DID YOU READ

The directors of “Undefeated” tackle high school football

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“You keep doing the right thing. And good things will happen to you.”

Those are the words of high school football coach Bill Courtney to his team, the Manassas Tigers. Based on the incredible power of “Undefeated,” the film about Courtney and the Tigers, one has to assume that its directors, Dan Lindsay, and T.J. Martin, have been doing the right thing for a loooooong time. The film premiered at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, where it was quickly scooped up for distribution by The Weinstein Company. Now it’s nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary before it even opens in theaters this Friday.

The documentary category at the Oscars is always fraught with controversy. This year’s nominations have been particularly contentious thanks to snubs of terrific films like “The Interrupters,” “Senna,” and “Project Nim.” Regardless, “Undefeated” is a worthy Oscar nominee. The film, which bears obvious similarities to the television show “Friday Night Lights,” packs as strong an emotional wallop as any of the series’ best episodes.

Manassass High is located in North Memphis, Tennessee, one of the most economically depressed parts of the country. Its students are not only playing for pride, some of them are quite literally fighting for their future, like star offensive lineman O.C. Brown, whose unique physical abilities could land him a college scholarship if he could only get his grades up. His teammate Montrail, a.k.a Money, has the opposite problem: he’s an exceptional student, but he’s too small to play college ball and probably too poor to afford a good school any other way. And then there’s Chavis, a player who missed all of last season after he was sentenced to a term in a youth detention facility because of anger management issues.

These guys might sound more like the Bad News Bears than the Chicago Bears, but Courtney’s positive influence on these young men and their community over the course of a single remarkable season is nothing short of inspiring. Not to get too schmaltzy about it, but the world portrayed in “Undefeated” — where good deeds are rewarded in kind — is the world we all want to live in. And to know that this is a documentary, which means this is the world we actually live in, makes your heart soar.

During our conversation, Lindsay, Martin and I talked about how the project developed, why they chose to focus on O.C., Money, and Chavis instead of the traditional subject of football stories (i.e. the quarterback), and whether they ever received one of their own motivational Bill Courtney pep talks.

I’ve read that your original plan was to make a film specifically about O.C. Brown. How far into the process did you decide to widen the film’s scope and what spurred the decision?

Dan Lindsay: It happened after our first trip to Memphis to look into the idea. On that trip we met Bill Courtney, and his dynamic personality convinced us right away that he would be a part of the film. And then when he told us the stories of the previous five years and the amazing anecdotes of things that had happened in the past, we realized that really was the story: the team trying to break [Manassas’ 100-plus year] playoff jinx. That seemed like the perfect setup for a beginning, middle, and an end.

T.J. Martin: It opened up in scale after meeting Bill, but the approach of the film never changed even as it grew. From day one, we knew we wanted to make something more vérité. We were much more interested in things unfolding in front of the camera and less anecdotally.

We fought making a traditional sports film for a long time. The season gave us a nice spine, but we still thought a lot of the film would take place off of the field. Then we realized that it was undeniable how much drama was taking place on the field, and on the practice field, and so forth. About three games in, we realized if we were going to make a sports film we better make the best damn sports film there is.

It’s a damn good sports film, but it may be the only football movie I’ve ever seen where not only are the quarterback and the running back not the main characters, they don’t even have speaking roles. Was that a deliberate choice or was that simply how the finished film evolved in the editing room?

DL: That was our own stupidity, not a deliberate choice. [laughs] No, but it is funny; about halfway through the season we were like, “Oh man, we should probably be talking to the guys who are scoring all the touchdowns.”

[laughs]

DL: But it was always about the characters. We set out to make a documentary that would make you forget you were watching a documentary. We needed characters who had potential for a dramatic arc. They wanted something, and either they were going to get it or they weren’t. That was our focus. We did realize that people were probably going to be interested in who this great quarterback is. But it was never our intention to make a rah-rah football film, so those guys never seemed as important to us.

