Friday, December 11, 2009

2009 Black List With Thoughts

Here are the 2009 Black List scripts with my thoughts. Here is also a link to the list. It's going to take me a good 4-5 hours to put up my thoughts on everything. I may put them up in increments or just one big chunk, so keep checking back in. I know a lot of you want me to post script links but in light of some of the recent controversy surrounding the site, I'm not going to. However, they *will* be posted somewhere. My advice is to dig around Nikki Finke's site, Matriarchal Script Paradigm, or really any blog or site that has comments (look in my blog roll down and to the right), and comb through those puppies, as a big list of links will likely surface. Good luck!

Edit: If you are the writer or agent or manager or producer of any of these scripts and would like to add some more information (anything that's interesting about the project, any extra key details, genre, a full synopsis, story behind the writer or the script, anything at all, please e-mail me and I'll add accordingly:

2nd edit: Just added about 15 more to the list. Going to take a break. Next update will be roughly around 11:30pm Pacific time. Also, late tomorrow, I'm going to break down the list a little more, from agency to gender to genre, that kind of thing. So that should be fun. Oh, and I have word that there are people with all the Black List scripts. I anticipate they'll be coming online soon, easily by the end of the day. You just have to keep looking around, cause I'm not going to post them. :)

1) The Muppet Man by Christopher Weekes - A look at Jim Henson’s life, the creator of the most famous puppet franchise of all time, The Muppets.

Thoughts: I have to say I'm a little surprised but also very happy this script is number 1. As I noted in my review, I wasn't a huge fan of the first two acts of the script (not enough conflict in my eyes), but the last act is so fucking good that it makes you forget all that. I'd like to think Scriptshadow helped out here, as it maybe bumped up the profile of the script when it got reviewed, but you never know. The reason I'm surprised is that it did not make the Top 25 Reader Faves List. That's the only reason I'm thrown that it landed the number 1 slot. Still, this is a good script to represent the top honor for the 2009 list.

Review is here.

2) The Social Network by Aaron Sorkin - A look at the rise of Facebook and the effect it's had on its founders.

Thoughts: Well what can you say here. This is one of the script reviews that put Scriptshadow on the map. There was a lot of laughing from the movie industry at the thought of someone making a Facebook movie (and plenty of jokes were made at Sony's expense) so when I received the script, I expected it to be the worst thing ever written. It turned out to be almost exactly the opposite. Just a great great script. I don't know how much of an effect it had on the project, but there were certainly a lot less snarky internet comments after that. Its still not a cinematic script by any means, but that's why you bring in David Fincher.

Review is here.

3) The Voices by Michael R. Perry - Jerry, a schizophrenic worker at a bathtub factory, accidentally kills an attractive woman from accounting. While trying to cover his bloody tracks, Jerry starts taking advice from his talking (and foul-mouthed) cat and dog.

Thoughts: This is a script someone told me to read months ago but I was either too busy or falsely heard it was a standard horror film or something, but it didn't sound interesting at the time. In the last week alone I've heard about ten people tell me I have to read it. With that logline, you can bet I'm going to. Sounds deliciously wacky. This will be one of the first ones I review.

No review.

4) Prisoners - When his young daughter and her best friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day, Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning and torturing the man who he thinks did it. But does he have the wrong man?

Thoughts: Prisoners by Aaron Guzikowski is a script I liked, but didn't quite love. Its strength is its pitch-perfect dark tone, but it's a little messy in places, particularly in the end, where it seems to pay off things that were never set up. The thing I find most fascinating about Prisoners is that it was probably the hottest spec screenplay all year, and yet for a long time, because they couldn't get the right attachments, it didn't sell. First time screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski must have been fucking flipping out. I mean, they can assure you all they want that everything will eventually work out, but I wouldn't have wanted to be waiting in those shoes for all those months. In the end he won out though, landing a million dollar sale.

No review (taken down for various reasons)

5. Cedar Rapids by Phil Johnston - A small town insurance salesman heads off to the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to try and save his company.

Thoughts: Cedar Rapids was another nice little script, however this is another screenplay I'm surprised landed so high. The first act put me off because of what seemed like the cliche "Midwesterners are idiots" angle. But once you get used to the writing style and Johnston's voice, the script just gets better and better. As others have mentioned, the casting here with Ed Helms and Sigourney Weaver (to start) is really really good. Go ahead and read the review for yourself.


6) Londongrad by David Scarpa - This is an adaptation of the Alan Cowell book, "The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder" which is supposedly about the death of that soviet spy who was poisoned by radioactive tea.

Thoughts: Don't have much to say about this one because I'd never heard of it before today's list. It's not really my thing so if this does get reviewed on the site, it probably won't be for awhile.

no review

7) L.A. Rex by Will Beall (based on his novel of the same name) - Rookie LAPD officer Ben Halloran gets partnered with scarred and tobacco-spitting Officer Marquez, and the unlikely team hit the streets of L.A. on the brink of a gang-rivalry explosion amid run-ins with the Mexican mafia, brutal gang murders, and corrupt cops.

Thoughts: Beall is a former LAPD homicide detective and on the LAPD for ten years. He wrote this book while he was still on the job. Roger's been jonezing to read this so I'd expect a review of this on Monday.

no review

8) Desperados by Ellen Rapoport - Wesley Robbins, a 30-something single attorney with an unhealthy obsession with coupling up, thinks she’s found the perfect man. But when he doesn’t call for days after the first time they sleep together she freaks out and sends him a scathing email, only to learn he’s been laid up in a Mexican hospital with some broken bones. On a whim, she and her girlfriends travel down south to erase the email before she ruins what she believes could be her one true love.

Thoughts: I've been hearing good things about what a lot of people have been calling, "The Female Version of The Hangover." The premise sounds very similar to that Tom Green film "Roadtrip" from ten years back, as well as a few sit-com episodes, but by no means does that mean it can't be hilarious. I definitely want to read this soon so expect a review in the coming week.

no review

9) The Gunslinger by John Hlavin - When a Texas Ranger is horrifically tortured and killed, his sharp-shooter older brother, Sam Lee Hensley, plots revenge against the mysterious, sadistic leader of a notorious drug cartel.

