Enough, Already, with the Golden Raspberry Awards

razzie_award225.jpgIs there anyone reading this who honestly did not know that Sex and the City 2 and The Last Airbender were terrible, terrible movies? Because just in case, this morning's Golden Raspberry nominations reaffirmed that knowledge for everybody. Thanks? What started out as a way to poke fun at some laughably bad films -- when no other medium for doing so existed -- now, frankly, feels like piling on at best and mean-spirited at worst. Enough, already!

The Golden Raspberry Awards (or Razzies) were started as a joke by John J.B. Wilson in 1981 after watching a double feature of the infamous roller-skating disco musical Xanadu and the infamous Village People movie Can't Stop the Music. Such origins alone perfectly illustrate why the Razzies used to be an interesting statement on popular culture: While Xanadu and Can't Stop the Music are indeed bad movies, they're the types of bad movies that are fun to watch. I mean, Xanadu was kitschy and endearing enough to eventually become a Broadway musical. There's nothing kitschy or endearing about last year's winner, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It's just an extremely obvious selection: a movie that made a ton of money that everyone hated. If the selections are going to be this obvious, then seriously, why even bother?

Of course, the Oscars pick some obviously good movies, but that's the point: People like seeing things they enjoy -- both good and bad -- rewarded accordingly. And as we've seen over the last 10 years in particular, for better or worse, the Academy often go out of their way to honor smaller films that much of the world may have never heard of were it not for Oscar buzz. The Golden Raspberries once shared a similar emphasis, recognizing a spectrum of films that were, let's say, a little more obscure than the well-known clunkers they pick today. Over the Razzies' first decade, nominees included the likes of Saturn 3, Windows, Megaforce, The Lonely Lady, Bolero, Blue City, Tough Guys Don't Dance, Mac and Me and Speed Zone! And which movies were nominated from 2009? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, All About Steve, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost and Old Dogs -- five films with a combined worldwide box-office gross of over $1.3 billion. Were these really the worst movies of the year, or were these the worst movies that we've all seen?

The Razzies do historically boast at least a semblance of relevancy. Take Neil Diamond, the first-ever winner for Worst Actor for his performance as Jess Robin in The Jazz Singer. (Happy 70th birthday, by the way, Neil.) Can you name the next time that Neil Diamond ever appeared in a film not playing himself? That's right... never! The second winner was Klinton Spilsbury for the title role in The Legend of the Lone Ranger -- a role that found every word he uttered dubbed by another actor. He hasn't appeared onscreen since. Who won last year's Razzie for worst actor? The Jonas Brothers for playing themselves in their concert film Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

The Jonas Brothers? What does that even mean? While virtually no one over the age of 20 may like the Jonas Brothers, that "award" just seems petty and, again, like piling on (The Spice Girls won Razzies for 1998's Spice World, but that was a scripted film, not a concert movie.) A case could be made that Paris Hilton's 2008 win for Worst Actress was in the spirit of Diamond or Spilsbury, but it wasn't; the difference is that Diamond and Spilsbury were both attempting to give a good performances. Hilton was stunt-cast in The Hottie and the Nottie and Repo! The Genetic Opera, and awarding her a Razzie just played into the plan.

What we see more and more often with the modern-day Razzies is awarding well-known actors who were not blessed with great scripts (this did happen on occasion in the early days, as with Laurence Olivier for Inchon, but it was the exception, not the rule). That first decade of winners is littered with names like Christopher Atkins, Prince, Andrew "Dice" Clay and the aforementioned Spilsbury. The last decade has recognized Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Ben Affleck and John Travolta. In other words, there seems to be a concerted effort to "embarrass the bigger names."

And as you probably recall, Sandra Bullock won Worst Actress last year for All About Steve. Now, did Bullock really give the worst performance of 2009, or did the disdain toward her character have more to do with her being a well-known name who also made a promise to appear in person if she won the award? Bullock famously showed up to accept her Razzie and, in the process, handed out copies of All About Steve to those in attendance. It was kind of lost amid her Oscar win the next night, but she made a really good point in her Razzie acceptance speech. "This is the deal I'm going to make you, seeing how when I said I would show up, I miraculously won," she said. "I will show up next year if you promise to watch the movie -- and I mean really watch it -- and really consider if it was really and truly the worst performance. If you're willing to watch it and [you reconsider], then I will come back next year; I will give back the Razzie."

Her point is, their voting is ill-informed and based on what will get the most headlines. If the Razzies could have gotten away with nominating Avatar in 2009, they would have done so just for the attention.

