Movie Pitch for The Torch

As part of a Hollywood fantasy draft I am doing over at, I have to write a movie pitch with the actors and director I casted.  If you would like to find out more about this please go here.  Here is my pitch:

The Torch

Directed by Steven Spielberg


James Murphy=Christopher Plummer
Sgt. Andrew Murphy=Guy Pearce
April Murphy=Sandra Bullock
Mrs. Bryant=Octavia Spencer
The woman=Berenice Bejo
General Antoine Giraud=Ben Kingsley

Act 1

It’s 1942.  Hitler’s grip stretches from Finland to Morocco.  The allied powers have fled the European mainland.  War is everywhere.  Allied forces are secretly planning a point for reentry into the continent.  As the major leaders turn their attention to Nazi and Vichy France controlled Northern Africa, James Murphy is called into the discussions.  As a consul to Algiers, James is important to the discussions as Algiers is discussed as a possible invasion point.  At the age of 71, James has not been doing any important fieldwork in years, but the mission military leaders offer him is too important to refuse.  He is to go back to Algiers in order to plant the seeds for a coup against the Vichy French.

At 42, Sgt. Andrew Murphy is one of the older members of his unit.  He is with the 9thInfantry of the American army.  He has not talked to his father in ages.  He has no idea where he is.  But with the threat of some real action, things have changed.  He decides its time to reconnect with his father.  He sends his wife one last letter.  In it is a request for her to find James Murphy.

The seeds are planted.  A coup is inevitable.  James Murphy has returned to Ally Headquarters and has deemed his mission a success.  As a reward, all he asks is that the 9th Infantry be the ones to be sent into secure Algiers.  He says some one of importance fights among them.

It’s November 7th.  Darkness has fallen and the 9th Infantry begins to mobilize.  They are to head to Algiers.  Set. Andrew Murphy begins to board his ship when he is called for an emergency briefing.  His commanding officer tells him a coup to take over the Vichy French controlled Moroccan city, Safi, has failed.  Safi is one of the other prongs in the invasion of Northern Africa, and the Vichy French maybe peaceful with American forces.  The 9thInfantry is to head to Safi instead.

There is a knock on James Murphy’s door.  A woman who appears to be in her 30s or 40s walks in.  She introduces herself as April Murphy and says she is his daughter-in-law.  They continue to talk about past experiences they have had with Andrew and agree that a gathering is in order.  That is why he sent Andrew to Algiers, he tells her.  There is another knock on the door.  In comes an American military official.  He tells him that the 9th Infantry had to be sent to Safi.  They will be headed straight into the heat of battle.

Act 2

It’s the morning of November 8.  The invasion begins.  Sgt. Andrew Murphy is in the second invasion boat.  They had to the beach without covering fire from the warships behind them.  It is unknown if the French will even attack.  The first boat reaches the shore without any trouble.  Soldiers begin to walk onto the beach when suddenly the entire beach erupts into gunfire.  The captain of Andrew’s boat freaks out and the boat suddenly swerves away from the landing point.  Andrew goes into the control room in order to get control of the ship.  He is able to get the captain to calm down when a soldier comes into the room and says a sniper is firing on the ship.  Andrew goes back to the deck where they are in fact being fired upon by snipers from the woods which has now replaced the beach.  They are way off course.  Andrew orders the men to return fire.  This is successful for a while.  That is until a grenade is thrown onto the ship.  The ship is destroyed.

James Murphy is having trouble keeping April calm.  He says it will all be fine and that Andrew probably won’t even see action.  He knows that’s not true though.  He leaves the room and tries to find one of his superiors.  He finds one and asks the man to let him go back into the field.  He tells him the fight can’t be won without the elimination of General Antoine Giraud, a famed military man for the Vichy French and a skilled sniper, and that he knows how to find him.  The man denies his request.

Andrew Murphy makes it to the small strip of sand that separates the sea from the forest.  He is dizzy but still looks for survivors.  There are none.  He has no idea where he is but he keeps moving nonetheless.  Eventually he makes it to a clearing.  The only thing there is a destroyed building, but he hears a noise.  It sounds like a woman crying.  He cautiously follows the noise until he finds the woman.  The woman asks who he is and he responds.  The woman tells him that she can be called Mrs. Bryant.  Mrs. Bryant offers him the chance to stay in her broken down house for the night.  He agrees and spends the rest of the night listening to her life story.  Mrs. Bryant was originally from Alabama.  She moved here to find some of her relatives that used to live here after husband was beaten to death by white supremacists.  She didn’t find what she was looking for in Safi and she has come to the realization that people of her color never get to fight for what they believer in.  If they did, her husband would still be alive.  Andrew goes to sleep for the night.  Early that morning he is abruptly awaken by a loud noise.  He looks up to see a fireball crash into the nearby field.  Andrew and Mrs. Bryant run up to it to see what it was that fell from the sky.  It is a downed American aircraft.  The pilot is an African-American.  He isn’t moving.  Andrew realizes what a sad event this is yet there is a sense of hope too.