Thoughts: I actually started reading this once but it was a little slow and very dark so I put it down, promising to get to it later. It felt very "The Low Dweller," and as those who read my review of that know, I wasn't a big fan of that script. I would still like to get to this though, now that I've seen it made the Top 10. Hope it's good.

no review

10-tie) By Way Of Helena by Matt Cook - Set in the south at the turn of the century, Texas Ranger David Kingston and his Mexican bride are sent down to the mysterious town of Helena to investigate the multiple Mexican bodies washing up in the river. What they discover is an idyllic-like town where everything is not as it seems.

Thoughts: This is another one of those scripts that sounds, from its description like it could be incredibly boring or really cool. "Turn of the century" never inspires confidence in my "have to read" meter, but I love the idea of towns that have secrets. One of my favorite movies of all time is "The Sweet Hereafter" which is all about a town's secrets. So if this is anything like that, I'm totally in.

no review.

10-tie) The Days Before by Chad St. John - A man from the future keeps hopping one successive day into the past, desperate to stop a vicious race of time-traveling aliens from wiping out humanity.

Thoughts: This is the only script I've read in the top 10 that I don't agree with. My complaint isn't in the script so much (which is fast paced and well-written) as it is the premise, which I never found myself buying. I can't pinpoint anything specific about it, but this idea of this guy continually jumping one day back to stop aliens from invading I kept thinking, "Why couldn't they hop 100 days back, coming to the world's leaders with photographic and video evidence they took from these previous attacks to prove that the aliens were coming, which would allow them to really be prepared for these things? I'm sure St. John would argue that I'm looking way too much into it for what should be simply a fun ride. And you know what? He's probably right. I have about ten people I trust who all love this script. So I think I'm the odd man out here.

no review

Two men, Doc and Howie, inadvertently kill an elderly woman when they neglect to help her carry groceries up stairs. The incident puts them in position to get closer to the woman's attractive granddaughters, and they struggle with deciding whether to tell the women the truth about the circumstances under which they met.

Thoughts: Well, it's not exactly Shakespeare, but any comedy where the main hook is that someone dies is usually pretty good (Hello, Weekend at Bernies???). Haven't read this but it will be on my immediate "To Read" list.

12 - tie) PAWN SACRIFICE by Steve Knight
The life story of chess legend Bobby Fischer leading up to his historic world
championship match against Boris Spassky.

Thoughts: Um, the greatest Bobby Fischer movie has already been made! The Search For Bobby Fischer! As you know, I'm no fan of the Biopic, but if you're going to pick a figure's life to detail, this odd chess genius turned recluse is a great place to start. Will likely read this soon.

12 - tie) WHEN CORRUPTION WAS KING by Frank Baldwin
A scrappy lawyer from Chicago's South Side rises to be a trusted attorney for the
Outfit – the mob that controls the city through an elaborate web of bribery, voter rigging and violence – until he turns state's witness and brings the whole corrupt
system to its knees.

Thoughts: Doesn't really sound like my thing. But these types of scripts always seem to do well with the Black List voters. Probably won't be reviewing this.

13) TOY’S HOUSE by Chris Galletta
When fourteen year old Joe Toy and his buddies tire of their parents overbearing ways,they decide to build their own house in the woods, away from the restraints of the lives they have come to know.

Thoughts: Wish they listed the genres with these. This can either be a dark indie tale a la Where The Wild Things Are or a family friendly film produced by Nickelodeon. Either way, I have to admit the premise sounds intriguing. I'd like to read this one.

14) MIXTAPE by Stacey Menear
A thirteen year old outcast finds a mixtape that belonged to the deceased parents she
never knew, accidentally destroys it, and uses the song list to go on a journey to find all the music in an attempt to get to know her parents. (edit: Word is this script was never even submitted to anyone. It somehow got out and spread out purely on word-of mouth. Might have been even higher had it had an official release).

Thoughts: Hmm, a tweener version of Elizabethtown? That doesn't inspire confidence. There's a lot of sentimentality in this logline, and that can either lead to something great, if Menear's got the chops, or something really really cheesy and saccharine. Kind of interested in this one.

15 - tie) BOOK SMART by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins
Two overachieving high school seniors realize the only thing they haven't accomplished is having boyfriends, and each resolves to find one by prom.

Thoughts: I like the title. And I like that it comes at the high school genre from a slightly different angle (even if it isn't wholly original). I feel like the teen high school movie has kinda died and I'd like to see it revived. Is this the one? Might take a look.

15 - tie) THE ISOLATE THIEF by Kevin Leffler
In the dead of winter in the middle of the U.S. Civil War, a young man tries to hide
the gold he stole from rogue soldiers who have taken over his remote house.

Thoughts: Not enough information here to really form an opinion. But it sounds like something a bearded Viggo Mortenson might be in. This could definitely work if done right. Might give this a read.

15 - tie) MOTOR CITY by Chad St. John
A small time hood is framed and sent to prison, only to exact revenge years later.

Thoughts: "The Days Before" writer, St. John, gets his second script on the list. Makes sense since good scripts inspire readers to seek more from that writer. This is another place where it would be helpful to get a genre. Is this more action? More drama? The one thing that makes me intrigued about the script is that it's set in Detroit. That dying city is ripe for some sort of Hollywood treatment.

15 - tie) THEY FALL BY NIGHT by Zach Baylin
A burned out detective investigates the kidnapping of a socialite couple's child.

Thoughts: Baylin has, up until this point, only worked in the art department on such films as Winter Passing and Dave Chapelle's Block Party. Looks like he was secretly writing scripts during that time. The "burned out" detective angle contrasts nicely against the upscale family. Could be interesting. Would like a little more info on this one.

16 - tie) CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack
A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other

Thoughts: Rashida Jones is like this industry mystery. Everybody loves her, yet she hasn't broken out despite a good dozen opportunities. It's not that we don't like her. She's one of those people who it's impossible to dislike. Here, she's written a script with another actor, Will McCormack. The two of them actually have another optioned property called "Frenemy Of The State," about a heiress who works undercover for the CIA.

16 - tie) CONVICTION by Jonathan Herman
After serving five years in prison after a botched heist, a mastermind bank robber is
forced by a tenacious FBI agent to entrap his former protege who has embarked on a
multi-million-dollar bank-robbing spree.

