‘UNDEFEATED’ takes Oscar

‘UNDEFEATED’ takes Oscar

There’s an internet cacophony on the 85th Annual Academy Awards today (2/27/12) but I want to take a moment to recognize two winners that we’ve been talking about in advance of the awards.

First, “Undefeated,” winner for best documentary feature. The film, about the football Tigers of Manassas High School in North Memphis attempt to become the first team in 110 years to win a playoff game. Illinois native Dan Lindsay co-directed with T.J. Martin.

The film kicked off this year’s Midwest Independent Film Festival. It is an uplifting sports documentary for football and non-football fans alike and a filmmaking tour-de-force from Lindsay and T.J. Martin, who co-directed, edited and filmed the feature.

Also winning last night was ““The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story was produced using a variety of techniques from miniatures, computer animation and 2D animation. Directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, it harkens back to silent films and MGM Technicolor musicals.

BREED Composer and Partner John Hunter scored the film. Produced out of Shreveport, LA, “Lessmore” is inspired in equal parts by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, “The Wizard of Oz” and a general love for books.

Hunter wrote 17 minutes of music for the film, during its production over a two-month period. “They asked me to be in Shreveport under the same roof while they were animating a good portion of the film,” Hunter says. “I was included in the process.”

Hunter was able to collaborate with the directors. Sometimes he would receive rough cuts to score, other times the directors would stand behind him while he was “noodling,” offering on the spot feedback.

“It was a very unconventional way of working but it really helped tailor the music like no other method,” Hunter says.

In the honorable mention category, the short documentary “The Tsunami And The Cherry Blossom” didn’t win it’s award in the competitive category. It was directed by Lucy Walker (Supply & Demand Integrated) and edited by Aki Mizutani (Cutters) it was originally conceived as a documentary on the cherry blossoms and their prominence in Japanese culture, Lucy Walker and her crew were on hand when the earthquake and tsunami struck the country March 11, 2011 and the documentary took on a whole different shape and meaning.

Japan-born Mizutani was selected to cut the film by Walker and she had to cut the short doc from 46 hours of film in three weeks to make the deadline for the Toronto International Film Festival. She worked 15-hour days for six weeks to make the deadline.

In addition to the editing, Mizutani translated about 40 percent of the interviews. 20 people were interviewed for the film and almost all of them appeared in the final cut.

Being Japanese herself and being in the country during the disaster, Mizutani said the experience of cutting the film was emotionally draining.

“I was crying, watching the footage,” she said. “That I was so close to the subject gave me energy and motivation.”

The documentary premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and has since played at the New York Documentary Film Festival, the British International Film Festival, the Hawai’i International Film Festival and Sundance. It took the grand prize in its category at Sundance. ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’ will air on HBO in the spring.

My (our) congrats to all the winners and nominees on a tremendous achievement.