James Murphy is still consoling April when his superior walks in.  He says that he had someone look into his request on General Giraud.  Intelligence believes he is somewhere in the woods surrounding Safi.  The 9thInfantry is in the middle of Safi and away from any confrontation with Giraud.  The problem is Andrew is missing.  A sense of dread consumes James.  He charges out of the room and tries to find someone who will take him to Safi.  Suddenly, he begins to feel a pain in his chest.  He collapses to the floor and passes out.

Act 3

With directions from Mrs. Bryant, Sgt. Andrew Murphy is one walk through the woods away from reuniting with the 9th Infantry.  A mile or two in, Andrew here’s something.  He stops for a second when a pain suddenly hits his leg.  He falls to the ground.  There he sees men moving in on him.  The men who reaches him first has a patch on his chest.  With some knowledge of the French language, Andrew is able to see that it says General Giraud.  The general tells a man next to him to tie him up and keep him with the woman.  They are heading to a Vichy French stronghold.  Andrew passes out from the pain.  When he wakes up again, he finds himself passed out in a stretcher and being pulled by a French woman.  He asks for help but all he gets in return is her story.  She was the wife of a soldier for General Giraud.  He wanted to bring her along with him.  Giraud refused and when he did it anyway, Giraud murdered him.  As a cruel joke, Giraud brought the woman along anyway to do all of the work none of his soldiers wanted to do.  Andrew tries to press her in realizing that Giraud does not control her.  Eventually this causes something to go off in her mind.  She drops Andrew under some brush and walks up to General Giraud, pulls his gun, and shoots him.  The rest of the soldiers surround the woman and Andrew sees nothing but hears many guns going off.

Andrew begins to slowly drag himself the rest of the way to Safi.  When he finally makes it he is given a hero’s welcome.  That is until his General gives him some bad news.  His father is dying.  Andrew is shipped back to American Headquarters where he finally, after many years, reunites with his father.  James is now comatose and will never recover.  Andrew tearfully says goodbye as he is filled with regret over not reuniting with him earlier.  Andrew stays by his side until he passes.  April tries to cheer him up but nothing will.  That is until April revealed the stories that James shared with her about the experiences he remembered having with Andrew.  In this way, Andrew is able to spend more time with his father.

The End

85th Academy Award Predictions: Year in Advance

Well this time last year, I actually predicted 4 of the eventual Best Picture nominees for the 84th Academy Awards (Hugo, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse).  I also correctly predicted 3 of the 5 Best Lead Actress nominees (Glenn Close, Rooney Mara, Michelle Williams and I predicted Viola Davis for Supporting Actress), 3 of the 5 Adapted Screenplay nominees (The Descendants, The Ides of March, Moneyball), 3 of the 5 Film Editing nominees (category winner The Girl WIth the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, War Horse), 4 of the 5 Cinematography nominees (category winner Hugo, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Tree of Life, War Horse) and 2 of the 3 Makeup nominees (category winner The Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs) so don't be surprised to see at least a few of these predictions to turn out to be correct.  Let's get started:

-Anna Karenina
-Django Unchained
-The Master
-Untitled International Thriller

-Ben Affleck, Argo
-P.T. Anderson, The Master
-Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
-Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
-Joe Wright, Anna Karenina

-Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
-Clint Eastwood, Trouble With the Curve
-Richard Gere, Arbitrage
-John Hawkes, The Surrogate
-Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson

-Amy Adams, Trouble With the Curve
-Sandra Bullock, Gravity
-Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
-Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina
-Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby

-Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
-Joel Edgerton, The Great Gatsby
-Jude Law, Anna Karenina
-Ian McKellen, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-David Strathairn, Lincoln

-Amy Adams, The Master
-Sally Field, Lincoln
-Helen Hunt, The Surrogate
-Laura Linney, Hyde Park on Hudson
-Olivia Williams, Hyde Park on Hudson

-Anna Karenina
-The Silver Linings Playbook
-The Wettest County

-Django Unchained
-The Master
-Seven Psychopaths
-The Surrogate

-The Pirates! Band of Misfits
-Rise of the Guardians
-The Secret World of Arrietty

-Caesar Must Die
-The House I Live In
-The Invisible War
-West of Memphis




-The Debutante Hunters

-The Great Gatsby
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-Les Miserables
-The Master

-Anna Karenina
-The Dark Knight Rises
-Django Unchained
-The Master

-Anna Karenina
-Dark Shadows
-The Great Gatsby
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-Les Miserables

-The Dark Knight Rises
-Django Unchained
-Untitled International Thriller

-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

-Anna Karenina
-The Dark Knight Rises
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-The Hunger Games
-Les Miserables

-The Dark Knight Rises
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-Les Miserables
-Untitled International Thriller

-The Avengers
-The Dark Knight Rises
-The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

84th Academy Awards Roundup

So finally it is over.  I have to be honest and say that this year's awards season got a little too long and way too predictable.  Despite that the Oscars (as always) were an entertaining end to the season.  While what follows may seem like a slam against the Oscars the awards ceremony is still much better than any other awards show during the course of the year, and it always pains me to know that I have to wait another full year for the next installment.