Thoughts: This was a weird script. Despite my attempts, I could never quite figure out the tone. It sorta swerved all over the place for me, starting out as one film, and then becoming another. I didn't think a lot of the situations felt realistic. For me, Herman's other script, "Rites Of Men," was vastly superior. Really liked that one. Either way, I'm happy to see Herman on the list.


16 - tie) NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH by Jared Stern
A suburban ‘neighborhood watch’ group, actually a front for dads to get some male
bonding time away from the family, uncovers a plot bent on destroying the world.

Thoughts: This sounds a little like a feature-length treatment of a beer commercial. The "plot bent on destroying the world" angle suggests something very broad. Maybe this could be the next "Old School?" Interestingly, Stern was a writer on the animated film "Bolt." He has another screenplay sale titled, "Self-Guided," about a guy who travels back in time to his high school days where he offers up tips to his younger self disguised as a guidance counselor.

17 - tie) BEST ACTRESS by Michael Zam and Jaffe Cohen
The story of the infamous career-long battle between screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, focusing on the on-set experience of the only film they ever made together WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE.”

Thoughts: This script introduced me to a rivalry I never knew about but I'm glad I do now. It also sent me searching for Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, which turned out to be a really good film. The back stage antics these two contributed to during the production are a little muted compared to the types of things we hear about in today's media, but it's a fun little script nonetheless.


17 - tie) BETTY’S READY by Jaylynn Bailey
After she discovers that her boyfriend is gay, a high schooler, determined to lose her
virginity before she goes to college, pursues several possible ‘candidates’ before she
finds love with her geeky neighbor, who has always loved her.

Thoughts: Not going to lie. This sounds like something we've seen a lot of before. So I'm hoping the execution is the star here. Jaylynn formally worked as a make-up artist.

17 - tie) THE SITTER by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka
A suspended college student, living at home with his single mom, is talked into babysitting the three, young kids next door.

Thoughts: This was a funny script. Period. Okay not period. I'm going to keep on going. Basically, this is what "The Adventures In Babysitting" should've been. It's edgier, it's funnier, it's more creative. The strange adopted Ecuadorian child is worth the price of admission alone. The writers have two other projects set up, one at Sony called "Hairstyles Of The Damned," and another at Universal called "The Overachievers," about a group of high schoolers navigating through tests and prep courses on their way to graduation.


17 - tie) WENCESLAS SQUARE by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Based on the Arthur Phillips short story. Two spies fall in love while participating in separate Cold War missions in Prague during the 1980s.

Thoughts: Unfortunately, I'm not a real big fan of the two spies falling in love thing, so I probably won't be reading this. But I gotta give Markus and McFeely props. These two have been blowing up, nabbing huge writing assignments like "The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage of The Dawn Treader" and "Captain America." Obviously, they have some talent.

17 - tie) Z FOR ZACHARIAH by Nissar Modi
A sixteen-year-old girl named Ann Burden survives a nuclear war in a small American

Thoughts: Jericho prequel? Or sequel? Not much info here but I love the giant implications of a nuclear war contrasted with the tiny life of a 16 year old girl. Could be interesting. Would like to read this. Nissar actually had a very brief acting career 20 years ago, appearing in The Return Of Sherlock Holmes TV series. (edit: This is actually based on a YA SF novel from the early 1970s by Robert C O'Brien, the author of MRS. BRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH. It's essentially a two-character piece with an isolated girl vs. a creepy fellow survivor. It won an Edgar Award and was previously produced by the BBC as a made-for-TV movie.

18 - tie) BALLS OUT by The Robotard 8000 (Tim Talbott and Malcolm Spellman)
When insurance salesman Jim Simmers has a near death experience, he decides that
nothing matters except getting a promotion, a new car, and the hot girl from work.
Jim's new attitude alienates his friends and co-workers, and he must figure out how to
live his new life without losing his old one.

Thoughts: Yes, the rumors were true. Yes, the most controversial script all year indeed made The Black List. Talbott and Spellman, masters of marketing, created a viral craze in the screenwriting community early this year with their early-90s style website promoting their masterpiece, along with numerous quotes from industry execs who had read and survived the script, a sort of parody of screenwriting and story conventions. The script was infamously ripped apart by Mystery Man On Film. As for what I thought of it, well, to be honest, I've only ever skimmed through it. But I admit to laughing a lot. Maybe one of these days I'll review it on the site. If anything, the script is a good example of what a creative mind can come up with to promote oneself. These two thought outside the box and it paid off. They may get a little nasty if you try and cross their path, but overall, I have nothing but admiration for these guys. You know you've made it when you start typing your name into google search and it finishes it for you!

You can download the script here.

18 - tie) BURIED by Chris Sparling
A civilian contractor in Iraq is kidnapped and awakens to find himself buried in a
coffin in the desert.

Thoughts: A little disappointed this script didn't fare higher but it's such a unique script that I can see how it might not have been everyone's thing. To me, this is one of the most intense readings I've ever had and one of my favorite scripts of the year. The use of ticking time bombs (which I go into in my review) is second to none, and is the perfect lesson on how to add more immediacy and tension to your script. Check this out if you haven't already.

Review here. (with script link)

Interview with the writer, Chris Sparling, here.

18 - tie) THE DIVERSIFICATION OF NOAH MILLER by Adam Cole-Kelly and Sam Pitman
A liberal New Yorker realizes he isn't as open-minded as he thinks he is and sets out
to make a black friend.

Thoughts: Ahhh, the old white guy making the black friend bit. A bit I am admittedly a sucker for (the Seinfeld episode with George looking for an African American BF is classic). Am interested to know if this is a straight comedy or a dark comedy. Hoping it's more dark. These two also have a project I've heard about with Eddie Murphy producing called "The Misadventures Of Fluffy," which is either about a dog on the run or an unfortunate porno production assistant. I want to read this. Please send.

18 - tie) THE GIRL WITH THE RED RIDING HOOD by David Leslie Johnson
A Gothic imagining of the classic fairy tale in which a young woman is confronted by a werewolf, this time with a teenage love triangle at its center.

