Monday, April 1, 2013

Day Ninety-one - Fireplace For Your Home: Episode 1, Crackling Fireplace, "If only my monitor could transfer HEAT."

If you live in an apartment, odds are that you probably do not have a fireplace, and that is a shame.

When I was sharing a condo with my sister about a decade ago, we rented a similar styled unit to the one our parents owned in the same complex roughly five years before that, which happened to be lucky enough to have a fireplace.

Unfortunately for us, the owners and property managers never wanted us to actually USE said fireplace. Perhaps it was due to insurance reasons or anti-fire spite or (my guess) because of the giant beehive that had decided to nestle deep inside the chimney that neither of the responsible parties wanted to root out.

I think my sister and I were robbed, really.

Luckily, if you're in the mood for mildly pleasing fire imagery without the important benefits of warmth and smell, then Fireplace For Your Home is right up your alley.

The episode begins with a fire already in progress.

Due to the evenness and compartmentalization of the flame at the beginning, it's obvious that the producers used a concentrated firestarter instead a regular kindling stack, but hey... that's Hollywood for you.

Neatly stacked, split logs of what appears to be pine with approximate thicknesses of three to six inches burn with a clear tall flame. The wood appears to have been seasoned a least a month due to the lack of visible smoke you would typically have from wet wood, but not long enough for the sap to have made itself known around the cuts in large veiny dribbles.

You can certainly tell that the logs have retained their sap, though, due to the wonderfully regular snaps and pops that sound every few seconds when the flame licks a ripe pocket of their micro-explosive goodness. This is a key feature of Fireplace For Your Home that boasts of its realism. There are no foley effects here as many of the crackles are accompanied by real sparks and the occasionally ejected coal.

That's not to say there aren't a few drawbacks, though.

Visually speaking, while the fire progresses at a pleasing rate, I just cannot get behind how clean the hearth is. A real, lived-in fireplace isn't complete without a small ash bed underneath its iron cradle in which coals can safely drop and remain active, warm, and red... reflecting back heat to the fire's undercarriage and keeping the blaze fresh and spirited.

Perhaps more importantly, though, there's never any actual heat produced for you to enjoy. I'd say a good fifty percent of the benefit of a fireplace is in the warmth (the other split going 25/10/15 to smell, sound, and sight, respectively). Fireplace For Your Home is only light and sound, meaning that a good three-quarters of one's enjoyment of a fire is lost in the use of this program. For apartments without a fireplace, perhaps it provides something, but so much is missing that I find it hard to really like.

As far as the acting goes, well, it's hard not to laud the logs chosen for their role. They all burn with a steady, appealing luster that lasts decently well. It was as shame the producers cut them off at an hour as I'm sure the lot of them could've gone for at least another hour and a half... and, perhaps, could've lasted much longer with a supporting character introduction in the second act.

I think, aside from the heat issues, that my main beef is with the director of this feature. It's obvious that they had a crack special effects crew that knew what they were doing when it came to the pyrotechnics. I've never seen a clearer, more precise fire before. No, the non-temperature related problems with this feature are pacing and story issues. We never see the fire's inception and the film cuts off long before its natural conclusion.

So much for story arc.

Overall, I can only recommend Fireplace For Your Home for dinner parties. Without heat, it lacks the functionality necessary for either a quiet winter's afternoon on the couch with a book or steamy snuggles with one's significant other.

And I can definitely say that you should stay away from its sequel. I was promised a Yule Log fireplace and was instead "treated" to a repeat of the EXACT SAME FIRE but with annoying holiday music drowning out the fire's crackles and snaps.


Lazy and horribly off-putting as it feels like a cash grab from whoever produced it when leasing the double feature to Netflix.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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