The Black List—the annual release of the most popular unmade screenplays floating around Hollywood in a given year—has always been an artistic oddity. By its very nature, the List is essentially a big collection of ideas that are considered cool but also unworkable, whether because they’re too expensive, too controversial, or are just the sort of thing that works better as a script than an actual film.
(Take it as read that many, but not all, of Black List scripts that do end up getting made rarely triumph in the cold cruel reality of the actual world.)
This year’s list, released earlier today, is no exception, with ideas that range from sounding genuinely interesting, to sounding like the sort of thing that would be floated as a joke on a modern version of 30 Rock. (For instance: Ballast, by Justin Piasecki, which depicts a naval engineering team that “find themselves trapped in a deadly game on a shipping vessel in the middle of the Atlantic when they learn a series of car bombs are hidden amongst the thousands of vehicles on board.”)
This year’s crop goes heavy in two directions. First, there are horror movies set in weird locations, like Michael Shanks’ Hotel Hotel Hotel Hotel (about a haunted motel); Grizz (Connor Barry) about a paramedic being stalked by a grizzly bear in the Pacific Northwest; and Ultra (Colin Bannon), about a marathon runner who finds themselves enrolled in a super-secret, super-deadly “ultra-marathon.”
The other angle is—and we’re trying to be at least moderately nice here—a whole bunch of proposed biopics of people who do not necessarily require biopics at this time. That ranges from the benign—Shania! by Jessica Walsh, or Tricia Lee’s Idol, focused on “The true story of American Idol viral sensation, William Hung”—to a whole host of more actively questionable subjects, including Martin Shkreli (The Villain, by Andrew Ferguson), Kanye West (The College Dropout, by Thomas Aguilar and Michael Ballin), and Donald Trump (Believe Me, by Hannah Mescon and Dreux Moreland, which bills itself as “an absurdist biopic”).
Oh, also: Assassins. (Assassins are always all over this thing.) Four different screenplays in the set are about being hunted by hired killers, whether that’s Lillian Yu’s Killer Instinct (Hollywood assistant jokes about killing his boss, then has to go on the run from said boss’ actual murderer), Colin Bannon’s The Devil Herself (high-powered assassin fights witches in the German mountains), David Coggeshall’s The Family Plan (former assassin has to take his family on the run when he gets outed), and our personal favorite, Ryan Hooper’s Four Assassins (And A Funeral), in which the adopted daughter of a master assassin finds herself targeted by her four assassin siblings for potential assassination.
Oh, there’s also a movie about Dennis Rodman hanging out in Las Vegas (Dennis Rodman’s 48 Hours In Vegas, by Jordan VanDina); we don’t know if anybody gets assassinated in that one.