Thoughts: Hmm, I like the Gothic angle. Sounds a little bit like that video game "Alice" that they were trying to turn into a movie (and maybe even did, I've forgotten). But this sounds like it may be trying to grab some of that Twilight glitter, with the teenage love triangle sounding very similar to the super-franchise. However, this is a follow-up to Johnson's successful spec turned movie, Orphan, which I thought was pretty good. What a great cast, especially that freaky ass semi-russian girl, who nailed it. So I may give this a read.

18 - tie) MY MOTHER'S CURSE by Dan Fogelman
The young inventor of a new organic cleaning product invites his mother on a cross-country road trip as he tries to sell his product to marketing outlets. His ulterior motive is to reunite her with a man she loved when she was young, and her motive is to help him overcome his ‘curse’ of non-commitment in relationships, for which she blames herself.

Thoughts: You know, this sounds pretty good if done right. I know there's an aversion to this indie "on the road" type movie (I will murder myself before I ever watch Transamerica for example) but what I like here is that the two key players have secret motives to help the other. I can already see that leading to some funny situations. So I'd like to read this. And hey, if there's any writer qualified to write about a road trip, it's Fogelman, the writer of 2006's Pixar film, "Cars." He also has the geriatric version of The Hangover set up at CBS films titled, "Las Vegas."

18 - tie) RESTLESS by Jason Lew
A tale of young love between a teenage boy and girl who share a preoccupation with

Thoughts: Don't worry. Jason Lew is not to be confused with Jason Mewes. This is actually the project that Gus Van Sant plans to direct for Imagine Entertainment. Yes, Imagine. That should be a hell of an interesting combination. Lew is brand new on the scene and was formally an actor with a couple of small parts. I'm guessing this will have lots of grainy shots and the end of plot as we know it.

18 - tie) STREETS ON FIRE by Justin Britt-Gibson
Two cops, reluctantly partnered, try to bring down a drug syndicate while navigating
the streets of Chicago.

Thoughts: This gets the most generic synopsis award, and that's too bad, because on a list this big, you gotta stand out. I'd love it if Britt-Gibson or his reps could send me a more detailed description of this. I'll put it up immediately. Britt-Gibson has one other screenplay he optioned titled "The 7th Son" about a group of strangers who come together after an assassination of the U.S. president and make an unusual discovery about themselves.

18 - tie) TAKE THIS WALTZ by Sarah Polley
A young woman struggles with her infidelities and the budding realization that she may be addicted to the honeymoon period of her relationships.

Thoughts: Hmm, very interesting. Polley's "Away From Her" was one of the better directing efforts I saw all of last year. I wasn't a fan of the script though, as it violated the rule horse I continue to beat on this site - a story that starts out one way, then turns into something completely different. It signified to me a writer that didn't understand how to craft an entire story. But I like Sarah Polley and with a little more experience in the Final Draft department, her follow-up should be better. This is another one of those scripts that could either be a drama, a dark comedy, or a rom-com. But it's Sarah Polley, so I'm guessing drama.

18 - tie) THE TRADE by Dave Mandel
The true story of two New York Yankees pitchers who caused a national scandal when they swapped wives in the early 70s.

Thoughts: Uhhhh, what??? This really happened?? And not in a Fox "Wife Swap" kind of way? Okay, I have to read this. But I'm really hoping there's some realism behind it and it's not some shit studio film starring Martin Lawrence and Jim Belushi as the "wacky" pitchers. And I really hope Dave Mandel is not related to Howie Mandel. -- OH SHIT! Fuck it all. I just realized this was the writer of Eurotrip (one of the biggest spec sales ever). This is going straight to my most anticipated list.

After ten years on the run from the mob, the son of a mob lawyer must choose between
prison and helping the man who killed his mother.

Thoughts: Love the title here. The genre on this one is tough to figure out because while it sounds deep and dark, Foehl was previously an editor on two of Adam Sandler's films, Click and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. So could this be a comedy? Would like to know more please.

19 - tie) BAYTOWN DISCO by Barry Battles and Griffin Hood
Three redneck brothers get in over their heads when they agree to help a woman kidnap her son back from his seemingly evil father.

Thoughts: Another logline that's hard to figure out. These two are new on the scene, with most of their work coming as actors. If this is a straight-up comedy, I might be interested in reading it.

19 - tie) THE GUYS GIRL by Nick Confalone and Neal Dusedau
Three male best friends realize they’re each in love with their mutual female best
friend when she gets engaged.

Thoughts: Ugh, had a similar idea to this. Though mine's more "The Big Chill." This sounds like an out and out comedy. These two are brand new on the scene. Dusedau worked on both "Munich" and "The Happening" as an assistant.

19 - tie) JIMI by Max Borenstein
The life story of rock legend Jimi Hendrix.

Thoughts: Ahhhhhh! Biopic alert! Biopic alert! But I guess if you're going to make a biopic, it might as well be about Jimi Hendrix, right? Although Borenstein seems to have been writing for awhile, his success has come more recently. He has a project in development at Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Productions called "Rigged," a truth life story about a kid who became a bajillionaire changing the oil trade business.

19 - tie) LOVESTRUCK by Annabel Oakes
Cynical best friends Amelia and Ruth love nothing more than to ridicule romance. When
they take it one step too far at their friend's wedding, they are sentenced to a fate
worse than death - becoming heroines in their own romantic comedy.

Thoughts: Not sure how I feel about this one. Parodying romantic comedies is a tricky proposition. The conventions are so dated that I don't know if it's funny to make fun of them anymore. But this seems geared towards women, so I'll bow out of the commentary. Oakes has one foreign film to her credit titled Morenita el Escanadalo about a man desperate to save his family from death threats by a notorious drug dealer.

19 - tie) RITES OF MEN by Jonathan Herman
When a working class dad’s only son is murdered, he sets out to discover who is

Thoughts: Ahhhh-ha! So here's Rites of Men! Flip this and Conviction around and I'll be happy. "Men" is very "Taken" in nature, with more of a detective angle to it. There are lots of twists and turns and the script never quite goes the way you think it will. Happy to see this on the list.


