected by Emile Reynaud that used mirrors to increase the amount of light that fell onto the paper strip illustrations. This thing is a beauty, and it’s available from the gift shop of the new Academy Museum in Hollywood. It features a solid metal base, 12 mirrors, decoration based on traditional images of the circus, and 20 animated picture strips.

You can order it here.

2. Saker 18-in-1 Snowflake Multi-Tool, $11.99
Ah, I still remember decades ago when I got married for the first time, one of Jan’s cousins gave us a special screwdriver, which had multiple heads housed in the handle, as a wedding gift. She too had received one years earlier as a wedding gift, and predicted that it would be the gift that we used the most over the course of our marriage. Boy, was she right! (Thanks, Mary!) This new multi-tool seems to serve roughly the same purpose. It’s great for movie lovers because… you want simple home repairs done quickly so you can make your showtimes at the local cineplex? I don’t know... you figure this one out.

(Shhhhh! I myself have ordered several of these to give as gifts.)

This hardened metal snowflake features 18 tools: a flathead screwdriver, #2 and #3 Phillips screwdrivers, 4.5mm and 6mm Allen screws, 1/4 box cutter, # 7mm, 8mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, and 14 mm end keys, and a bottle opener.

You can order it here.

3. Monsters, Makeup & Effects 2: Conversations with Cinema's Greatest Artists
by Heather Wixson, $32.99
Friend-of-the-site Heather Wixson is back with the second volume of her movie make-up opus. It’s a super-fun read and it’s been five years since the first volume, so now is the time to SATISFY YOUR HUNGER for more! NOTE TO CALIFORNIA READERS: Signed copies of the book are available at Dark Delicacies in Burbank. C’mon out and get a taste of spooky goodness.

Or, you can order it here.

4. Universal Monsters Tiki Mugs, $50.00
If you like tiki drinks and the famous Universal Monsters, you could do worse than investing in these fun mugs. I own several of them and they make me insanely happy—of course, said happiness might have more to do with the fact that I fill them with delicious Palomas, Margaritas, and all the damn Zombies I want. (Some tiki bars limit customers to two Zombies. I’m not making this up.) Many of these have gone “out of print,” but there is still time to grab a fearsome foursome of Creature, Mummy, Phantom, and Wolf Man. Then, the next time you’re on a Universal film bender, you can break out these cool mugs and really make the screening festive: drink from the Creature mug and jump fully-clothed into a bathtub of cold water, wrap yourself in toilet paper as you enjoy a libation flavored with the finest Egyptian cardamom from your Mummy mug, drop an enormous chandelier on hundreds of strangers as you guzzle “Opera Booze” out of Erik’s head—the choices are endless and festive.

You can order them here.

5. The Hershel Gordon Lewis Feast, $45.00
Arrow Video is having a big holiday sale, so now is your chance to pick up this little beauty on the cheap. Fourteen of the Godfather of Gore’s films on seven Blu-Ray discs featuring tons of extras. NOTE: This is not the mammoth, now sold-out “Shock and Gore” set, which featured a hardcover book, plastic disembodied eyeball, vomit bag, Blood Feast paperback, and all the films on both DVD and Blu-ray. This is the “Blu-ray Discs Only” set, designed with the frugal gore consumer in mind, and Arrow’s sale price just makes it look that more enticing... as enticing as... dare I say... AN EGYPTIAN FEAST?!

You can order it here.

6. Official Universal Studios “Earl the Squirrel” Merch., $29.00 tumbler, $20 candle
Earl is as cute as a button, and of course there is a story that accompanies him. Seems years ago, when workmen were putting up the giant tree at Universal Studios Florida, someone noticed a squirrel living inside of it. Some anonymous wag named him Earl, and in later years it became a tradition to hide a plush, stuffed squirrel in said tree as a tribute to the original Earl. Flash-forward a few more years and we see Universal Studios turning this simple, heartwarming tale into a merchandising bonanza.

