<p>&quot;The Other Dream Team&quot;</p>
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"The Other Dream Team"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Other Dream Team'

Documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian hoops team could use a bit more focus
In reviewing Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War" yesterday, I mentioned my approval for Sundance documentaries that stoke my sense of righteous indignation. But that doesn't mean that I can't be just as appreciative (or more) of something as seemingly frivolous as a good sports documentary.
At my first Sundance in 2009, one of the best films I saw was "Thriller in Manila." The following year, I was able to put aside my general antipathy for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks to love "Winning Time." And last year, no documentary I saw at Sundance packed the visceral and emotional punch of "Senna."
It shouldn't surprise regular readers, then, that one of my most anticipated titles at this year's Festival was "The Other Dream Team," Marius Markevicius' film about the 1992 Lithuanian National Basketball team.
I didn't have one of the tie-dyed Lithuania hoops t-shirts, but I sure wanted one. I'm never one to turn down the chance to watch Arvydas Sabonis highlights. And if we're doing amateur genealogy, half of my family considers Lithuania to be "The Old Country." 
"The Other Dream Team," playing in the US Documentary competition, may just have been too much in my wheelhouse, in the sense that I had the version of the film that I wanted to see in my head and I was disappointed by the actual film's pacing and focus. 
I don't think I've ever done this before, but I'm inclined to quote Roger Ebert's Tweet from last night: "Never ask a person who knows anything about the subject what they think of a documentary." I don't know if I'd say "never ask," but "take with a grain of salt" isn't a bad idea. "The Other Dream Team" wasn't the 1992 Lithuanian Basketball movie that I necessarily wanted, but it could absolutely be the 1992 Lithuanian Basketball movie that you want, assuming you want such a thing.
Full review after the break.
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<p>Robert De Niro of &quot;Red Lights&quot;</p>
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Robert De Niro of "Red Lights"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: Rodrigo Cortes' 'Red Lights'

Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro star in a muddled thriller
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival slogan is "Look Again," a piece of advice that has caused amusement and confusion for members of the press whose headshots are glued onto our badges adjacent only to the word "Again," as if Robert Redford himself were looking at each of us and saying, "Seriously? That guy? Again?"
Cheap juxtapositional humor aside, I gave the "Look Again" banner extra thought after it appeared on the screen following Friday (January 20) night's world premiere of Rodrigo Cortes' "Red Lights." 
The follow-up to Cortes' "Buried," a conceptually tricky thriller which went from hot Sundance title to theatrical non-event in record time two years ago, "Red Lights" is a generally infuriating and occasionally intriguing muddle of a movie that spins wildly out of control in its final half-hour, climaxing in a two-minute montage of voiceover and exposition that either does or doesn't turn the rest of the movie upside-down in maddening fashion.
The movie ended. The credits rolled. I was sitting in the back of the Eccles Theatre scratching my head and the words "Look Again" came up on the screen. 
Some viewers are definitely going to find "Red Lights" worthy of a second viewing, particularly in the aftermath of that peculiar ending. As for me? Asked to look again, I'm afraid I'm going to take a pass. Like I said, "Red Lights" is occasionally intriguing, but I don't think the things that intrigued me had anything to do with the main text or impact of the movie. That doesn't make them less interesting and I'm pretty sure that "Red Lights" is a fascinating failure -- and possibly an oddball cult film in-the-making -- but a failure none-the-less.
Full review after the break...
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<p>&quot;The Invisible War&quot;</p>
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"The Invisible War"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: Kirby Dick's 'The Invisible War'

It's hard to remain unmoved by this polemic about sexual assaults in the military
A lot of the time, I sit down for Sundance documentaries just itching for a dose of righteous indignation.
I suspect I'm not alone.
But too often, even documentaries with the best of intentions deliver only partially or else fail to deliver at all.
You read the description of the documentary in the Sundance guide and the topic/thesis is one that you agree with passionately, but then you watch in misery as one thing after another goes wrong. The filmmaker stretches their point beyond its breaking point, or comes up short of a full treatise. The filmmaker properly targets a problem, but has no interest in even hinting at a solution. The filmmaker loses faith in the inherent power of the subject matter and resorts to manipulative editing or overbearing music to jerk the audience around like a puppet. Or the filmmaker is so condescending or full of contempt for the alternative viewpoint that their actual point gets lost in facile name-calling.
You'd think it'd be easy to make a film that stirs the emotions of a Sundance audience that's often easily moved, but I've found that it's far simpler to stumble and squander good will. 
That why I'm able to resist criticizing Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War" for not being especially artistically adventurous.
Yes, "The Invisible War" is a reasonably straightforward talking head-driven documentary, opened up mainly with stock footage and a couple scenes taking the characters on the road. Dick ("Sick" "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"), an Oscar and Emmy nominee, has made several previous films that more aggressively challenge viewers in terms of formalism or, more frequently, audience identification with off-kilter characters or circumstances. 
What Dick has done with "The Invisible War" is make an audience-mobilizing documentary that hits you in the gut in the opening minutes and doesn't let up, but also avoids a great majority of easy pratfalls. "The Invisible War" doesn't overstay its welcome at 90 minutes, nor does it ever lose confidence in the ability of its subjects to be powerful on their own, without anybody putting their thumb on the scale. It finds a way to be ideologically pragmatic, without ever sacrificing its laser focus, and unrelentingly outraged, without forgetting the need to include a call to action.
And perhaps most importantly, "The Invisible War" may depress you and make you cry, but it'll also probably leave you inspired. It's a portrait of courage as much as victimhood. 
[More after the break...]
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<p>John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford</p>
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John Cooper, Keri Putnam and Robert Redford

