There is no enjoyment in the pre-Oscars debates about who should not have been nominated, what titles were overlooked, and how white all the nominees appear. It is an irritant when codgers in a bar hold these quorums about retired baseball players, and it becomes intolerable when sober millennials do the same over “serious” titles they insist be called “films.”
Given my unstilted attitude towards the entertainment industry and my affinity for horrid movies, it is exceedingly fair to say I have a masochistic bent regarding Hollywood releases. I have accepted my corrupted cultural taste, but have become dissatisfied with a dependable source of revelry: the annual Razzie Awards, also called the Golden Raspberry Awards. Once considered the high-water mark of the low-tide movies, this rundown of the run-down releases in theaters has in recent years delivered diminishing returns.
This year was not very different. Many titles I had pegged as worst of the year made the cut in some fashion. “Pan” and “The Boy Next Door” were surprises with some acting nods. I was pleased Channing Tatum’s turn as a space-boots-wearing albino hybrid human-wolf alien in “Jupiter Ascending” was recognized, and in a just world Josh Trank would be a lock as Worst Director for the ways he mangled “Fantastic Four.”
Mind the Gaping Omissions
But yes (sounding exactly like those latte-sipping film school hipsters), I see glaring omissions from the list. The laughably serious “Chappie” has no recognition. The painfully shrill comedy “Hot Pursuit” garnered zero nods, while the biggest crime of all is that “Jem And The Holograms” is nowhere to be found! Along with the exclusions, we meet some of the usual ham-fisted humor in the Worst Screen Combo category:
Johnny Depp, and his glued-on mustache
Kevin James, and his Segue scooter
Adam Sandler, and any pair of shoes
My conflicted reaction has become the norm with The Razzies in recent years. At once I am excited at the tabulation of last year’s septic cinema, then unimpressed with the selections and omissions while enduring groan-inducing gags and puns.
The committee relies overly on hitting broad targets and plucking low-hanging raspberries. Grandstanding nominations are common, and many selections feel less an acknowledgment of poor content than cagily generated for press releases. (Oscar-caliber actors get skewered! Adam Sandler gets TEN nominations!) If the point is to note bad releases and thus hold Hollywood accountable, more examples would fulfill that goal, rather than beating a few titles like a piñata.
Past the Freshness Date
For those not steeped in bad film history, The Razzies kicked off more than three decades ago in the living room of current director John J.B. Wilson. He and a group of friends staged a mock awards show between themselves, springing somewhat from Michael Medved’s Golden Turkey Awards, created years earlier. Wilson parlayed that novelty into an annual event serving as prologue to the Oscars, a counterpoint to that pompous carnival. But a desire to make sweeping statements with the nominations has blunted this cathartic merriment.
Part of the problem with these awards is they have grown in scope over the years but have not grown up. Frequently you are subjected to humor that seems parked in Wilson’s 1980s living room. The “Transformers” films being referred to as “Trannies: 3” is just one “wry” example.
I recognize it looks odd to insist on a level of propriety when making fun of Hollywood trainwrecks. But fans and writers reference the Razzies for years after. Yes, this means there is some import, so some of the decisions become a disservice. Wilson’s trophy is a recognizable decoration attached to certain movies, so superfluous nominations rob worthy titles or performances of being canonized with disdain.
For disclosure, I deliver this dismay as a former voting member. I used to participate in the selection process with upbeat energy. However, it soon became apparent that, instead of raising pitchforks collectively at studio cynicism, those final picks delivered many missed opportunities. The Razzie selection process involves a ballot with many choices under the categories, and voters choose a handful of selections for each. These cover a wide array of titles from the year, with numerous delicious picks expected to be “honored” and thus catalogued for future risibility.
But when nominations were announced, they dispatched those hoped-for cultural lacerations in favor of obvious hits and gleeful overreach. Most fans already know Sandler delivers sub-par comedies, and he has four nominations this year. His appearance annually in the “worst-of” mix seems assured. There is no compulsion to unload multiple awards on what is a foregone result, yet Wilson and his staff cannot resist.
