The problem with The Razzies


It was a funny idea. Let's play a little trick on those people in the movie business, who take themselves so seriously. Let's give a slap in the face to lazy Hollywood production. Let's give out an award to the worst films and worst performances of the year. We know them as The Razzies aka The Golden Raspberry Awards. They are the anti-Oscar. The one award of the year you really DON'T want to win.

Since 1981 John Wilson and The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation have awarded prices for the worst accomplishments in Hollywood. The Razzies are "a light-hearted parody of award shows", the creator claims. This all sounds great. And so it is, in theory...

What do Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma, and Michael Cimino have in common? They were all Razzie nominated for Worst Director. For The Shining (1980), Scarface (1983), and Year of the Dragon (1985), respectively. Three outstanding films, by the way.

There should definitely be room for an award like The Razzies. An industry so eager to congratulate itself deserves to be taken down a peg or two. Some righteous mocking only seems fair. If done right an anti-award could give filmmakers a moment of pause, and any actor who ever took a role just for the money, would have to add this to his list of considerations before signing on the dotted line for yet another soulless action fest. It would benefit us all.

The problem is that The Razzies aren't witty or clever. They're not a wake-up call to Hollywood. They're not a thorn in the side of the studios. No, instead The Razzies are unoriginal, petty and vindictive. Unless you think referring to Arnold as Ah-Nuld Schwarzenegger is the most brilliant joke ever.

Of course taste is relative, and as I pointed out when I did my "worst films I've seen" list, a certain quality level must be observed. If you really had to pick the worst films of the year, the list would be full of direct-to-video garbage and horror movies no one has ever heard of. That wouldn't be very interesting or useful, so it goes without saying (by the award committee) that this is an award for the worst of the best.

Even with this in mind The Razzies remain problematic.


How do they work?

How DO they work? Good question. In official press releases it's claimed that the nominees and the winners are selected by the 600+ members. The amateurish website - a blinking, multi-colored, advertisement-raped freak of a site, which (at the time of writing) looks 20 years old - makes no effort to further explain how the awards work or who votes, but it seems highly unlikely that the tastes of 600 free-thinking individuals would result in the list of nominees The Razzies publish each year. There are so many consistent grudges and odd choices that I wouldn't be surprised if the nominations were handpicked by founder John Wilson alone. I also wouldn't be surprised if the pick of the winners is rigged as well, but that's just me speculating.

In 2000 Mission: Impossible II - arguably one of the best action movies ever made - was nominated for "Worst Remake or Sequel".

Another point is that people and films CLEARLY get nominated without being seen. When Sandra Bullock showed up to accept her award for All About Steve (2009), she questioned if anyone among the voters had actually bothered to see the film. She also pointed out that it was a little unfair to give the Worst Screen Couple award to a film about a woman who stalks a man. The sad truth is that she was probably right. The Razzie voters most likely saw the trailer for the film, read the bad reviews, and judged it without seeing it.

"But you can also vote for the Oscars without seeing the films," I hear you say. That's true, except when it comes to the Oscars the studios actually send any remotely award-worthy film out to every member of The Academy, in the hopes that they'll watch it, like it, and vote for it. Obviously, this isn't the case when it comes to The Razzies.

Unfortunately, because the nominees are handpicked and no one watches the films (speculation and gross exaggeration, yes I know, don't write me), The Razzies are stuck with the same names and the same hate year after year. If you buy this theory, it makes sense that they (meaning John Wilson and/or the members) keep revisiting the tired old cliched choices looking for satisfaction, but it keeps eluding them, because deep down they know they're just just phoning it in, or even cheating.

Just a theory, mind you.


The Ballot

Let's put aside the questionable procedure and just look at the names on the ballot. Let's look at one category from 2011: Worst Actress. The nominees are:

  • Martin Lawrence (As "Momma"), Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
  • Sarah Palin (As "Herself"), Sarah Palin: The Undefeated
  • Sarah Jessica Parker, I Don't Know How She Does It and New Year's Eve
  • Adam Sandler (As "Jill"), Jack and Jill
  • Kristen Stewart, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, part 1

This lineup is par for the course. Actors get nominated, because they are disliked, regardless of the film they're in, or they get nominated if they're in a bad film, regardless of whether or not they are bad.

Two of the five nominees are not actually actresses. They are male actors playing women. One of the nominees is not playing anything, she's just a moron. Sarah Palin is nominated for her performance in a documentary. Granted, she's a dick, but how is that a bad performance? It's not bad (she really is a dick) and it's not a performance. As for the last two actresses... Well, it doesn't matter how well they act, they're nominated because The Razzies hate them and/or their films with a passion. In other words, there's not a single legitimately bad performance from an actress in this bunch, and thus not a single legitimate nomination.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn won Joe Eszterhas the "Worst New Star" award. It was his 15TH SCREENPLAY!

Let's look at another example: The Razzies hate Sylvester Stallone. They've nominated him 30 times. THIRTY. Everything from completely fair picks to plain silly choice, like a Worst Screenplay nomination for the fantastic Cliffhanger (1993). Nominating him for worst director for The Expendables (2010), though, is not merely silly, it reveals either a staggering lack of knowledge about film, or a blinding mean streak, which suggests to me that there's more at play here than we know.

It's a problem when The Razzies nominate people just because they hate them, like in 2004 when Fahrenheit 9/11 won 4 awards: Worst Actor (George Bush), Supporting Actor (Donald Rumsfeld), Supporting Actress (Britney Spears) and Worst Screen Couple (George W. Bush & either Condoleeza Rice OR His Pet Goat). Clearly they didn't hate the film, because they nominated all the "bad guys", but this is an award for the worst movies and worst performances. Forget that it's not funny or clever to nominate Fahrenheit 9/11, it's downright confusing if you give the prizes to people you hate, who were accurately portrayed in a documentary you love. A film you support will now constantly be referred to as a Razzie winner. Unless the awards and the recipients are mentioned EVERY time, people will think you hated the film. Was that what you were trying to achieve?

Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor (2001) was nominated for Worst Remake or Sequel. What exactly was this a remake of? The actual war? Or perhaps it was the sequel to The Rock?

And don't get me started on how often they ignore their own rules (though I should point out I don't actually know what their rules are, because I couldn't find them anywhere). Like nominating several combinations of the lead actor with any of the supporting players for screen couple. Example: "Will Ferrell and any co-star, creature or comic riff."  How is that a screen couple? "A" as in one, and couple as in two people! Come on! You're not even trying.



In its current incarnation The Razzies have no part to play in the modern world.

The media took the bait for a while, but these days The Razzies are an entertainment footnote. Dutifully and dispassionately covered in a sentence or two by some, but no longer all, of the major film related websites.

This year (2012) they've moved the show away from the Academy Award schedule, a full three months into the year, probably thinking that this will give them more than a day's worth of publicity. It won't.

The Razzies need to wake up and join the present. As they stand now, they seem like a relic from a time before the internet, before every film geek had instant access to venting their frustrations on blogs, in comments, or with videos. At the very least the process needs to be more open and the voting system needs to be changed.

One thing is for certain: John Wilson and his paid posse better hope no one creates a "worst award" award. The Razzies would win it in a landslide.