As per tradition, tomorrow’s Oscar nomination announcements were preceded by today’s nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards, this year celebrating 30 years of recognizing the worst of the worst. At least in theory.
There’s long been something unsatisfying about the Razzies. On one hand, they obviously act as a deflation of the pompous and self-congratulatory qualities of the Oscars. They’re there to forcefully mock bad films, with “bad” carefully undefined. The small, really dreadful films no one’s ever heard of or seen except the people professionally obligated to watch them — say, “How to Seduce Difficult Women,” one of the most laughable things I’ve seen in recent memory — get a pass. Their targets are the movies that’ve been punchlines all year long. No real surprises amongst this year’s nods — you’ll find “Old Dogs” here, and “All About Steve,” and “Land of the Lost” too. With the exception of “Transformers 2,” these are all movies more people hate than have actually seen.
That’s true of a lot of Razzies nominees, which tend to break down into a few categories: lowbrow comedies (“Norbit,” “White Chicks,” “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”), high-profile debacles with a heavy component of financial failure (“Lady In The Water,” “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “Catwoman”), and those rare fiascos almost no one sees before mocking (“Swept Away” with Madonna, Uwe Boll’s “In The Name of the King”).
This doesn’t strike me as an especially courageous way of going about things. The jokes are easy and have been pre-written for months, staple fare for late-night opening monologues. The further back you go in time in Razzie history, the more nominees you find that are pretty beloved: the campy “Road House,” nominated for five Razzies in 1990; or the critically re-appraised likes of “Cruising,” “Heaven’s Gate” and “Ishtar.” (I hope to see “Freddy Got Fingered” get its well-deserve rehabilitation soon.) The others have mostly faded from memory: who can recall, say, 1989’s “Lock Up,” with Sylvester Stallone taking on warden Donald Sutherland? (The Wikipedia summary is a must-read.)
In my ideal world, the Razzies would be run not by smarter-than-average industry people, but by cranks like me convinced the entire awards hierarchy is beyond repair. Ideally, the Razzies would duplicate the more “respectable” nominations of the legitimate awards ceremony. Instead of wasting a 2008 nomination on, say, the instantly forgotten Paris Hilton vehicle “The Hottie and the Nottie,” why not nominate “The Reader” — nominated for Best Picture, infamously mocked within the ceremony itself by host Hugh Jackman? There’s always one undeserving frontrunner every year: why not nominate “Precious” or, I dunno, “Avatar,” if you’re feeling punchy? Why waste that bile on “Land of the Lost”?
Another problem is that a lot of viewers approach bad old movies with a special affection they can’t muster up for actual quality fair. It’s true that movies’ self-evident cheese can wear better than their ostensibly more respectable counterparts. For 1989 I’d certainly rather watch “Lock Up” than real-life Oscar winner “Driving Miss Daisy” (or fellow nominee “Dead Poets Society,” for that matter). And which is the more lasting national punch-line 20 years later? The Razzies’ affection for, uh, razzing of bad films almost misses the point — in the ’80s, it canonized a kind of alternate viewing list for cultural masochists. These days, it just singles out stuff just as excruciating to watch now as 20 years from now. “The Cat In The Hat,” anyone?
[Photos: Razzies trophy, courtesy of John Wilson and The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation; “The Hottie and the Nottie,” Regent Releasing/Summit Entertainment, 2008]