Our DVD gift-giving crib sheet

We’ve been getting a lot of e-mail from VSL subscribers saying that you’re using us as a gift-giving crib sheet. Very nice to hear. And in that spirit, here’s the first of a series of special, literal very short lists of great cultural stuff, perfect for gift-giving, that we haven’t covered in daily VSLs — things that came out before we existed, or that we just haven’t had room for. Today, three excellent DVDs:

1. Treasures From American Film Archives: Encore Edition. This $70 set has inexplicably gone in and out of print. Get it and give it while you can. We can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy something — a ton of things — on this astonishingly eclectic four-DVD, 11-hour compilation, including the 1916 version of Snow White; the first commercially exhibited film in America, Blacksmithing Scene, from 1893; a tour through New York’s subway system in 1905; and Groucho Marx’s home movies from 1933. A curious, thrilling joyride through film history.

2. Deadwood: The Complete First Two Seasons. A lot of people we know stayed away from this series because of its reputation for hyperviolence and almost comically over-the-top profanity. Well, it is violent and profane — series creator David Milch hasn’t been shy about using his HBO anything-goes license to depict the very rough edges of his late-19th-century South Dakota gold-rush town. But Milch also happens to be one of the very best, most interesting writers working in television today, a mad-scientist-like auteur who’s created the most vivid, compelling band of freaks and misfits since The Sopranos.

3. United 93. Were you tempted to see this when it was in theaters earlier this year? We weren’t. But as soon as it came out on DVD, we actually watched it twice — the second time with the commentary track on. We expected, perhaps, a more dignified, somber version of a boilerplate disaster movie, with a haloed take on 9/11 heroics; instead, writer-director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) has given us a superbly ambitious, assured piece of unhysterical filmmaking.

“>BUY Treasures From American Film Archives: Encore Edition

“>BUY Deadwood: The Complete First Two Seasons

“>BUY United 93

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.

Our DVD gift-giving crib sheet