The Black List is out today. It's an annual poll, begun by a plucky assistant at Leonardo DiCaprio's company, in which all of Hollywood's D-boys and girls nominate the strongest unproduced screenplays this year.
The scripts are then ranked according to numbers of mentions, then the list is distributed throughout the industry, adding luster to projects that might be otherwise languishing as a makeshift agency doorstop or on the floor of an assistant's Jetta. What once was a handily distributed insider's guide, however, has now exploded upon the mainstream through the power of the blogosphere; corporate interest followed soon after, and as we now understand it, any combination of the words "The," "Black," and "List" now requires by law that we acknowledge EW.com working in affiliation with Deadline Hollywood Daily Industries. (We don't ask questions, we just submit.) This year's top spot went to The Beaver, a Steve Carell-attached project that first came our attention early in November, in which he plays a down-on-his-luck toy manufacturer who develops an intense relationship with a beaver hand puppet he discovers in a dumpster. We're certain the magical-realist elements, combined with the fun-to-say title ("Two for The Beaver, please." "Can I bring my son into The Beaver? He's only 14." "Hello, Arclight? Is The Beaver totally packed tonight, or can you squeeze me in?") will ensure it will be only a matter of time before that project jumps from The Black List to critical Top Ten lists across the country.
Synopses of the ten most mentioned screenplays follow, courtesy of EW.com:
1. THE BEAVER, Kyle Killen
Walter Black, a depressed toy manufacturer, loses his family and his business. But then Walter tries on a hand puppet — a chatty British rodent called ''The Beaver'' — and his personality is transformed. It's all good at first, but things turn ugly when the puppet won't let go.
2. THE ORANGES, Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer
Two New Jersey families are thrown into comic turmoil when the prodigal daughter returns for Christmas and falls in love with her parents' best friend.
3. BUTTER, Jason Micallef
Destiny, a black foster child, faces off against Iowa's reigning dairy diva, the beautiful but venal Laura Pickler, in an epic butter-carving competition for the ages.
4. BIG HOLE, Michael Gilio
Lee, an old, grumpy ex-cowboy, loses $30,000 to a fraudulent sweepstakes company and sets out to punish those responsible. Lee's son, the local sheriff, is charged with stopping him.
5. THE LOW DWELLERd, Brad Ingelsby
Charlie ''Slim'' Hendrick, a don't-eff-with-me ex-con, returns home to find that his sweetie has moved on and his bitter brother has gambling debts. When a disfigured, dog-loving thug beats his sibling to death, Slim seeks vengeance.
6. F***BUDDIES, Liz Meriwether
Emma and Adam have the best relationship ever! They're twentysomething pals who, you know, do it. A lot. But then Adam goes and falls in love with Emma and ruins everything. Can their perfect non-union survive?
7. WINTER'S DISCONTENT, Paul Fruchbom
After the death of his wife of more than 50 years, irrepressible horndog Herb Winter sets out, at age 75, to find sexual fulfillment with another woman. Or, if possible, several.
8. BROKEN CITY, Brian Tucker
The New York mayor asks private eye Billy Taggart to find out if the mayor's wife is cheating on him. She is, with the campaign director of the mayor's political rival, no less, who soon turns up dead. Did Billy's investigation lead to murder?
9. I'M WITH CANCER, Will Reiser
Adam, a 25-year-old single Jewish dude, is diagnosed with spinal cancer. Hilarity ensues. Seriously.
10. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS, Peter Straughan
A team of American political operatives moves to Bolivia to take on a flailing presidential campaign. Loosely based on the 2006 documentary of the same name.