by Ken Bakely
NOTE: The structure of the following text was salvaged from an unfinished post written in early 2014.
Founded in 1981 by Hollywood publicist John J.B. Wilson in his living room following a potluck dinner the night of that year’s Academy Awards, the principle of the Golden Raspberry Awards, for those of you who do not know, is to “honor” the worst films of a given year, the anti-Oscars/Golden Globes/Critics Choice Awards/BAFTAs/the other eleven zillion awards shows that crop up each winter. Held the night before the Oscars (all the world’s press are already in L.A. by then, and may as well cover it) in a “deliberately low-end… ceremony”, the Razzies are voted on by anyone who pays membership dues.
I like the idea. I like the winners that have had the good humor to show up and accept their trophy. I like the people behind it – Wilson seems like a funny guy. But the Razzies, as they stand, are extraordinarily problematic, suffering from the same kind of predictable politicization of more “legitimate” awards shows.
What’s the worst movie of 2015? It’s a subjective question, of course, but among the consensus picks are titles like Mortdecai, Stonewall, Fantastic Four, and United Passions. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Only one of those films is on the Golden Raspberry Awards’ shortlist for Worst Picture. What’s there alongside it? Movies like Jupiter Ascending and Fifty Shades of Grey, easy jokes but hardly the worst things to hit multiplex screens last year.
The question becomes how these awards are to be taken. It’s clearly a tongue-in-cheek show, but there’s a sense of tiredness every year – if Michael Bay or Adam Sandler made a movie in the preceding twelve months, you’ll bet it’ll play big at the Razzies (although admittedly, sometimes such a dubious honor is more than appropriate for some of their films). If a movie was the center of discussion, like Fifty Shades, it’ll clean up in pre-Razzie discussion. In a sense, Razzie voters, who are not required to see the films they vote for, give into a certain rhetoric each year – surely, the ubiquitous “Still a better love story than Twilight” comment led to Breaking Dawn – Part 2 raking in eleven nominations in 2013 and taking home seven, including Worst Picture and Worst Director.
But this post isn’t about running to the defense of a specific film that the voters have condemned (The Lone Ranger!), but simply me opining that if the Razzies really do want to be the anti-Oscars/Golden Globes, etc., then it’s time to stir away from those awards ceremonies’ habit of going with the easy picks – something by Bay might be low-hanging fruit and make for some fun jokes, but at least his films boast impreessive visual effects and technical credits to attempt to alleviate head-ache inducing editing and poor scriptwriting (although often to little to no avail). And yet, Transformers films pick up Worst Picture nominees installment after installment, where what many may argue are more awful fare (for me, titles like RV, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, and God’s Not Dead spring to mind) are given lesser treatment or outright ignored. This is very much like how the Oscars will go with “safe” choices – biographies, historical dramas, and the like, while more out-there independent fare, despite being sung to the rooftops by critics and audiences alike, are often left out to dry.
I’m happy to live in a universe where something like the Golden Raspberry Awards have enjoyed such a long shelf life. I just wish they were a little more interesting.