Let's start off by saying that I went 16/24 which is not so good (predicting upsets that were probably never really going to happen in Live Action Short and Original Song killed me).  However, I went 7/8 in the top categories which just goes to show how predictable this thing got.  Meryl Streep winning Lead Actress was the only one I didn't get, and that win was a bit unfortunate.  Streep now has 3 Oscars with another nomination most likely on the way for next year's installment.  Meanwhile, Viola Davis (who gave a very strong performance in The Help) will probably struggle to get such a role again.

As for the ones I did predict correctly, Dujardin and Hazanavicius made for nice winners although the latter wasn't the best of his category (especially in a category that had Terrence Malick).  The former had a fun speech and was easily the happiest winner of the night.  The supporting actor winners were a bit disappointing (yet inevitable).  Octavia Spencer gave an inferior performance to her own co-star, but we should probably count our blessings that Melissa McCarthy didn't win (considering the outcome of the lead actress category and the reception McCarthy got when her clip played this was probably a much closer race than we thought).  Christopher Plummer was one of the weaker nominees in a very weak Supporting Actor field but his speech almost justified his victory.  It was easily the best of the night and its hard to deny that Plummer should have an Oscar before his career ends.

She should have won.

The screenplay categories provided two of the better victories of the night.  Midnight in Paris was the strongest of its field (and strongest of any original screenplay this year), and The Descendants was a nice win for the fact that Dean Pelton (the always hilarious Jim Rash) is now an Oscar winner.

The animated (yea for Rango), documentary (I can't wait to see Undefeated), foreign language (A Separation was the only justifiable option) and shorts (a nice win for The Shore) categories produced worthy winners but the same cannot be said for the technical categories.  These awards obviously need some major revamping.  Hugo's run through these categories was just laughable (cinematography over The Tree of Life, visual effects over Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the sound categories over everything else), and shows that every Academy member voting on every category is just not working.

As for the show itself, it was a mess.  The opening (along with a Morgan Freeman intro that should now become a requirement for every awards show) was classic Billy Crystal.  Safe but effective.  The montages then began and never seemed to end (what the hell was with that one montage that included immortal lines from film history along with clips from Twilight?).  The show featured a cirque du soleil performance (which the Muppets were wasted introducing) that just felt superfluous from the angle of the tv viewer.  Many of the categories were introduced with awesome interviews with cast members from each nominee (the highlight being the Best Director one), but the intro wasn't included for one of the most important technical categories (cinematography).  And I haven't even mentioned yet that the producers were completely oblivious to a sound quality issue on the telecast.  To be honest, it seemed like Billy Crystal and Brian Grazer were playing for the room and completely ignoring the audience.  While that style did provide some great moments, they shouldn't be brought back again if thy plan on doing that again.

As for The Artist winning Best Picture, it's neither a good nor bad Best Picture winner.  It is what it is.

My List of Demands for the 84th Academy Awards

Well here comes another wishful list of things I want from tonight starting off with:

1. Best Cinematography for The Tree of Life

Nothing came close to the work Emmanuel Lubezki contributed to The Tree of Life.  It was beautiful, jaw dropping and innovative.  Add to this the fact that Lubezki still does not have an Oscar (even though he also did the cinematography for Children of Men) and this should be a shoo-in.  However, it seems like The Artist or Hugo can pull off a win.  The Artist's cinematography doesn't even deserve to be considered along side Lubezki's work and while Hugo's cinematography was very impressive, Robert Richardson should not win another Oscar in a year where The Tree of Life is competing.

2. Best Lead Actor does not go to George Clooney

I really don't like to actively root against anything in my list of demands but in a year with so many things locked up and so little rooting interest in many of the categories there is nothing else left to do.  So it's time to just say it: George Clooney's work on The Descendants was not awards worthy.  He just could not translate the emotions of the script into his performance.  It came off as a bit one-note and in a year that saw great performances from Brad Pitt and Jean Dujardin, an oscar should not be going his way.

3. Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing do not go to Hugo

Visually, Hugo was very impressive, but I can not remember one thing about its sound design at all.  Both sound categories are actually very weak (besides the nominations for Drive and Transformers), but at the very least can't War Horse (which actually featured some impressive bits of sound and incorporated the score into the film better than Hugo) win out here?

2011 Cinema Awards

Best Visual Effects

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri & R. Christopher White)
Best Sound Mixing
The Tree of Life (Erik Aadahl & Craig Berkey) 
Best Sound Editing
Super 8 (Ben Burtt & Matthew Wood)
Best Original Song
"Life's a Happy Song", The Muppets (Bret McKenzie)
Best Original Score
The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
Best Makeup
X-Men: First Class (Dave Elsey, Fran Needham & Conor O'Sullivan)
Best Film Editing
The Tree of Life (Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber & Mark Yoshikawa)
Best Costume Design
X-Men: First Class (Sammy Sheldon)
Best Cinematography
The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)    
Best Art Direction
The Eagle (Peter Francis)
Best Original Screenplay
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Best Adapted Screenplay

Stan Chervin, Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life   
Best Supporting Actor
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Best Lead Actress
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Lead Actor
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Best Director
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life    
Best Picture
The Tree of Life (Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Grant Hill & Bill Pohlad)    

8-The Tree of Life
2-X:Men: First Class

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