The 2013 edition of The Black List, a ranking of the year's best unproduced screenplays, has been released. The brainchild of movie executive Franklin Leonard, the list began as something designed for insiders only, intended to promote good writing to his fellow studio execs, but it quickly became popular with the public—and a surefire way to get studio attention. Since the list began in 2004, over 200 Black List screenplays have been made into films, most recently Argo, The King's Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire. At this point, by the time a screenplay makes it onto the list, odds are good it's already been bought by a studio. (Remember, these are unproduced scripts, not unowned ones).
Much like the A.V. Club Readers' Poll, The Black List is based on the votes of over 250 movie insiders. This year's biggest vote-getter is Holland, Michigan, Andrew Sodroski's script about a woman's investigation of her husband's infidelity. Other top picks include Section 6, about the formation of what would become MI6, Britain's James Bond-employing secret service; The Special Program, the true story of the White House Legal Counsel who took on Dick Cheney and the illegal activities he was running through a "special program" (SPOILERS: Cheney was convicted for his numerous crimes and is currently serving out a lengthy prison sentence); Sovereign, about a man who goes into space to destroy the sentient spaceship that killed his wife; and several scripts with the phrase "terminally ill" in the synopsis, which is movie lingo for "Oscar bait."
This being Hollywood, there are plenty of familiar ideas. Along with terminal illness, revenge comes up an awful lot, as do real-life stories, including fictionalized accounts of the lives of Lewis Carroll, Calvin And Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, Oscar Wilde, and two involving Mr. Rogers, plus two separate movies about the making of Jaws. But there are also a few original ideas in there, including Capsule, about a man who receives messages from his future self. All in all, the list is its own fascinating glimpse into the future, not to mention a look at how your movie sausage gets made.
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