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Indie Movie News

Sleepers to See: Oscar-Nominated 'Undefeated' Soars with Character

While many of you headed to the theaters this weekend will either be catching up on some last-minute Oscar-nominated movie watching or indulging in one of the weekend's four new major releases, we resurrect our Sleepers to See column from winter hibernation to tout Undefeated, currently in limited release.

What is Undefeated? First off, don't get it confused with the Sarah Palin movie which adds "The" in front of the title. Rather this Undefeated is the Oscar-nominated documentary feature from directors T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay. Think of this movie as a documentary version of The Blind Side meets an urbanized Friday Night Lights.
Much like those two movies, the actual football games take a backseat to the daily lives of the players for the Manassas Tigers. Three players in particular are chronicled – the mentally tough, undersized lineman, nicknamed Money, who suffers a soul-crushing injury early in the season; O.C. Brown, a talented, speedy 300-pound offensive lineman who needs help with his grades; and Chavis, a short-tempered young man who returns to school fresh off a 15-month stint in juvenile hall and has to fight his inner demons to stay on the team.
Wrangling this group of inner city athletes is coach Bill Courtney, who for six years has served as head coach for a football program that has existed since 1899 and has never won a playoff game. Much like Kyle Chandler's Coach Taylor, Bill Courtney preaches discipline, character and self-confidence. Courtney's coaching mantra can be summed up in one quote. "If you think football builds character, it does not. Football reveals character."

The final 20 minutes are emotionally wrenching as we witness the culmination of a season worth of struggles, joy and camaraderie in a final playoff game, college plans for Money and O.C. unfold and Chavis embodies Courtney's message of character.
Undefeated premiered at last year's SXSW Film Festival in Austin and has since garnered solid reviews (currently holding a 92% over on RottenTomatoes). It remains one of the favorites to win the Documentary Feature category, despite stiff competition from Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and the gorgeous 3D flick Pina.

You may spend the weekend catching up on Best Picture nominees like The Artist, The Descendants and Hugo (all worth watching), but if you're looking to explore some of the smaller categories on your Oscar ballot or just need a sports fix before March Madness begins, you can't go wrong with Undefeated.
Sleepers to See is an occasional column to tout lesser known. This column in not studio endorsed but instead is a strong recommendation from the movie geeks here at Fandango for those looking for something outside of the Hollywood mainstream.
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