TJM: For lack of a better term, the way we “cast” our characters, besides trying to find whoever had the most potential for dramatic change within a short amount of time, was to pick people who were going to interact with each other and with the team. We did follow a couple of other storylines that were extremely compelling, but they didn’t make the final edit because we didn’t want to make a series of vignettes. We wanted it to be a really tight narrative where every scene propels the story forward.

Your subjects are so incredibly comfortable on camera. I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the way you guys built a relationship between you and then team. But watching how remarkably relaxed — and how incredibly open and honest — these young men are on camera, made me think about the world of YouTube videos and camera phones. Teens today think it’s totally normal to have a camera pointed at them. Do you think you guys benefitted from that?

DL: I don’t think we ever really thought about that. For us, the approach was to build a relationship. But I will say one of the reasons we got excited about the film after that first trip to Memphis was we were getting that kind of honesty right away. I can’t say what to attribute that to. Honestly, I think part of it is some of these guys were just happy to be able to express themselves and tell their stories. I know Money especially doesn’t really have a lot of people in his life who are asking him those kind of questions about his hopes and fears and stuff. I think our interest alone helped us.

Our age really benefited us, too. We’re both in our early 30s, so we weren’t unbelievably far removed from high school. We were able to relate to the kids in that way but we weren’t too far removed from the coaches either. It put us in this spot where we could relate to both the coaches and the students.

When a character like Money is going through hard times, how hard is it to just stand there with a camera and not go over and give the poor guy a hug?

TJM: It’s extremely difficult. In vérité documentaries, you’re really watching the relationship between the filmmaker and the subject. We didn’t want to be “objective” or not grow close to the subjects; we wanted an intimate film, so we did develop a pretty close relationship with our subjects. To watch them struggle with certain things in their lives, to watch them go through obstacles, and to know that in your own opinion they might be making the wrong decision, was extremely difficult. At the same time, that’s not our judgment call, and we always needed to remind ourselves of that.

With that said, Money went through some really tough times while we were there, including a lot of stuff that’s not even in the film. There were definitely times where we’d take him out to lunch, without the cameras, and give him an opportunity to vent and kind of figure out where his head was at. And that’s an opportunity to remind him that we care about his well-being.

DL: To answer your question directly, there are also times where you do give the guy a hug. We understand the line between filmmaker and subject, and we respect that, but at the same time it’s impossible not to get close with these guys, and sometimes it just happens. After [a crucial game], I was following Bill and he broke down, and I was like “None of this is necessary.” I put down the camera and we talked and I gave the guy a hug. You can’t help that. Or if you can help it, I think you end up with a very — I don’t mean this to be judgmental or anything — but a very sterile film. As an audience member, you can feel when a filmmaker is removed to that extent.

I spent part of my vacation in Memphis last summer, and I was unprepared for how hard the recession had hit the area. How familiar were you guys with Memphis and its problems before you started the film?

TJM: I personally didn’t know much about Memphis before going there. We did as much research as possible in advance, but we kind of had the same experience: when we got to North Memphis, we felt a stronger and more urgent need to tell this story. Dan and I have done a fair amount of traveling, and neither of us had seen poverty on that level in this country before. We never set out to make issues-based films; we always wanted to make more of a human interest piece. But the one thing that is pretty rare to find in communities like this is a film that celebrates the potential, the opportunities, and the good along with the bad. A lot of times in these communities, specifically communities like North Memphis, if there’s a media presence, they’re there to sensationalize a story about violence in the neighborhood or something like that. And we saw this more as an opportunity to celebrate the stories of the people who live in these communities.

As we see over and over in the film, Bill Courtney is a master of the halftime pep talk. Did you ever find yourselves on the receiving end of one of his pep talks?

TJM: [laughs] Definitely. In postproduction, we found ourselves on the receiving end of those pep talks ever day. And little does he know that’s what got us through nine months of post-production: listening to these amazing speeches by Bill. That actually gave us hope to go into the editing room each day when we were only 25 hours into a 500 hour logging session.

