Today: February 21, 2024
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Undefeated

Do you remember which film won this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature?

Do you
remember which film won this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature?
Was it the harrowing, heartbreaking Hell And Back Again, Danfung Dennis’ stunning portrait of a
crippled Afghan War veteran trying to adjust to life back home while nursing
the physical and psychological scars of the West’s Forever War on Terror?
Was it Pina, Wim Wenders’ stunning, groundbreaking
3D documentary about the late contemporary dance choreographer Pina
Bausch? Maybe Paradise Lost 3, the third in a series of films which fought for
and eventually won the freedom of the West Memphis Three, victims of one of the
USA’s worst miscarriages of justice?
How about If A Tree Falls: A
Story Of The Earth Liberation Front
which explores the grey areas between environmental
activism and eco-terrorism?

No folks, none of these intelligent, groundbreaking,
harrowing, heartbreaking, important movies were deemed worthy of the Oscar by
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Instead, displaying the kind of wisdom that saw an idiot Ivy
Leaguer living out his cowboy fantasies elected President TWICE not to mention
the release of a fourth Pirates Of The
Caribbean
movie, the Academy bestowed the little gold man on Undefeated, a simplistic, pedestrian,
feel-good affair, as treacly as molasses, which chronicles the trials of an
underdog Memphis high school football team, the Manassas Tigers, as they try to
make it to the Tennessee State Championships. And, perversely, it’s hitting UK cinemas right in the middle
of some minor sporting event going on in London, just when its likely potential
audience is liable to be knocking one out in front of the synchronised
swimming.

Like practically every feel-good fictional sports movie you’ve ever seen, Undefeated is yet another tale of a middle class, middle aged,
white parental substitute, in this case Coach Bill Courtney in the Sandra Bullock role, trying to save the po’
black kids of Memphis from ghetto life with the help of God and football. It’s no surprise that the Weinsteins
and Diddy are already working on a purely fictional dramatic remake; the film
already feels like scripted reality, its protagonists cliched characters. There’s the thick but gifted player
whose only way out of the ghetto, winning a college scholarship, is jeapordised
by his lack of academic ability, forcing him to move in with his white
assistant coach and family who tutor him and help him pass his exams. There’s the straight-A student whose
college career is threatened by a crippling injury which may mean he might
NEVER PLAY FOOTBALL AGAIN! There’s
the bad boy with anger issues, just out of juvie hall, for whom football may
just offer a last shot at redemption.
And there’s Coach Courtney himself, a middle aged, middle class
businessman with daddy abandonment issues who spouts self-help mantras and is
determined to make a
difference!

If one moment defines Courtney’s view of the world and
himself, it’s when he confides: “You think football builds character? It does not. Football reveals character.” So does judicious editing dude. No matter how you dress it up, no matter how many
slow-motion action scenes you have in the rain or how many sub-Aaron Sorkin inspirational speeches you
cram in, ultimately, it’s just a game.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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