Universal’s website now features 24 official Earl the Squirrel items. I have no problem with this seasonal cash-in though, because 1) Earl the Squirrel is, as previously mentioned, cute as a button, and 2) I would be hard pressed to find another vessel that keeps ice cubes frozen longer than my Earl the Squirrel travel tumbler. You see, everybody wins. (The Earl the Squirrel Pine-Scented Candle is really great too!)

You can order it all here.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas LP, Vince Guaraldi Trio
(Record Store Day Exclusive- Snowstorm-Colored Vinyl), $29.99
Did you know that this is the second best-selling jazz record in history?* If you, or someone on your Christmas list, has caught the vinyl bug, here’s the perfect gift to get them into the Christmas spirit. These tunes have become so embedded in our collective unconscious that spinning the record is like watching the famous holiday special in your mind: imagine Charlie Brown’s friends doing those crazy dances during pageant rehearsal, Snoopy’s wild cavorting, and the whole gang throwing their heads back so only their noses and mouths are visible as they sing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

You can order it here.

8. Casablanca 1942 Champagne Coupe Glass Set, $33.00
The next time you’re watching Casablanca (which you really should do on a monthly basis, especially now that it’s available in 4K) why not break out these cute champagne glasses just as Bogart, Bergman, and Wilson are drinking all the champagne in that bar just so the Nazis won’t get their hands on it? What fun! Every time a patron of Rick’s Café Americain orders a champagne cocktail, you drink one too! You will be passed out before Bogart shoots Conrad Veidt (Spoiler Alert!) I assure you. Celebrate classic American films with ample libations. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship: between you and booze!

You can order them here.

9. Wool Movie Popcorn Ornament, $8.99
Hey! Look at this little guy! Perfect for the movie lover... or popcorn lover... or wool lover on your list.

You can order it here.

And for those who vehemently insist that Die Hard is a Christmas movie:
Nakatomi Plaza Christmas Party 1988 - Christmas Ornament, $15.99
You can order it here.

10. Filmed in Brooklyn by Margo Donohue, $23.99
Written by friend-of-the-side Donohue, and really great. Think about this: if you DON’T live in New York, but you have friends that DO, buy the book for YOURSELF. Memorize it. The next time you gather with your Big Apple amigos, SHOW THEM UP with how much more you know about their home turf than they do. Their faces will turn green with envy, just like a Christmas tree. And then they will punch you, hard, in the face, just like a New Yorker.

You can order it here.

11. Universal Monsters Car Sunshade, $29.99
Sure, this may not be of much use now (Unless you live in Oxnard, California, where the sun always shines!) But come summer, what with Climate Change and all, this will be your best friend on those hot hot steamy days. I owned something like this thirty or forty years ago when my first car had a black interior. (My sun shade was cardboard and featured Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.) I remember being surprised when I noticed “instructions” printed on the back. Instruction Number One—printed in big, bold letters—read, “DO NOT DRIVE WITH SHADE IN PLACE.” Noted!

So, even though it might make you feel like you were driving the Monster Bus, do not drive with this nifty shade in place. Also, it folds for easy storage.

You can order it here.

12. Classic Cinemas Elk Grove Gift Cards, Various Amounts
Readers in the Chicagoland area take note: the venerable Elk Grove Cinema is a famous site in the storied lore of F This Movie (Patrick and JB having had formative movie experiences here and all. Okay, IF YOU’RE A PURIST, they knocked the original building down, but who cares?) Even better is that this cozy, neighborhood theater also hosts regular special events! The Chicago Film Critics Association hosts “Critics Classics” screenings on the first Wednesday of every month; the Classic Cinemas chain celebrated “The Class of ‘97” this year with 25th Anniversary Screenings on the third Wednesday of every month; and Patrick hosts the terrific “Smash Cut Cinema” series on the third Saturday of every month. (This week he’s screening the Gus Van Sant Psycho remake. Why not ask him WHY?) This is a wonderful theater that deserves your support. Enough said?

You can order gift cards here.

*The best-selling jazz record of all time, of course, is Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, which you can order here on blue vinyl.

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