19 - tie) SHIMMER LAKE by Oren Uziel
As a small-town bank-theft job slowly unravels, it proves to involve virtually
everyone, from an ex-meth-lab runner to a crooked prosecutor and his vengeful cop

Thoughts: Yes! Another great script! This one won the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and I immediately knew why after I finished it. What the synopsis doesn't tell you is that the script is actually told backwards. Now usually, that's a gimmick, but here, Uziel really makes it work. Combine that with his unique voice and gift for off-beat comedy, and this is a writer I see carving out a huge career for himself. Get on the Uziel train while you can.


19 - tie) SMILE, RELAX, ATTACK by Eli Attie
A young, ambitious political consultant finds himself in over his head when his first big client - an incumbent Democratic Virginia Senator - becomes the subject of national scrutiny by both Parties.

Thoughts: Uhhh, can someone say in the running for best title of the list? We had to get some more political action going so I guess this is filling the need. Still, how are you going to beat "Farragut North?" Well, Attie's no slouch, having written one of the bigger specs of the last few years, The 28th Amendment, which will star Denzel Washington. In it, the new President of the United States discovers a secret cabal that runs the government and wants him dead.

20 - tie) BOBBY MARTINEZ by Ric Roman Waugh
A coming-of-age biopic about the titular Mexican-American surfer. Martinez rose out of the gang-ridden streets of Southern California to become a hero to his community when he swept every major amateur surfing tournament in his first year of competition and won the ASP Rookie of the Year honors in his first pro season.

Thoughts: Not liking the biopic angle, but I have to admit, this logline has some great irony in it. A south-central surfer? Count me in. Finally, a biopic I'm excited about. Interesting thing about Waugh. He used to be a stuntman. Now he's one of the hottest writers in town, with a half a dozen scripts in development.

20 - tie) CORSICA 72 by Neil Purvis and Robert Wade
On the island of Corsica in 1972, childhood best friends Marco and Sauveur find their
lives veering in opposite directions - the first towards the Mafia, the second toward
a simpler life with his beloved, Lucia. When the Corsican mob kills Sauveur's brother,
they ignite a tit-for-tat blood feud that inevitably leads toward a final showdown.

Thoughts: Wasn't a huge fan of this script (which finished number 2 on this year's Brit List) but a lot of other people seem to be, so I'm not going to rain on the parade. I think people see some of The Godfather in it, and no doubt, it brings back memories of those movies. So if you love those films, I have a feeling you'll like this.


20 - tie) A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS: THE LEGEND OF NOLAN BUSHNELL by Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman
The rise of Nolan Bushnell, father of the videogame industry, who started Atari in the

Thoughts: Biopic fever. Unfortunately, I don't have a fever for the flavor. If Bushnell had a crazy life, then I say film away. But if this is just following a geeky dude through his life for two hours, I'll stick with my Playstation 3. This team is relatively new. Hecker has one produced credit to his name, the 2008 indie "Bart Got A Room." Sherman wrote an indie of his own, "New Suit."

20 - tie) GOOD LOOKING by Chris McCoy
In a future where dating services perfectly match soulmates, a man rejects the person
chosen for him.

Thoughts: Tough to get a feel on this one. Feels like we're missing some key information. Anyone want to write in and give me some more details?

20 - tie) JIMMY SIX by Daniel Casey
The screw-up son of a murdered mobster goes with a hitman to exact revenge on the
informer who sent his father to his death.

Thoughts: I like the "screw-up son" angle here. Gives this a little bit of freshness because if not for that, it would sound pretty generic. No info on Daniel Casey out there. He's a mystery man.

20 - tie) LIARS (A-E) by Emma Forrest
A twenty-nine year old woman on the way to President Obama's inauguration stops to
retrieve lost items from her ex-boyfriend in the hope of getting over her most recent

Thoughts: Ah yes, the recently reviewed Liars (A to E). Although not reviewed by me. Novelist Forrest is notoriously known for her brief relationship with Colin Farrel, who is said to be the inspiration behind the script. Some people don't like the hip-as-thou semi-Juno lingo, but it's hard to argue against Forrest being a good writer.


20 - tie) THE STORM by Richard Taylor and Bryan Bagby
A bounty hunter and his prey must unite to take on an evil sheriff and his posse in a lawless Wyoming town.

Thoughts: This logline I really like. First, you got the storm. Rainy, messy, chaotic. Ripe for conflict. Then, it's always fun to see the hero and the villain have to reluctantly team up together. Throw the cherry on top of an evil sheriff? Hello! A fucking script sundae! -- This looks like an English duo as the company that bought the script is set up in the U.K. But if it's English, why didn't it make The Brit List?

21 - tie) 2 GUNS by Blake Masters
Based on the comic book of the same name by Stephen Grant. A DEA agent and an undercover naval intelligence officer unwittingly investigate each other while stealing mob money.

Thoughts: First of all, great name. Blake Masters. I'd kill to have that name. You know what it sounds like actually? It sounds like a professional golfer name. You know, Blake should consider taking up golfing. I hear there's an opening available. Anyway, Universal bought this one. Sounds like something Colin Farrel and Ethan Hawke would team up and do. I'm not sure what that observation implies. To be honest, this isn't my thing. But Roger would probably love it. Roger? Where are you?

21 - tie) ARTHUR by Peter Baynham
Based on the 1981 film of the same name. A spoiled rich twenty-something must decide
between true love and the vast fortune he’ll inherit if he marries a society woman whom
he doesn’t love.

Thoughts: Oh how I miss you Dudley Moore, you bottle-gourging son of a gun. Peter Baynham came up with the story for Bruno. He also did some acting before he wrote and was an extra on the film, Shaun Of The Dead.

21 - tie) CUT BANK by Roberto Patino
A small town thriller set in Cut Bank, Montana.

Thoughts: I couldn't have come up with a less descriptive synopsis if I wrote, "A man jumps." I'm guessing this isn't Patino's fault. Anyway, Patino is a true newcomer to the craft. He worke on a documentary and a short, both in the camera department.

21 - tie) DEAD LOSS by Josh Baizer and Marshall Johnson
A crab fishing boat crew rescues a castaway adrift in a life raft with mysterious cargo that soon both captivates and divides them.

