For the movie buff who has everything

Ed Johnson-Ott

So you'd like to purchase a DVD for a movie buff, but you don't want to buy something they already have? Allow me to offer a few suggestions. I took a look at some of the films in my own library and selected a few that have received less attention than they deserve. Perhaps someone on your gift list will find them worthwhile as well.

Why am I doing this? Because I care, damn it! Oh sure, the fact that the only new movies opening this Friday are being screened after our deadline is also a factor, but mostly the reason is because I care. Damn it.

But I digress.


What: My all-time favorite movie. (Al Gore's too. Go figure.) A warm, gentle, quirky 1983 comedy from Scottish writer/director Bill Forsyth. A Texas oil company run by Burt Lancaster plans to quietly purchase a small fishing village on the north coast of Scotland, then replace it with a refinery. Peter Riegert (Boone from Animal House) is sent to work out the deal with village representative Denis Lawson (Wedge in the first batch of Star Wars movies), but nothing goes as expected once he reaches the lovely, slightly otherworldly village. Local Hero was the prime inspiration for the TV series Northern Exposure.

Why: There is so much to savor in this low-key charmer. The atmosphere, the visuals, the performances, the gorgeous Mark Knopfler score - it makes me homesick for Scotland and I've never been there.


What: A rich, expertly presented, crowd-pleasing documentary about Mark Bittner, a gentle soul who finds a spot for himself communing with a group of displaced birds in San Francisco. The movie is sweet with a wistful tone - there are funny moments along with scenes that may bring a tear to the eye.

Why: Because March of the Penguins is a big hit and this is just as good. The film is beautiful to look at, consistently engaging and as dramatically satisfying as any scripted tale on the market.


What: From Italy comes this atmospheric film that starts off as a coming-of-age story and turns into a thriller. In 1978 rural Italy, a young boy plays in the gorgeous wheat fields. Everything changes when he finds a covered pit near an abandoned building. In the pit is a frightened young boy, and that is all you need to know.

Why: I like movies that can scare you in bright sunlight. With finely drawn characters, a strong sense of place and a well-thought-out script, this one is a winner. Subtitled.


What: A simple, brisk story presented in real-time that effectively puts you in the shoes of another. Set in Iran just hours before the new year, the subtitled movie follows Razieh, a 7-year-old girl who begs her mother for money to buy a goldfish to display on New Year's Day, as is the custom. The mother grudgingly relents, but, on the way to the store, Razieh accidentally drops her 500-toman bill into an open sewer grate.

Why: For the little girl, the only two things in the whole world that matter are retrieving the money and buying that fish. Her fierce determination is captivating - after a few minutes those were the only things I cared about as well. Terrific moviemaking.

Other titles to consider


Charmer about two teen boys in a London housing project who find love in each other's arms, but are afraid of what will happen if others find out. The story successfully blends pathos and whimsy, aided by a terrific cast. The closing scene is simply perfect.


Slapstick on an ocean liner, with stowaways Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci in the center of one outrageous comic scene after another. The terrific supporting cast includes Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor, Isabella Rossellini, Alfred Molina and Campbell Scott. Lots of fun.


The debut film for Rushmore director Wes Anderson was this pleasantly goofy 1996 comedy about three buddies that try to become criminals. Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson co-star with James Caan, Robert Musgrave and the rarely-seen Andrew Wilson (apparently the Zeppo of the Wilson clan).


Sprawling Robert Altman-style detective story with multiple storylines and lots of great performances. The cast for the 2001 Australian production includes a pre-Without a Trace Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey. Thoughtful, fascinating and touching.


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