"Blecch Listed"


When I feel bad about my lot in life, I like see how much worse it’d be if I were in Serious Show Biz by reading Nicky Finke’s “Deadline Hollywood Daily” – or “Dateline Hollywood Deadly”. Anyway Ms. Ratfinke (as many powerful people in Hollyweird call her) got the info on an insiders’ popularity list (because all those award shows and top 10 lists and box-office and ratings aren’t enough to prove to some folks their worthiness). It’s a listing of the favorite not-yet-produced movie scripts picked by a not-too-select group of over 250 film executives (that’s from 6½ major studios and a couple dozen production companies that produce anything – there’s a part of the business world where a few dozen lay-offs wouldn’t hurt). And, either out of a massive sense of irony or a total ignorance of Hollywood history, the studio exec who assembled the list (or, more likely, made an assistant do it) calls it “The Black List” (while Ring Lardner Jr. and Dalton Trumbo spin in their graves).

Sickening name aside, this new List of the Black has become a Really Big Deal among the Really Big Dealmakers. Last year’s #1 on the list was “Recount”, which has since become an Emmy Winning Movie for Television on HBO, closely followed by several that are still-in-pre-or-semi-production (which the new-and-improved IMDB won’t tell you diddley about unless you pay for the Pro service) “Farragut North”, “Passengers”, “The Infiltrator”, “Selma”, “Curveball” and “I Want to ____ Your Sister” (yes, the blanks are part of the title), and, in 8th place, the based-on-Cormac-McCathy’s “The Road” which was supposed to have been released by now and had built up a lot of positive buzz, but that and 3 dollars will not buy you much at a studio commissary.

Still, the Very Very Dark Grey List (I can’t make myself call it by that other name) for 2008 is a hot enough property for EW.com to feature it, complete with more-than-just-the-titles details for the Top 10.

#1 on the List is “The Beaver”. Sorry, no Jerry Mathers, this is about a “a depressed toy manufacturer” whose life takes a turn for the better when he sticks his hand into an enchanted puppet. Of course, at some point, it all turns creepy, because that’s what movies about enchanted whatevers always do. Why is this the hottest script in Hollywood? Probably because Currently Beloved Comic Actor Steve Carell has expressed an interest in starring in it. As the depressed toy guy, not the puppet. I don’t know if the puppet will even have its own voice, but if it does, it should be Nick Bakay, because he has previous experience as the voice of a beaver.

#2 “The Oranges”: about a “prodigal daughter” who returns home and falls in love with her dad’s best friend.

#3 “Butter”: about a state fair butter carving competiton where the protagonist is a “black foster child” named Destiny.

#4 “Big Hole”: about a grumpy old cowboy seeking payback after he’s cheated out of 30 grand, and his son the sheriff who tries to stop him.

#5: “The Low Dweller”: looks like a standard ex-con-returns-home-and-finds-he-has-scores-to-even story.

#6 “thefword1Buddies”: about a couple whose perfect casual relationship is threatened when the guy falls in real love with somebody else. Come on, with this destined-to-be-changed-before-the first-poster-is-printed title on the cover page, the inside could’ve been photocopied pages from the Cleveland phone book and it would make the top 10.

#7 “Winter’s Discontent”: about a 75-year-old recent widower (named Winter, get it?) getting back into dating… aggressively. Can you say “Ewwww”?

#8 “Broken City”: about political intrigue and murder swirling around the Mayor of New York. Chances of getting permits to film in New York City? Nil.

#9 “I’m With Cancer”: It’s the funny side of cancer. That’s what they’re promising. Even more than “thefword1Buddies”, this is the “we dare you to make this movie” movie of 2009.

#10 “Our Brand Is Crisis”: about American political consultants working an election in South America, based on a true story that has already been a documentary.

If this is the cream of the screenwriting crop, (1) contaminated cocaine has obviously addled the minds of the entire industry and (2) I’m going to throw my grocery lists together to make a heartbreaking drama of a guy addicted to Stouffer’s lasagna and Progresso canned soups.

But before I re-count my blessings for having left L.A. when I did, here are a few more choice titles of other scripts on The Afro-American List: “Inglorious Basterds” (it’s Tarentino’s new project, and that spelling is not MY typo), “The West Is Dead” (could it be… a Western?), “Manuscript” (surprisingly NOT Charlie Kaufman’s next mind-game), “Nowhere Boy” (the bastard child of a Beatle?), “Raindrops All Around Me” (somebody please tell the screenwriter to come in out of the rain), “Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations” (nope, not Kaufman either), “The Many Deaths of Barnaby James” (was he the original Wilhelm Screamer?), “Underage” (paging Dakota Fanning…), “A Couple of Dicks” (aren’t they involved in EVERY movie?), “The Phantom Limb” (about Anakin’s arm?), “Jonny Quest” (and I thought “Herculoids” would hit the big screen first), “Twenty Times a Lady” (about Barnaby James’ widow[s]?), “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” (SPOILER!), and, toward the bottom of the list, some familiar titles: “Sherlock Holmes”, “Ronin”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Grand Theft Auto” and “The F-Word”.

But since most of the movies on last year’s Positive Cash Position List are still stuck in Development Hell, we can remain hopeful, right?

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