Thoughts: Uh, can somebody say fucking robbed!!?? This script was awesome. It should've been way higher. Not only is it a unique contained thriller in that it takes place in one of the most dangerous professions on earth, but the characters are well-drawn, the twists and turns keep coming, and it's got a great central conflict between the two heroes (the brothers). This is a movie that needs to get made, like, yesterday man. Hurry up already. First major mistake of the Black List.


21 - tie) THE GHOST AND THE WOLF by Rylend Grant and Dikran Ornekian
An ex-cop and his old partner must reunite, burying years of distrust, to take on the
vicious Russian mobsters who altered their lives profoundly in the 90s… destroying one
and propelling the other to Captain.

Thoughts: Hating the Russian angle. Feels too played out. But I love the idea of two older cops who lost a friendship having to re-team. As always, you're looking to build stories with inherent conflict in them, and this obviously has it. Dikran Ornekian was an assistant to Stephen Sommers on both the last Mummy movie he did and G.I. Joe. Both writers are relatively new to the game.

21 - tie) I HATE YOU DAD by David Caspe
A father moves in with his son on the eve of his son’s wedding and promptly begins feuding with the bride-to-be.

Thoughts: At first glance I thought the title was simply, "I Hate You," which I'd already decided was the greatest title ever. This sounds like it needs something extra to explain why the dad is arguing with the bride. Right now you just scratch your head and go, "Why would he argue with her?" Could be good though.

21 - tie) IF I STAY by Shauna Cross
Based on the novel of the same name by Gayle Forman. A teenage girl leaves her body after a tragic car crash and needs to decide whether to return to her life or not.

Thoughts: Summit, the new mega-studio, is producing this one. Feels like The Lovely Bones to me. You might recognize Shauna Cross' name as she's the writer of the beloved screenplay, "Whip It," which if I remember correctly did very well on last year's list. The movie was kind of a bust, but I don't know a single woman who read Whip It and didn't love it.

21 - tie) I HOPE WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS by John Whittington
A couple breaks up after 5 years together but vow to remain friends after the fact, which proves much harder to do than they imagined.

Thoughts: This is the kind of movie that can be really good or really average. I love the premise, but because its staying power is minimal (they break up in the first 5 pages - now what?), the writer will have to come up with plenty of sub-plot nuggets to keep us involved. I wish I could tell you more about Whittington but alas, I know not a thing.

21 - tie) THE KING'S SPEECH by David Seidler
George VI, also known as Bertie, reluctantly takes the throne of England when his brother, Edward, abdicates in 1936. The unprepared king turns to a radical speech therapist, Lionel Logue, to help overcome his nervous stutter and the two forge a friendship.

Thoughts: Hmm, I kind of like this. The fact that a King is terrible at the one thing a King cannot be terrible at is intriguing. But the forming of the friendship with the speech therapist...I don't know. Not jumping for joy there. But good for Seidler. He's been in this business for awhile (he wrote "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," a dozen years ago). So it's nice to see him do well.

21 - tie) THE LOW SELF ESTEEM OF LIZZIE GILLESPIE by Mindy Kaling and Brent Forrester
A single girl in Manhattan dates the hottest guy in the world but must overcome her insecurities when she hears him deny they are dating.

Thoughts: Mindy Kaling you'll know as the Indian actress on The Office. Brent Forrester is another writer on the office. Things seem to be going well for the Office writers these days as they're all either writing Ghostbusters or Star Wars films or anything they want. The premise here doesn't sound very deep but this is a script that has come on strong with heavy word-of-mouth this last month. I'll probably check it out.

A college student home for the holidays discovers that an internet porn film turns its
viewer into homicidal maniacs. As the epidemic spreads, he has to save his longtime
crush while struggling to control his own urges.

Thoughts: Having a problem making the connection between watching porn and becoming a killer, but this seems like one of those out-there premises where you either go with it or you don't. Great title. Great writing name. We have another editor here (they say editors are good writers because they know what needs to be to cut out before they even begin). Penn worked as an editor on the HBO show, Oz, as well as the guilty pleasure Nip/Tuck.

21 - tie) CON MEN by Eric Lane
Greg Weinstock and Kevin Russell, two drug reps from Burlington Labs with nothing in common aside from a shared gift of moving product, are dispatched to a convention to hook the biggest sale of their lives.

Thoughts: Sounds like another buddy indie comedy. Hoping there's a little more pop to it than that.

21 - tie) JOSH by Gary Ross
The lives of a single father and his teenaged son are dramatically changed when the boy's mother returns and wants to be part of her son's life.

Thoughts: I think they mean "estranged mother?" Sounds very dramatic. Maybe it's because the word "dramatically" is in there. Anyway, Gary Ross is a heavyweight. He's written Dave, Pleasantville, Sea-Biscuit, and Spider-Man 4. And after all that, he found time to write a little indie film that made the Black List. Nice.

21 - tie) MY SISTER IS MARRYING A DOUCHEBAG by Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux
A young woman, thinking that her sister’s new fiance is a douchebag, sets out to sabotage their wedding.

Thoughts: When the Molyneux sisters write a script, watch out. Not that I know them. But you just better. The excessive offensive title approach is getting on peoples' nerves, which actually makes me have *more* confidence in this script, since it's survived that initial prejudice. The sister tag team has worked on some small-time TV stuff, but other than that, this is their first breakthrough.

21 - tie) NO BLOOD, NO GUTS, NO GLORY by Chase Palmer
A spy and twenty Union soldiers in disguise board a train in Georgia to execute a scheme that could bring a quick end to the U.S. Civil War.

Thoughts: This sounds good. It feels relevant, with hints of terrorism oozing from its premise. By Americans no less! Up to this point, Palmer's only written and directed short films, but he's tabbed to helm a couple of mid-level films, so he's definitely moving his way up.

21 - tie) NORM THE MOVIE by Sam Esmail
“A buddy comedy in which a guy is transported into a movie... or so he thinks.”

Thoughts: Let me tell you a little bit about Sam Esmail. This guy's nuts! He writes weird ass shit and he's really good at it, a sort of Charlie Kaufman in training. His last script, "Sequels, Remakes, and Adaptations," made it onto last years' list and was quite good. This sounds like an unofficial sequel to that script.

