<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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<p>&quot;Napoleon Dynamite&quot;</p>
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"Napoleon Dynamite"

Credit: FOX

HitFix Interview: Jon Heder talks FOX's 'Napoleon Dynamite'

New 'Napoleon Dynamite' cartoon premieres on Sunday
When "Napoleon Dynamite" went from Sundance sleeper to art house curiosity to mainstream sensation in 2004, it elevated its star to that pantheon of actors who are unavoidably and inextricably linked with a single role.
Eight years later, Jon Heder's name and the character of Napoleon Dynamite are still tied together. Since "Napoleon Dynamite," Heder has had some small successes ("Benchwarmers," "Monster House") and at least one big hit ("Blades of Glory"), but there's only one "Napoleon Dynamite."
"Yeah. I go to Disneyland and people are like "Freakin' Idiot!" and I'm like, "What'd I ever do to you? Oh. Oh, you're quoting the movie,'" laughed Heder when we spoke last summer following a table read for the first season finale of the FOX animated comedy adaptation of "Napoleon Dynamite." 
In the interview, Heder and I discussed the positives and negatives of the "Napoleon Dynamite" phenomenon, the spirit of the new animated series
and the challenge of finding that Napoleon Dynamite voice once again.
Click through...
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Credit: AMC

Press Tour '12 Live-Blog: AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

Expect lots of chatter about Frank Darabont, budgets and whatnot

Let's get down to business with Saturday's (January 14) Television Critics Association press tour panel for AMC's "The Walking Dead"...

In case you didn't already see, AMC has extended the previously renewed third season of "The Walking Dead" to 16 episodes. But Season 2 is only 13 episodes and it's returning on February 12 to wrap things up.

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