DL: We both still talk to Bill all the time. He always wants to know about everything going on in my life and he totally does it to us. [laughs] “Dan, you gotta embrace this moment!” Every once in a while I find myself getting kind of worked up when he’s talking to me. It’s an ongoing pep talk from him to me.

“Undefeated” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Breakfast Club Paul Gleason

The Mean Team

The 10 Biggest Jerks From ’80s Teen Movies

Catch Footloose and The Breakfast Club during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

The ’80s gifted us with many glorious things like “Thriller,” dance aerobics, and Tab, but none quite as glorious as the teen movie jerk. Often a gentleman, but occasionally a lady, these deliciously douche-y antagonists sauntered around the halls of our favorite cinematic high schools with perfectly feathered hair, popped collars, and a general air of smugness. Before you travel back in time to the Reagan Era for IFC’s ’80s Weekend, check out our list of the biggest jerks from ’80s teen movies. Shoulder pads and Aquanet are totally optional.

1. Steff, Pretty in Pink

No man rocked a linen suit and loafers in the ’80s (or really SINCE the ’80s) quite as well as James Spader’s hunky, “richie” bad guy from Pretty in Pink. Steff looks old enough to be in grad school, which may explain why he’s always seen idling in the halls with a cigarette coolly hanging off his lips instead of actually going to class. He’s also the kind of guy who has house parties where he roams around in open silk robes, rolling joints, and condescending to pretty much everyone including his supposed best friend Blane. Steff may harbor a secret crush on polar opposite Andie, but we’ve always had a love/hate crush on him and his ridiculously great hair.


2. Troy, The Goonies

Yes, the Fratellis are the real villains in our favorite flick about a ragtag group of teens searching for pirate treasure, but without number one tool, Troy (Steve Antin), and his equally terrible father trying to turn The Goondocks into a country club expansion, there’d be no reason for the pirate treasure search in the first place. Troy is the epitome of the Letterman jacket-wearing, convertible-driving preppy jerk we’ve come to know and hate from ’80s films. His sole aim is to “make it” with girl-next-door Andy (Kerri Green) so when she refuses to ride up his wishing well bucket (in more ways than one) and sends up his embroidered cardigan instead, he angrily yells, “ANDY, YOU GOONIE!” At least he has his sweater back to keep him warm from the cold shoulder Andy just gave him.


3. Hardy, Some Kind of Wonderful

The highly attractive Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer) has many less-than-attractive traits including being cruel, misogynistic (“She’s gonna have to beg!”), cheating on girlfriend Amanda (Lea Thompson), and being a total rich snob. Like fellow John Hughes movie tool, Steff, Mr. Jenns also loves a beautifully cut suit and perfect hair, which may be the only thing bigger than his oversized ego. But none of that is enough to keep him from losing two things he can’t just buy back with his gobs of money: his pride and ex Amanda. Looks like THIS Hardy boy has more than a few mysteries to solve, starting with how to become a less terrible person.


4. Heather Chandler, Heathers

New World Pictures
New World Pictures

Lunchtime poll: would you rather be Heather Chandler or kill Heather Chandler? Such is the dilemma faced by frenemy Veronica (Winona Ryder) whose life (and everyone else’s for that matter) is made a living hell by the resident queen bee of the Heathers clique. Ever stylish, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) favors violently red power suits with huge shoulder pads and matching hair scrunchies. She’s as ruthless about tormenting anyone who gets in her way or barfs on her designer shoes (ahem, Veronica) as she is her croquet game, and frankly, her acid-tongued, NSFW comebacks (some involving chainsaws) are totally legendary. What’s her damage? Oh, just ruling Westerberg like she’s the queen of Westeros. How very.


