Awards night in Hollywood, 1981. The 53rd Academy Awards are taking place and the best of Tinseltown are being honored for all their hard work, dedication and talent. Robert Reford is picking up two Oscars – Best Director and Best Picture – for his film Ordinary People. Robert De Niro edges out John Hurt for Best Actor, while Sissy Spacek tops out the talented Best Actress field. Additionally, Michael Gore’s musical submission for Fame upsets John Williams’ iconic soundtrack for The Empire Strikes Back to win Best Original Score. It was a truly memorable night.
Meanwhile on the other side of Los Angeles, publicist John Wilson is hosting an awards party in his living room – using his friends as judges. After watching Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu (two notoriously cheesy movies), he approached a cardboard podium and, speaking into a “microphone” made of foam and wood, announced the winner of the Worst Movie of the Year – Can’t Stop the Music.
It was a tongue-in-cheek event that didn’t take itself too seriously, harmlessly poking fun at the unfortunate misfires Hollywood had released that year. The Golden Raspberry Awards (or Razzies as they’re affectionately called now) were a hit and nearly-forty years later, are still considered a place for lovers of all things cringe-worthy in cinema to commiserate together – or at least they used to be. In the last few years, The Razzies seem to have forgotten their original purpose: to point out the ridiculousness in movies and have a good time doing it.
Over the years, The Razzies have nominated some obvious stinkers and created awards for moments in film that were deserving of some good-humored ridicule. Standard categories such as, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, and Worst Picture, have been present since the beginning, but special categories are often created when it’s justified. Con Air took home a Razzie for Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property in 1997. The Last Airbender was honored with the title Worst Eye-Gouging Misuse of 3D in 2010. While, Cat in the Hat was awarded a trophy for Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie in 2003. Very few people would argue against any of these awards.
However, in recent years, the Golden Raspberry Foundation has started drifting away from pointing out the truly bad moments in film. Instead, Foundation members have become the equivalent of Hollywood award bullies – picking on the same people, subjects and allowing political opinions to influence nominations and awards. Constantly making fun of Adam Sandler, Tyler Perry (both of whom have received multiple nominations for Worst Actor AND Worst Actress), Nicolas Cage, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox – however earned – becomes stale and eventually, no longer fun.
The Razzies have received a lot criticism from industry folks and fans, alike, for its not-so-subtle bias against certain people and subjects – accusing them of often nominating mainstream movies to maintain relevance, instead of focusing on actual bad movies or performances. The 2017 Razzie nominations highlight this pattern. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received seven nominations including: Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor (twice), Worst Director, and Worst Actor (twice). While the superhero film has certainly polarized those in the fan community, labeling anything related to those movies as “The Worst”, while Nine Lives (a movie where Christopher Walken turns Kevin Spacey into a booze-swilling cat), Max Steel and Norm of the North received zero nominations, serves to reinforce that negative perception of the Golden Raspberry judges.
To no one’s surprise, Megan Fox and Tyler Perry both received Worst Actress nominations, while Nicolas Cage received a Worst Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Snowden. Political prejudice is once again present as Dinesh D’Souza received multiple nominations, including one for Worst Actor as himself in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party – an award once given to President George W. Bush in 2004. The Foundation is, of course, permitted to nominate and hand awards out however the judges see fit, but that’s part of the problem – anyone can be a judge. For the paltry sum of $40, virtually any person can become a Razzie judge and they don’t even need to watch the movies in order to vote on them – a seemingly ridiculous way to run an awards program.
Last year, William Bibbiani from Crave Online called the Razzies, “a cheap shot of prankster-ism…with only a handful of exceptions, only seen fit to nominate the most infamous movies of the year, and not necessarily the worst.” – and he’s not alone. Sam Adams from Indiewire compared the Razzies to “hecklers hurling insults at comedians…[They] avoid pouncing on…no-budget indies no one has seen for having bad lighting or terrible sound.” And Robbie Collin with The Daily Telegraph points out, “the Razzies’ ongoing failure to train its sights on anything but the most obvious targets means it grows more tired and redundant by the year.” Lastly, Brad Slager at The Federalist observes, “Part of the problem with these awards is they have grown in scope over the years but have not grown up.”
It’s popular within current social trends to pile on things deemed unpopular by the suggested majority. However flawed they might be, labeling movies such as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, their directors, as well as, the cast associated with those projects as “The Worst” – while avoiding actual terrible movies such as: The Boss, Ice Age: Collision Course, Mechanic: Resurrection or any of the other movies so bad you forgot they released in 2016 – essentially invalidates the award and any meaning The Razzies once held.
There was a time when Halle Berry (Catwoman) and Sandra Bullock (All About Steve) infamously showed up to receive their awards for Worst Actress. They knew their films and subsequent roles were sub-par and played along with the joke award in professional manner. Now, the Razzies simply are the joke – devoid of the sarcastic humor and good-natured ribbing that once made them so enjoyable to follow. Hopefully, the Razzies will one day stop taking themselves so seriously and will soon return to innocently pointing out Hollywood’s flawed movie submissions.