Rather than sound like a bossy crank, however, I’d like to help. Instead of cursing the darkness, I’d rather light a candle, offering ways to get this unserious recognition back to respectability.
The Issue: Misplaced Scorn. Too often, the Razzies are geared towards getting a reaction, picking juicy targets assured to generate headlines. While the “Twilight” films carry a level of risibility, do they truly rank as classic “bad films”? With each release from that franchise, Wilson and Co. unloaded—the final movie won seven total trophies. These hardly will be regarded as classic bad films down the road. In this fashion, “50 Shades of Grey” was guaranteed to be a nominee this year.
The Fix: If you feel the need, a few token noms would do the trick, but let more deserving trash get some recognition. Also, if the goal is to grant multiple awards to a specific title, why not expand to more categories? This could still provide noms to deserving movies.
The Issue: Overloaded Ridicule. While some years a particular title may stand out as the most glaring debacle, Wilson and crew tend to bestow numerous trophies to drive a point home. Similar to “TBD2,” Sandler’s 2011 cross-dressing turn in “Jack and Jill” won all ten categories. More than piling on, it was simply too much. Now it appears no other bad movies were released in 2011.
The Fix: Show some restraint. The adage with humor is “less is more.” They could have lambasted Sandler perfectly with a Worst Picture and by giving him a Worst Actress win, then gone on to let other titles get recognized.
The Issue: Concentrated Attention. Too often selections get multiple nominations in overlapping categories, denying slots others could occupy. Many times performers have been featured twice, as both solo and cast selections. In 2011, redundancy was the rule, as four of the titles up for Worst Picture were also featured in Worst Sequel Remake, nearly halving the field of available titles.
The Fix: Pretty basic—stop. With the glut of sequels and retread titles Hollywood foists on us each year, you can’t tell me they do not generate enough titles for separate selections above the five standard picks. More targets, more fun.
The Issue: Puerile Selections. As noted above, Wilson adores his gag choices. Other “hilarious” Worst Couple nominations have been “Kellen Lutz, and either his pecs, abs, or glutes” (“Hercules”), or “Tyler Perry, and that worn-out wig and dress” (“A Madea Christmas”). Point is, these droll commentaries deny other acting mockery. This year, three of these zingers replace possible casting condemnation.
The Fix: Dial back on the guffaws or, if these blunt-nosed barbs are truly necessary, expand to more categories. If they create a Worst Makeup/Costume category then they get the chance to yuck it up over Depp’s moustache, and still recognize onscreen duos.
The Issue: Stunt Nominations. Occasionally, Wilson has introduced picks that either revealed personal animus or even political posturing. In 2005 he used Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” as an excuse to have George Bush “win” along with Donald Rumsfeld and Brittany Spears, detracting entirely from the awards. Likewise, Sarah Palin was later recognized in another documentary, for no reason other than spite. The Jonas brothers were dual acting selections once—for their concert film. The pettiness was misplaced.
The Fix: Stick with the movies. This is not an issue over being politically offended. I was offended as a bad movie fan. These picks had zero to do with sewer cinema and, worse, they were not funny. To drive home a point about Bush we watched Wilson deny four potential winners Razzie immortality.
The Last Act
One last note: Why not give us more subjects to bat around? Hollywood is now releasing upwards of 800 titles a year. There is a wide swath of content to mine for ridicule. If Wilson and his Razzie committee want to show their comedic chops, then how about broadening the nomination field to include other categories?
Worst Costume/Hair would be a layup every year. For a change, Worst Song should deliver some mirth. There could be nominations in other genres: Worst Family Film, Worst Slasher Picture, and the like.
The bad movie fanbase is growing, and it only makes sense to expand along with them. And give it a rest with Sandler. By now, everyone gets it.