5. Biff, Back to the Future

Universal
Universal Studios

Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) is basically your typical school bully: pushy, a little dumb, and egged on by a gang of equally pushy, dimwit friends in Converse sneakers and 3D glasses. He also can’t take a hint from pretty Lorraine (Lea Thompson) who clearly wants nothing to do with him either inside or outside of a car. Like most bullies, Biff’s main target is resident school nerd, George “HEY McFly!” McFly (Crispin Glover), whom he forces to do all his homework and beats the crap out of on a regular basis. Speaking of crap, though, Biff gets a truckload dumped on him during a game of chicken with George’s son, Marty (Michael J. Fox). Hey, Biff — if you need us to help you clean up, we’re gonna make like a tree, and get out of here.


6. Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid

Columbia
Columbia Pictures

No list of ’80s teen movie villains would be complete without mentioning the weirdly prolific William “Billy” Zabka. Johnny Lawrence is, without question, the greatest of his bad guy personas. A top karate student at Cobra Kai, blond jerk Johnny immediately dislikes grasshopper Daniel (Ralph Macchio) after he notices him getting a little too chummy with ex-girlfriend Ali (Elisabeth Shue) at a party. Naturally, this is the catalyst for the showdown to end all karate showdowns, and Johnny will do anything to win; even an illegal move against an already injured Daniel. In his leather jackets and karate bandanas, Johnny is the ultimate dreamy bad boy you love to hate and hate to love. Sweep the leg? More like he swept us all off our feet.


7. Principal Vernon, The Breakfast Club

Universal
Universal Studios

Good ol’ Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) — or Dick, as Bender (Judd Nelson) would call him — and his 1,000-word essay during Saturday detention are all that stand between our Brain (Anthony Michael Hall), Athlete (Emilio Estevez), Basket Case (Ally Sheedy), Princess (Molly Ringwald), and Criminal (Nelson) and freedom. With a wardrobe possibly raided from Barry Manilow, Vernon is overly stern and harsh, especially to John Bender, whom he locks in a closet and gives detentions to as freely as Oprah gives away cars. Hey, you mess with the bull, you get the horns, right? (Click here to see all airings of The Breakfast Club on IFC.)


8. Reverend Moore, Footloose

There are overly-protective fathers and then there is Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow). Stubborn and pious, Moore refuses to lift the ban on dancing and rock music in Bomont, putting an even bigger wedge between himself and wild daughter Ariel (Lori Singer). Moore is all fire and brimstone in the pulpit, preaching against the very things — like sex, drugs, dancing, and alcohol — he believes led to son Bobby’s death in a car accident. When Ren (Kevin Bacon) stands up to him during a town council meeting and quotes joyful passages about dancing from the Bible, Moore’s demeanor begins to change. Come on, Reverend. No one can resist a slice of Bacon! (Click here to see all airings of Footloose on IFC.)


9. Jeanie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Paramount
Paramount Pictures

Much like Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) is less-than-amused by brother Ferris’ (Matthew Broderick) shenanigans, especially considering he never seems to get in trouble for anything with either their parents or school. But Jeanie’s attempts to catch her brother in the act wind up landing her in the police station where she finds time to make out with a drug dealer and throw some serious shade before speeding off with her mother to try to beat Ferris home. Jeanie Bueller’s day off is decidedly not quite as fun as Ferris’.


10. Stan Gable, Revenge of the Nerds

26 year-old Ted McGinley was cast as cardigan-wearing jock Stan Gable partially based on a calendar-modeling gig he’d had, which explains a lot about what you need to know about Stan. The alpha male of the Alpha Beta fraternity pretty much coasts by on his good looks and athletic abilities while delegating all his dirty work to doofus best friend Ogre (Donald Gibb). But make no mistake, Stan has it out for any and all nerds who try to steal both his spot as big man on campus and his girl. Never cross a man in a cardigan.

Flashback with IFC’s ’80s Weekend July 29-31st!

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Pokémon Go   Hollywood   YouTube

Catch 'Em All

Pokemon Go Goes Hollywood, Real Life Futurama, and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Indiana Jones catching Pokémon, Donald Trump meeting Grimace and more.

