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Holiday Gift Guide

The Critics' Choices

December 09, 2007

For that hard-to-please person on your gift list, who better to offer guidance than our most discriminating colleagues-- The Times' critics. Here are their holiday picks, from "flash fiction" and DVD classics to scents and spa treatments.

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Art

Christopher Knight

Times art critic

More nonsense has been written and spoken about Andy Warhol's work than about any other art of the last 50 years. So the insightful PBS documentary, "American Masters: Andy Warhol" (PBS, $24.99), came as a bracing surprise. No wonder the four-hour analysis, now available on DVD and with lots of great archival footage, won a 2006 Peabody Award.

L.A.-based publisher BukAmerica has issued its fourth set of six gorgeously designed pamphlets ($11.95) that can be slipped into a pocket or purse for perusal while waiting for the subway or grabbing a cup of coffee. The new offerings include poems by Modern art's first great critic, Charles Baudelaire, and animal portraits by the late photographer Peter Hujar.

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film&tv

KENNETH TURAN

Times film critic

Sunday Press Books has done it again. After its dazzling reprint edition of "Little Nemo in Slumberland," the Palo Alto press returns with "Sundays With Walt and Skeezix" ($95), a massive 16-by-21-inch edition showcasing the best Sunday pages of the "Gasoline Alley" strip from 1921-'34. Created by Frank King, "the gentlest and most domestic of strip artists," this comic wins you over with its emphasis on the characters' human qualities.

DVD sets bring you an entire universe. The "Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition" (Warner Bros., $78.92) comes in the briefcase that held the dread Voight-Kampff machine. The 12-disc "Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Collection" (Infinity Entertainment Group, $79.98) offers a more innocent world, with all of Hoppy's 1950s TV episodes and 10 earlier features. Most impressive of the bunch is the 24-film "Ford at Fox" (20th Century Fox, $299.98), which includes a beautiful hard-bound book and all those John Ford classics.

Silent movie fans will cherish "The Valentino Collection" (Flicker Alley, $39.98) and Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" (Kino, $24.99), the result of a 20-year pan-European restoration project. The politically aware will relish the astonishing "Darwin's Nightmare" (Home Video, $26.99) and the savage Japanese World War II doc "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" (Facets, $29.95). And the Alastair Sim 1951 "A Christmas Carol" (VCI Entertainment, $19.99) presents the best version of the Dickens classic.

Mary McNamara

Times television critic

"The Sopranos Season Six" (HBO, $199.96). They may have loved the final episode, or hated it, but "Sopranos" fans will appreciate the opportunity to complete their collections or pore through episodes leading to that fateful moment looking for clues.

For those who feel that life is no longer worth living, two terrific shows should more than fill the void: "Brotherhood," the first season (Showtime, $27.99). One brother's a thug, the other's a politico, neither of them the most moral creature ever evolved, but the tension between their two worlds, and the gorgeous evocation of street life in Providence, R.I., make this a perfect substitute for waste-management shenanigans in New Jersey. "Big Love," the complete second season (HBO, $59.99). Who knew the perfect TV marriage would be polygamous? With the mix of female drama--with three wives, how could there not be drama--and the fire-'n'-brimstone gang wars of Juniper Creek, "Big Love" had a nearly perfect second season.

Flip through Netflix, take a walk through Blockbuster and it's obvious--television isn't just about television anymore, it's about DVDs. Try a Philips 10.2-inch DVD player ($279.99), and those hours spent waiting in airports will fly by.

Forget the Barcalounger. The most comfortable TV viewing chair is--wait for it--a nursing rocker. In my house, it's the chair everyone fights over when the set goes on. There's a nice selection at the L.A. Rocking Chair Store from $200 to $2,400. 304 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 937-7858.

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BOOKS

DAVID ULIN

Times book editor

"The Yiddish Policemen's Union," by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins, $26.95). Chabon's sixth novel is an alternate history masterpiece--a murder mystery set in an imaginary Jewish homeland that occupies a sliver of the Alaskan coastline. Part of the fun has to do with Chabon's understanding of the tropes of genre fiction, but what makes the novel sing is his ability to evoke the inner lives of his characters: their sins and sacrifices, their struggles and their desire to be redeemed.

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