Let's put it this way: Isn't The Room infamous today for being widely considered one of the worst movies of the last 10 years -- if not all time? People attend sold-out midnight showings to this day based on it's awfulness alone. So, considering the Golden Raspberries pick the worst movies of any given year, The Room was nominated for Worst Picture, right? Alas: The Razzies were too busy in 2003 devouring low-hanging fruit like Gigli, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and The Cat in the Hat. For all the attention we pay to the Razzie nominations every year, every single one of us could have predicted those same films. There's absolutely no research involved in what films get nominated. There's no expert opinion. The Razzies should be finding movies like The Room. Not only are the Razzies unnecessarily mean, they're downright lazy.

Anyway, another job well done today, Razzies! Maybe this year you can get the cast of Sex and the City 2 to show up to your ceremony.


  • Scraps says:

    Meh, there's always an award for something...

  • Brian Clark says:

    I had no idea that Tough Guys Don’t Dance had won a Razzie...
    I sort of love that movie.

  • Dw. Dunphy says:

    Mr. Ryan, I agree with you, but your point is lost. The Oscars and Grammys were about honoring excellence, or at least "excellence," but is mostly about honoring what made the system the most cash, or made the system look good. While everyone prattles on about how anyone anywhere can make a movie now, is that really true? Sure, they're making movies. No, they're not getting seen.
    So the people who used to be so instrumental in those wonderful failures you are lifting up, the Roger Cormans or the Charles Bands of the world, they don't exist anymore. There are no minor league farm teams anymore. You don't even have a more high-minded version like a Zoetrope, no matter what Mr. Coppola says.
    What this all means: the intent of not just the Razzies, but all awards has changed. The Razzies are mean-spirited rib kicking, but to mourn the loss of it's purity while neglecting the tainted nature of "the big guys" is to tell only half the story.

  • Tommy Marx says:

    I have to partially agree with this commentary. Sometimes movies like "Sex in the City 2" and "The Last Airbender" are ridiculously obvious choices, but that doesn't mean they're not the right choices, either. I get more irritated at the petty nominations.
    Was the "Twilight Eclipse" movie really one of the worst, or are the Razzies bullies who pick on anything that doesn't appeal to them? For shit's sake, neither the Twilight series nor the Jonas Brothers are aimed at whoever chooses the Razzies, they're aimed at young girls. Are we all stuck eternally in the third grade, where girls have cooties and anything they like is icky?
    And what is this obsession with Jennifer Aniston - or Sandra Bullock, for that matter? When I saw "Catwoman" I fully understood why Halle Berry was chosen worst actress. She was unbelievable, just as she was the worst possible choice to play Storm in the X-Men movies. She played the parts as if they were comic book characters, whereas a better actress would have played them as human.
    But I have never seen Aniston or Bullock give a bad performance. Certainly they've played slight characters, maybe even annoying characters, but they've played them well.
    Choosing Jack Black because he has played the 16th version of the exact same role feels right. But then why not choose Katherine Heigl, who has done more to set female equality back two centuries than any right-wing conservative? She plays the exact same role every time - the professional loser who can only become a true woman with the love of a man. Yeah, great message, Kathy.
    And seriously, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Lautner, and Robert Pattinson? Are any of them actually bad actors? Doesn't it sound like we're back in third grade land? They're pretty boys, so we HATE them!
    The Golden Raspberries just seem petty and annoying. They should recognize the movies that are bad (where is "The Nutcracker in 3-D" for example, or "Jonah Hex"?), not the ones that are easy targets because they appeal to a specific market they obviously disdain. They should recognize bad acting, instead of good actors playing characters or appearing in movies that they don't like.

  • Couch Tamale says:

    Left off the list--
    Worst Website to Attempt to Navigate Before Leaving in Disgust: Razzies.com

  • Nate says:

    Great article. We should've seen more of utter crap like Furry Vengeance, My Soul to Take, Standing Ovation, and The Nutcracker as opposed to a cheap shot at a simply mediocre female-targeted franchise like Twilight.

  • CiscoMan says:

    Agree with this wholeheartedly. The Razzies recently have focused on big studio mediocrity instead of so-bad-it's-good incompetence. If I were in charge, I'd refocus on straight-to-video and perhaps amateur stuff on the web.

  • Guest says:

    Well written article. I find the Razzies totally pointless, misguided, lazy, and mean spirited. They purposely nominate big stars to make headlines. Actors including DiCaprio, De Niro, and Pacino have been nominated for Razzies in the past, not because their performances were bad, but because they were in badly received movies. The Razzies don't judge the actual performances. I bet 99% of the voters only watch the trailers and look up the reviews & box office stats of the movies they nominate. Bullock was a great sport about the whole thing; she made an excellent point about the voting system. It's ridiculous. If you're going to do the Razzies, for goodness sake put in real effort. Be more creative. Sit through the movies. Recognize truly terrible acting rather than target good actors who had a weak year. Not only are their nominations lazy, but so are their categories.