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Photo Credit: Lucasfilm / Nintendo / YouTube

It pains us to say this, but this summer is not even half over. Beaten on all sides by weather, current events, and anyone behind a podium, we could definitely use a breather. Luckily, we have a handful of funny videos before you break for the weekend.

From a scarily accurate real-life version of Futurama to Trump meeting a beloved McDonaldland character, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. The Best T-Shirts in Film

From Wayne and Garth to your neighborhood skateboarder, everyone loves a great T-shirt. In fact, the quickest way to humanize a character to a viewer is to put ’em in a novel-T, and there’ve been a few cinematic greats through the years — which YouTuber Travis Greenwood compiled in a supercut worthy of a mall kiosk.


2. I’m Afraid to Talk to Men

Comedian Chris Fleming has a knack for outrageous characters and bizarrely catchy earworms. Give a listen to his latest ditty about his fears that any encounter with dudes will lead to him talking about birds or mentioning Stevie Nicks. Looks like we found our 2016 summer song.


3. Real Life Futurama Fan Trailer

In a gorgeous and dazzling abuse of intellectual property rights, this teaser for Fan-O-Rama — a fan-made, real-life version of Futurama — shows a keen eye for detail and a big heart for the animated series. Cinema Relics clearly went all-out for this one, from a fully articulating Bender to a jowl-wobbling Nixon head, and it definitely has us looking forward to the full-length video.


4. Pokémon Go Hollywood

As more and more countries are invited to clog the overloaded servers, there’s no denying Pokémon Go is a cultural phenomenon. And while it didn’t take much prodding to get us all into Pidgey-wranglin’, YouTuber Darth Blender conceived of a Hollywood filled with Pokémon-sponsored product placement. Set to the cartoon theme song, Indiana Jones, Deadpool, and Mad Max are determined to catch them all.


5. Donald Trump Meets Grimace

A testament to his staunch honesty, integrity, and humility, Donald Trump continues to run a flawless presidential campaign with absolutely no cause for concern, alarm, or emigration. But despite the media’s intense vetting process that begat zero scandals or impeachable acts, Trump does have one small blemish from his past: a series of embarrassing McDonald’s ads featuring him alongside Grimace. But thankfully, for the lives and safety of this planet, this is the only regrettable thing he’s done.

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The Bad News Bears Walter Matthau

Batter Up

10 Surprising Facts About The Bad News Bears Movies

Catch the Bad News Bears movies this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount/Everett Collection

The Bad News Bears has become one of the most popular sports comedies in movie history. For some fans it’s a classic underdog story. To others, it’s an honest depiction of kids. Regardless of what you get from the movies, you can see all four of them on IFC this month: the original Bad News Bears (1976), the Richard Linklater remake (2005), the sentimental sequel The Bad Bews Bears in Breaking Training (1977) and the bizarre cash-grab The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978) –- where a Little League player battles a Kaiju monster.

Before you tee up with the Bears, check out a few things you might not know about the enduring rough-and-tumble baseball movie franchise.

1. The cast got paid to ad lib.

Bad News Bears Stretcher
Paramount Pictures

The original 1976 Bad News Bears is beloved for its warts-and-all depiction of a group of rowdy youngsters. To make the dialogue feel more real and unpredictable, director Michael Ritchie would pay the actors a dollar each for the best ad-lib of the day. Some of the funniest lines were improvised, including the throwaway bit after Ahmad gets hit in the crotch. Coach Turner calls for a stretcher and Toby asks, “A stretcher for his balls?”


2. The first Bears film originally had a different ending.

Kelly Leak
Paramount Pictures

The original ending of The Bad News Bears had Kelly Leak stealing a Mercedes after he found his Mom was having an affair with Bob Whitewood (the Councilman who hired Buttermaker). There was a police chase that ended up at the stadium where a game is going on. Kelly grabbed a bat, hitting the winning home run but couldn’t go to home because the police were waiting there for him.


