It may only be July, but it's never to early to think about just which Yuletide Fire Log video you've got to add to your holiday collection. Here's the skinny on the best of the best on DVD:
- Yuletide Fire Log * * *
This 30 minute video consists of a stationary shot of a burning yuletide log in a fireplace. Directed by newcomer Ruprecht Almond, it possesses a refreshing energy not usually seen in yuletide fire log videos. A slow zoom about fifteen minutes into the proceedings comes as an unexpected twist, lending the log a credibility it might not otherwise have had. Well done.
Yuletide Fire Log 2 * * * 1/2
Ruprecht Almond's follow-up to his 1987 yuletide fire log is one of the few sequels that surpasses the original. This time, his 30-minute stationary shot features twice as many slow zooms, and the sound of the crackling log virtually leaps off the screen. This reviewer found himself pleasantly dozing only ten minutes in, a sign that the director truly knows his stuff. The end of the video, in which the log burns to almost nothing, is both poignant and realistic.
Yuletide Fire Log 3 * * * *
Eight years in the making, Ruprecht Almond's masterpiece surpasses the length of any known yuletide fire log video. At two hours and fourteen minutes, its vivid colors and haunting assembly of Christmas carols (including "Jingle Bells" and "The Little Drummer Boy") strike a chord deep within the viewer's soul. This time around, Almond has dispensed with slow zooms entirely, replacing that now-clichéd technique with the dramatic appearance of a human hand at the one-hour mark, a hand which turns the log over exactly once and then withdraws in a finely tuned moment of suspense. Highly recommended.
Yuletide Fire Log 4 * * * 1/2
Ruprecht Almond, acknowledged master of the yuletide fire log video, breaks down all boundaries of the genre with this puzzling, frustrating, yet ultimately brilliant piece of work. Instead of giving us a stationary shot of the log, Almond has interspersed dozens of wrenching testimonials of Korean War veterans who actively participated in the burning of small villages outside Ngoc Tran in 1954. Simplistic Christmas carols are not to be heard at all; instead, futuristic works by Brian Eno and the Estonian avant-garde composer Arvo Pärt dominate the mood. The brief fourteen-minute video ends with the log collapsing in on itself as the camera backs away to reveal that it has never actually been inside a true fireplace, but rather a strange, elaborately painted chamber where a ring of psychics holds hands and chants in preparation for the end of humanity by global warming. Given the 2001 Director's Guild of America Award for Best Experimental Yuletide Fire Log Video, this one has its admirers and detractors, but few can deny it is definitely worth the $7.95 sale price.
Hot Heat * *
Ruprecht Almond abandoned his dominance of the yuletide fire log video format to direct this action comedy starring Will Smith as the head of a special police unit created to crack down on uniform violations in a professional women's volleyball league. It has its moments.