Perhaps there is some truth to the notion that dads invariably end up with neckties under the Yuletide tree, or that rambunctious nephews find themselves saddled with new socks and sweaters ("Clothes for Christmas?!"). To that end, let CL be your guide as you shop for DVDs that are almost guaranteed to please that cliched key demographic in your own extended family. Whether it's for the male member who lives for all things NFL, NBA, MLB and maybe even WWF, or for the female relative whose taste in cinema is limited to uplifting titles ("I don't like movies that depress me"), here is a smattering of suggestions -- spanning several decades and various genres -- that should aid you in getting a jump on the holiday madness.
For The Grandfather Who's Into World War II:
The Guns of Navarone (1961). If the musicals of the 30s were largely based around the rallying cry, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!," then the war films of the 60s could generally be pegged as, "Hey, guys, let's put on a secret mission -- and kill some Nazis in the process!" Edging out The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare (the latter still not available on DVD) as the cream of the crop is this high-octane action film (boasting Oscar-winning special effects) in which a dedicated band of commandos sets out to blow up some key German weapons. Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn head the cast of one of the last classics in the "war is swell" brand of actioners before the pall of Vietnam changed the status of battle flicks forever in Hollywood.
For The Grandmother Who's Into "Feel-Good" Sentiments:
Horse Feathers (1932). One of the defining Marx Brothers comedies finds Groucho cast as Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the Huxley College president who's determined to beat a rival school in football. He recruits Chico and Harpo to be his star players, and somehow they manage to introduce a chariot to the sport. Sample dialogue: "The dean is furious. He's waxing wroth." "Is Roth out there, too? Tell Roth to wax the dean for awhile." The boys' other features available on DVD include Duck Soup ("There has to be a war. I've paid a month's rent on the battlefield."), Monkey Business ("I want to register a complaint. Do you know who sneaked into my room at three in the morning?" "Who?" "Nobody. And that's my complaint.") and Animal Crackers ("One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.").
For The Uncle Who's Into Sports:
The Pride of the Yankees (1942). While 1989's Field of Dreams made modern baseball-loving males weep into their popcorn, this Golden Age classic had the same effect on audiences of yesteryear. It remains a moving experience today, thanks largely to Gary Cooper's effectively uncomplicated performance as Lou Gehrig, the diamond legend who tragically died of illness in his late 30s. The ever-radiant Teresa Wright shines as his supportive wife, and there's even a rowdy performance by the real Babe Ruth (as himself). The finale, with Gehrig delivering his farewell speech, is the stuff of which movie moments are made. If your uncle's more into basketball, settle on 1986's Hoosiers, featuring an effective turn by Gene Hackman; if football's his deal, go with 1978's irresistible Heaven Can Wait, perhaps Warren Beatty's biggest crowd-pleaser.
For The Aunt Who's Into Romance:
The Quiet Man (1952). John Ford might be best known for his canon of Westerns, but for my money, this raucous masterpiece qualifies as his most heartfelt work ever. John Wayne stars as a boxer who leaves America to escape his violent past; he returns to his birthplace in Inisfree, Ireland, only to fall for a fiery redhead (Maureen O'Hara) and engage in ample fisticuffs with her equally hardheaded brother (Victor McLaglen). Ford (winning the last of his four Best Director Oscars) paces this to match the temperaments of its characters -- in other words, it's cocky, boisterous and marked with a deep romantic spirit. Wayne was arguably never better (and inarguably never more tender), while Barry Fitzgerald nearly steals the film as the town coachman, a cheery cherub who's rarely spotted without a drink in his hand.
For The Cousin Who's Into Politics:
The War Room (1993). Here's a perfect picture for that liberal relative downtrodden about the recent elections. "Every time a Democrat comes along who has some ideas, the Republicans ambush him. That is standard procedure." That charge, spoken before the 1992 presidential election, was made by James Carville, the Clinton campaign manager and star of this Oscar-nominated documentary that illustrates in often amusing detail how the Clinton team managed to overcome petty hostilities and seize the day -- and the White House. The movie offers ample pleasures: Carville's popping blood vessels as he rails about how the mainstream press let George Bush off on Iran-Contra but hammers Clinton about Gennifer Flowers; the cool-under-fire George Stephanopolous talking a Ross Perot supporter out of reporting that Clinton fathered an illegitimate black child; and Carville's exasperation when told (on election night, no less) by a waiter that the special on draft is Busch beer.