3. You can thank ‘Nam for the Bears losing in the first film.

Bad News Bears Team
Paramount Pictures

Richard Linklater (who directed the 2005 Bears remake) noted on the DVD commentary that adult test audiences wanted the Bears to win the big game, but kids loved that the Bears lost. Linklater adds that it was necessary for the Bears to lose in the original, because America was coping with the outcome of the war in Vietnam.


4. The Bears came from all over the country.

Bad News Bears
Paramount Pictures

The filmmakers saw over 1,000 kids in Los Angeles, but felt they couldn’t be natural. Director Michael Ritchie said professionally trained child actors had too many bad habits and “talked like kids in The Brady Bunch.” The filmmakers auditioned young actors in New York (where they found three Bears, including Tanner) and Texas (where they discovered Engelberg) in order to assemble the ragtag bunch.


5. Where’s Engelberg Now?

Engleberg Bad News Bears
Paramount Pictures

12-year-old Gary Lee Cavagnaro, who played Bears catcher Engelberg, had never acted before. His mother worked in the shopping center where they held the auditions and saw a sign reading: “WANTED: Kids who weigh more than 160 pounds.” Gary weighed 205, but after the movie he lost 65 pounds and grew four inches, losing his role in the sequel. He was offered a part in Jaws 2, but turned it down because he wanted to play football instead. Today he works for an electronics company in his home state of Texas.


6. Tatum O’Neal did her own pitching.

Tatum O'Neal Bad News Bears
Paramount Pictures

O’Neal, the youngest actor to ever win an Oscar, did her own pitching in the key scenes on the mound. A pitching coach from USC worked with Tatum for five weeks where she learned to throw a curveball, which she could only occasionally throw during filming. (For every one pitch that was used, there were 60 takes left on the cutting room floor.) Despite all this effort, many critics wrote that the film must’ve used a pitching double.


7. The Bears almost met Castro.

Bad News Bears Cuba
Paramount Pictures

In 1978, comedy legend Carl Reiner was approached to direct a fourth Bears movie. Paramount had arranged for Fidel Castro to co-star in The Bad News Bears Go to Cuba, featuring the Revolutionary Leader playing catch with the Little Leaguers, giving a pep talk and throwing out the first ball of the World championship game against the United States. In the script, the game ends with a tie of 0-0 and the two teams share the trophy six months at a time. (Die-hard fans will remember that the last line of The Bad News Go to Japan is Tony Curtis’ character scheming an exhibition game in Cuba.)


8. The Bears inspired a low-budget rip-off.

Bad News Bears Cuba
American International Pictures

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan opened in theaters two months after the release of Here Comes the Tigers, an obscure Bears rip-off directed by Sean S. Cunningham. (The filmmaker would later find fame with Friday the 13th, a title he’d wanted to use for a kids’ soccer comedy.) Tigers follows a reluctant coach, a juvenile delinquent, a “booger-eating moron” named Timmy and features a soundtrack of classical music. Fittingly, IMDB classifies Tigers as a remake.


9. Corey Feldman was a Bad News Bear.

Corey Feldman Bad News Bears
CBS

In 1979, the Bears came to the small screen with a cast of younger players. The TV version has Buttermaker (played by Jack Warden) coaching rather than spending a year in prison after driving a client’s Cadillac into a swimming pool. The cast included eight-year-old Corey Feldman, in what would be his first regular television role. Presumably the producers cast young actors so they wouldn’t get too old if the show proved to be successful. Unfortunately, it only lasted two seasons.


10. The Bears remake had to be booze-free.

Bad News Bears Beer
Paramount Pictures

The 2005 Bad News Bears remake established early on that Buttermaker drinks non-alcoholic beer. (Director Richard Linklater couldn’t use real beer or include actual brand names.) In the victory scene, Buttermaker hands his team bottles of non-alcoholic brew. Despite these compromises, co-screenwriter John Requa was pleased with Billy Bob Thornton’s ability to keep the film from becoming too sentimental, noting that the actor is “incapable of delivering corn.” Even if it means drinking “Goldweisen.”

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