21 - tie) RENKO VEGA & THE JENNIFER NINE by John Raffo
Renko Vega, once a hero and now a rogue thief wandering the galaxy with his hyperintelligent spaceship the Jennifer 9, is forced to become a hero once again when the young daughter of the President of Earth is kidnapped.”

Thoughts: Han Solo type hero? Crazy imaginative sci-fi world? Uh, yeah, count me in.

You can check out the review, the script, and an interview with John here.

21 - tie) SMASH AND GRAB by Marc Wolff
When his wife is kidnapped, a reformed thief has to team up with his hapless ex-partner
to save her, while dodging the LAPD, the FBI, and various members of the Los Angeles underworld.

Thoughts: Okay, this damn well better be in the execution, because there isn't an original beat in that logline. Unless of course it's a Jason Statham movie. Then it's okay. Solid title.

Joe, an insecure writer with a boring desk job, finally manages to sell his assassin novel, The Memoirs of an International Assassin to the one publisher that will buy it. To his horror the publisher retitles it The True Memoirs of an International Assassin and markets the book as non-fiction -- making it seem as if Joe is the assassin himself. He soon finds himself in the crosshairs of the CIA, various drug lords, the media, and a beautiful investigative journalist while on a vacation in Belize.

Thoughts: Hip-hip hell yeah. Scriptshadow friend Jeff Morris makes the Black List. I could tell you more about Jeff and the script but why don't you just go to the review and interview to find out yourself.

Review here.
Interview here.

21 - tie) THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY by Mark Bomback
Based on the comic book written by Gerard Way. After being raised by a brilliant scientist and a hyper-intelligent chimp, six super-powered former ‘child superheroes’ reunite to stop one of their own from leading a violin symphony that will destroy the world.

Thoughts: Well, the premise certainly has panache. Sounds very "Lava Boy and Shark Girl," but there could be more going on here. Bomback's an established force in the industry. He wrote Deception, Race To Witch Mountain, and Die Hard: Live Free Or Die Hard.

22 - tie) 30 MINUTES OR LESS by Matthew Sullivan and Michael Diliberti
A comedy about a pizza delivery guy on an unlikely caper.

Thoughts: Not gonna lie. Premise feels a little dated, unless maybe it's set in the 80s? These two have been nabbed to do the update on Brewster's Millions (speaking of high-concept comedies). Very well may have gotten that job off this spec?

22 - tie) ALLIES WITH BENEFITS by Elizabeth Wright Shapiro
The female President of The United States falls for her old college fling, the now Prime Minister of England.

Thoughts: I am betting six billion dollars that this will star Hugh Grant. This is Shapiro's first sale.

22 - tie) COMIC CON by Matthew Sullivan and Michael Diliberti
To save their beloved neighborhood comic shop, a justice league of comic geeks must plan and execute a daring heist at Comic-Con.

Thoughts: They're BAAAAAACK. After like 2 seconds. A movie about Comic-Con absolutely needs to be done, even if it will be a little incestuous. You just have to make sure it doesn't turn into Fanboys.

22 - tie) CROOK FACTORY by Nicholas Meyer
Based on the novel by Dan Simmons and true events. An FBI agent is ordered to baby-sit Ernest Hemingway as he goes about running a motley spy ring in WWII Cuba.

Thoughts: I guess if this is based on true events, it's okay. I don't know what it is about Hemmingway, but whenever I see his name in a premise, I want to read it. Meyer is a true workhorse, having written a ton of films. Some of those include the recent film, Elegy, as well as older films Sommersby, The Human Stain, and Star Trek VI.

22 - tie) THE CURSE OF MEDUSA by J Lee and Tom Welch
An origin story of Medusa the Gorgon.

Thoughts: Can't say that's not an interesting angle.

22 - tie) DUE DATE by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland
An uptight father-to-be is forced to travel across the country with an idiotic stoner in order to close a major business deal and make it home in time for the birth of his first child.

Thoughts: This is going to star Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galianfinakgianis and be directed by Todd Phillips. In other words, this is going to be a mega-hit. Read it awhile back. It has some strong moments, moreso in the second half, and I love the potential chemistry between these two actors, but I wasn't a big fan of the spec version of this script. Thought it was a little sloppy

Review here.

22 - tie) THE HAND JOB by Maggie Carey
A coming-of-age comedy about a teenage girl who gives her first hand job (among other
life experiences).

Thoughts: lol. I really don't know how to respond to this one. Maggie Carey has learned her craft through writing and directing her own shorts, which she has a bunch of. The other script she sold, about a young woman's decision to turn things around by hiring a "life coach" is thrown for a loop when the person she hires turns out to be a real mess, sounds more interesting.

22 - tie) HANNA by David Farr
A fourteen year old girl is raised by her father to be a cold hearted killing machine.

Thoughts: Littler Nikita? Hanna is about a badass bitch who goes looking for her father when they get split up. My big issue with this script is the saggy middle, though I anticipate that's been cleaned up in rewrites. Let's hope, cause this is one of those scripts (because of the action) that's going to work better on the screen than on the page. Before he wrote Hanna, Farr worked on the show "MI-5." This is his first sale.

Review here.

22 - tie) THE HUNGRY RABBIT JUMPS by Robert Tannen
A man becomes entangled in a secret society that forces him to murder.

Thoughts: I believe this is the script that has the monetarily challenged Nicholas Cage attached? Cage shouldn't be jumping over hungry rabbits. He should be keeping his wallet closed when the auctioneer says, "Dinosaur bones, 250 thousand dollars!" Before this, Tannen wrote the 2006 indie film, "Even Money."

22 - tie) JAWS OF LIFE by Michael Goldbach
A seventeen year old boy falls in love with a woman old enough to be his mother and begins to question the meaning of love and relationships while his parents go through a divorce.

Thoughts: Phew, I was wondering when the inappropriate relationship script was going to show up. Thank goodness. All jokes aside, I kinda like these films. The train-wreck aspect to the relationship always compels me to keep watching. Goldbach also has a produced credit on a small indie film called "Child Star."

22 - tie) JITTERS by Marc Haimes
A dysfunctional, recession-struck family moves into a new neighborhood and is terrorized by superbugs.