Credit: Danny Moloshok/AP

Robert Redford and the Sundance braintrust discuss the 2012 Festival

John Cooper and Keri Putnam also share their thoughts on the state of indie film
PARK CITY - The 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicked off on Thursday (January 19) with Robert Redford and his team's traditional opening press conference. 
As you may have already heard. Redford kicked things off on a gloomy note, referring to "the hard times we're living in," calling said times "dark and grim." Redford continued, of course, by emphasizing that the Sundance Film Festival isn't going to be dark and grim and that, as Festival Director John Cooper explained, "the independent film community is very healthy."
After the press conference, I attended a series of roundtable interviews with Redford, Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam to discuss, in more depth, The State of Sundance, 2012.
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<p>&quot;The Queen of Versailles&quot;</p>
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"The Queen of Versailles"

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'The Queen of Versailles'

Opening Night doc is the most extreme 'Real Housewives' episode ever
Economic downturn be damned, every week, millions of viewers tune in to Bravo to revel in the despicable conspicuous consumption of an assortment of surgically manipulated, humanity deficient housewives from an assortment of major American cities. 
Audiences flock to Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise for many of the same reasons that they celebrated "The O.C." or "Dallas" or "Dynasty" or even "Revenge": Soap operas about the wealthy feed appetites that are simultaneously wish fulfillment and outsider hostility. On one hand, they're the living embodiments of the American Dream, no matter the source of their money. On the other hand, they're awful people and if we can't slap them or throw them in swimming pools or topple their houses of cards, it's a pleasure to watch somebody else do it. 
Rich people suck, but damned if we wouldn't all want to spend a while in their shoes.
Or would we? 
Lauren Greenfield's "The Queen of Versailles," the Opening Night US Documentary competition entry at the Sundance Film Festival, starts off as a somewhat campy, candy-colored look at the outlandish life of the least real Real Housewife imaginable. But over 100 minutes, it turns the "Real Housewives" formula upside down and it becomes possibly the least tragic epic tragedy ever constructed. What begins as an easy, uncluttered source for envy and derision becomes something confusing and possibly challenging. 
By the end of "The Queen of Versailles," I wasn't viewing the characters the way they viewed themselves and I'm not sure if I was viewing them the way Greenfield was viewing them. I was viewing them through a prism tilted by contemporary economic events, but also countless hours of reality TV.
I found the result to be an fascinating muddle of reactions that couldn't be more contemporary and couldn't be more American, which I guess I hope was Greenfield's ultimate intent.
More after the break...
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<p>The &quot;American Idol&quot; judges</p>
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The "American Idol" judges

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 11 Premiere Live-Blog - Savannah Auditions

Ryan, Randy, Steven and J-Lo begin their quest for a new singing star

Welcome, dear friends, to another season of "American Idol." It's time, once again, to search for the best young singer in our great nation, or at least the best young singer in our great nation who doesn't have a current recording contract and wasn't discovered in 10 previous seasons of "American Idol," didn't audition of "The Voice," didn't audition for "X Factor" and doesn't prefer to sing in the sort of ensemble that might be better suited for "The Sing-Off." 

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Credit: AP

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 112

Dan and Alan talk TCA press tour and review 'Justified,' 'Unsupervised,' 'Touch' and more


Happy Monday, Boys and Girls! It's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast time...

Alan is currently flying back across the country to reunite with his family, but as TCA press tour ended on Sunday afternoon, we sat down together to debrief from the last week of the Tour. Mostly, Alan was watching the Giants game. We also reviewed the new season of "Justified" and took early looks at FX's "Unsupervised" and FOX's "Touch." Then we Skyped up in the evening to debrief after the dreadful Golden Globes telecast.

As we mentioned in the podcast, I'm going to be at Sundance for the next week, so either we won't have a podcast next week, or it'll be an end-of-the-week podcast. Either way, there will be no podcast next Monday. 
But this podcast is ample for the interim...
Podcast breakdown:
Press Tour Week Two (00:00 - 44:35)
"Justified" (44:40 - 51:40)
"Unsupervised" (51:40 - 57:15)
"Touch" (57:20 - 01:06:00)
The Golden Globes (01:06:45 - 01:15:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

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<p>Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais</p>
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Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Golden Globes 2012 Live-Blog

Follow the winners, losers, speeches and Ricky Gervais...

Welcome, friends, to my live blog of the 2012 Golden Globe Awards! 

There's a funny story for how I ended up handling live-blogging duties rather than HitFix's all-around Awards Guru Gregory Ellwood, but I'll let him tell it. 

As for me, I'm just so happy to be done with the Television Critics Association press tour that I'm raring and ready to go...

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Watch: Efren Ramirez talks FOX's 'Napoleon Dynamite'

T-shirt talk with the man the fans know as "Pedro"
When it comes to Efren Ramirez, it's all about t-shirts.
When the man who helped turn "Vote For Pedro" into one of the decade's most ubiquitous, annoying t-shirt fad sits down in front of you with a "You Don't Know Me" t-shirt, it isn't arbitrary. 
Although Ramirez is most closely associated with his presidentially aspirational character from "Napoleon Dynamite," he's always been happy to talk about his career beyond Pedro, his acting inspirations and, in this interview from the fall, his recent experience meeting fans at San Diego's Comic-Con.
"Napoleon Dynamite" migrates to FOX in animated form tonight (January 15). Before the premiere, check out this video interview.
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<p>John Landgraf</p>
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John Landgraf

Credit: FX

Press Tour '12 Live-Blog: FX Executive session with John Landgraf

Expect lots and lots of Charlie Sheen questions. And maybe some 'Powers' stuff

Thanks to Mr. Charlie Sheen, FX's executive session with President & General Manager John Landgraf could be fun... Let's find out...

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