Thoughts: Described as having a "Gremlins vibe." I'm thinking how Roger is pouring through trillions of terrabytes of internet information right now to find this script. Oh how I hope you find it Roger. Haimes has a few projects in development and associate produced Men In Black II.

22 - tie) THE LAST STAND by Andrew Knauer
A drug cartel king escapes his trial in a 200mph Gumpert Apollo, and the only thing in between him and Mexican freedom is a small town cop in a bordertown.

Thoughts: There's some coolness here. I'd like to know more about this town and this cop though, since that seems to be where the meat of the screenplay takes place. This is Knauer's first sale.

23 - tie) MEDIEVAL by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch
An unlikely group of imprisoned warriors are forced on a suicide mission to steal the King's crown in order to gain their freedom. They soon realize they've been set up to take the fall for the assassination of the King.

Thoughts: I waffled on this one. Not great but not terrible. Just sorta good enough. Yet, if I were a studio, it would be one of the first movies I put on my slate. It's one of those ideas where you can imagine the trailer in your head. And even on your dullest days, it's still fucking awesome. This script also sold for a lot of money. I think over 600k, right?

Review here.

23 - tie) OWENS MANUAL by Greg Ferkel
A mild-mannered IT guy finds an 'owners manual' to his dull life but struggles to manage the realities of it when he reaches the end of the manual.

Thoughts: I'm digging this one. Sounds like an off-beat take on a traditional comedy. Will definitely check it out. This is Ferkel's first sale.

23 - tie) SAND DOGS by Vineet Dewan and Angus Fletcher
A pair of Western Red Crescent Paramedics weather a series of intense, dangerous days
in the Gaza Strip.

Thoughts: This sounds a lot like The Hurt Locker, which I liked. As many of you know, Sand Dogs is one of this years' five Nichols' winners. I haven't read it yet but I hope to find it. Vineet Dewan worked in the art department on Monsoon Wedding.

The story of oilman T. Cullen Davis, the richest man in the United States ever to be
tried (and acquitted twice) for the capital murder of his stepdaughter, marking the
end of the reign of Texas oil billionaires.

Thoughts: Okay, I take back my earlier statement. This clearly wins title of the Black List awards. Also, it sounds really interesting. Us Americans are obsessed with seeing really rich people fall. It's sad but it's true. Which is why I will read this.

23 - tie) THE SPECTACULAR NOW by Scott Neustadter and Mike Weber
A hard-partying high school senior's life changes when he meets a shy, insecure girl.

Thoughts: These two might sound familiar to you as they're the writers of the indie hit "500 Days of Summer," which was also in my Top 25 back before it hit theaters. This one hasn't been getting a whole lot of heat, but they set the bar really high with Summer, which makes a comparable follow-up all the much harder. I will give this a read at some point for sure.

23 - tie) SWINGLES by Zach Braff
A bachelor who is dumped by his wingman teams up with a sharp-tongued woman he can't
stand in order to meet women.

Thoughts: This is the project Braff signed onto to rewrite AND make his official directing follow-up to Garden State. I haven't read the script but my lovely friend Erica has, and she did a review for the site. Just note, the draft she reviews is pre-Braff, not this one.

Review here.

23 - tie) THE TREES by Tyler Hisel
Isolated and threatened, a mysterious force hidden within the trees outside the small town of Laytonsville, Maryland strikes fear in the townsfolk as Sheriff Paul Shields attempts to overcome the demons of his past while protecting those that he loves.

Thoughts: There be some fear whistling through these bones. This sounds like a cross between The Happening and The Village. The good news? It's impossible for anyone to write anything as bad as those films. So we know this has to be better. This is Hisel's first breakthrough.

23 - tie) THE UNDERLING by Dave Stoller and Ben Shiffrin
A man slowly comes to discover his girlfriend is literally working for the devil and
has to find a way to escape.

Thoughts: Devil's Advocate like maybe? I hope so. We need another Devil's Advocate. This looks to be both these writers' first break.

23 - tie) THE VATICAN TAPES by Chris Borrelli
In a highly secured vault deep within the walls of Vatican City, the Catholic Church holds thousands of old films and video footage documenting exorcisms/supposed exorcisms and other unexplained religious phenomena they feel the world is not ready to see. This is the first tape - Case 83-G - stolen from these archives and exposed to the public by an anonymous source.

Thoughts: I love the sound of this. Will definitely be checking it out. Borrelli has been working odd jobs around Hollywood for awhile. This is his first sale.

23 - tie) WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS by Allan Loeb
Gordon Gekko, fresh from prison, re-emerges into a much harsher financial world than
the one he left.

Thoughts: Because Loeb is selling everything he writes these days, he's been heavily debated by the writing community, with some people "getting" him, and others not. Well, for better or worse, he's landing a lot of big money assignment work, and Wall Street was one of those. I read the script and thought it was okay, though there were some major motivation issues I had with the characters. Luckily it has an ending that saves the day and should have audiences leaving the theater with a buzz.

Review here.

23 -tie) WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Richard LaGravanese
Jacob Jankowski is about to take his final exams in veterinary medicine at Cornell when his parents are killed in a car accident. He drops out and joins Benzini Brothers, a second-rate traveling circus trying to survive during the Depression.

Thoughts: I've had this book on my shelf for two years now. I once got through 3 pages on a plane trip (until a suspicious looking guy started to hang around the bathroom and I had to keep an eye on him). LaGravenese has written such movies as "P.S. I Love You," and "Freedom Writers."

23 - tie) THE WETTEST COUNTY by Nick Cave
Based on the book by Matt Bondurant. The story of a moonshine gang operating in the
bootlegging capital of America – Franklin County, Virginia – during Prohibition.

Thoughts: Not my genre, but I rarely meet a write who doesn't love Nick Cave.

23 - tie) YEAR 12 by Edward Ricourt
Twelve years after an alien invasion leaves humankind decimated and brutally subjugated, a former soldier must smuggle deadly uranium in his bloodstream and, with help from a pair of rebels, fight his way to an air force base where the uranium can be extracted and used to fuel a nuclear missile for a counterstrike that will reverse the direction of the war.

Thoughts: Started reading this one but haven't finished it yet. It's like a hard-edged version of "V." Like, really hard. This is Ricourt's first sale.