How to Fix the Razzies
The Golden Raspberry Awards, colloquially known as The Razzies, are the infamous body that seeks to give anti-awards to the worst films of the year. They announce their nominations the day before the Academy announces the Oscar nominations. They have been functioning for the last 36 years, and have previously “awarded” such notorious bombs as The Lonely Lady, Can’t Stop the Music, Howard the Duck, Hudson Hawk, Showgirls, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. They have the usual categories – worst actor, worst actress, worst picture – but a few other bizarre categories such as Worst Remake/Sequel/Spinoff, Worst Combo, and more recently, The Razzie Redeemer, given to previous winners who somehow redeemed themselves.
The Razzies are also a joke. Persistently, year after year, the Razzies have nominated the most obvious possible films for their awards. The nominating committee is clearly unconcerned with finding the true worst films of the year, and pick on the year’s films that already have a notorious reputation. Or, even more insidiously, they pick on the films made by actors or directors who are already unpopular in the eye of the public. The nominations often look as if they had been made by people who had seen no nominees that year. It’s easy to call The Love Guru the worst film of the year, because no one would argue. If you’ve merely heard a film is bad, then it’s a frontrunner for a win. Why look at the film at all? Its reputation precedes it.
The awards, then, are essentially “safe.” They are an unpopularity contest that is not based on anti-merit. They are based on a wolfpack mentality. The Razzies smell the blood in the water, and point at what’s already dead without tasting it (not to mix animal metapors). Some like to point to the Razzies as a standard by which to measure the worst films of the year. The Razzies, however, is probably the least expert gauge when it comes to finding truly terrible movies, judging demerit, or making any sort of authoritative call.
We need to fix the Razzies.
Bad movies, you see, have a different dynamic than good movies. Good movies can be celebrated together. They can be agreed upon. Good movies can often be more widely recognized as great, provided enough people see them. Bad movies – truly bad movies – however, tend to languish in the personality of the viewer. Bad movies are personal. Bad movies are intimate. Bad movies are avoided by general audiences, and only the accidental ticket-buyer or truly adventurous filmgoer will find them. And, once they’re found, said filmgoers don’t typically go out of their way to share their experience. As such, some of the worst movies of the year are probably movies you haven’t heard of, and may never hear of.
This is why the Razzies need to be fixed. We need a body that can find the truly terrible, the truly offensive, the most misguided films of the year, and then share them with the world with a voice of authority. Any responsible critic will be actively looking for truly bad movies, as culling them from the herd can only improve the overall health of cinema in general.
Here are my solutions for repair:
Put Critics in Charge
The Razzies should not be run by mere fans or film enthusiasts. This is not a game for the faint of heart, and, if done properly, requires a lot of legwork. The Razzies need to be run by people with a broad access to many films, and the critical skill to recognize what is truly bad. It needs to be run by a body of people who have seen a great breadth and depth of feature films, like critics. And it needs to be run by people who are willing – and able – to openly articulate why a film is bad. Which leads directly into my second recommendation:
The Academy Awards don’t need much of a reason to explain their nominees; we can all kind of agree that the nominees are, at the very least, worthy of some sort of recognition or conversation. The Razzies, however, should explain themselves. Why, I ask, is Pixels the considered to be one of worst film of the year? This may not be self-evident to the casual viewer, and an actual articulation would go a great way to justify nominations. The Razzies shouldn’t be unjustified. “Because everyone says so,” or “It got a low Tomatometer reading,” or “It just sucks” aren’t good enough. How about a brief essay explaining why it is so bad?
While some of the wider commercial releases may indeed be the worst films of the year, some of the very worst are more likely to be obscurities that barely got a release at all. We need a team of people who are committed to seeking those films out. And while it can seem mean-spirited to pick on films that barely get a chance, I would argue that the infamy of a Razzie nomination can be a great way to gain attention for an underrated flick.
Change the Attitude
The Razzies are currently a very cynical affair. Because they are based on the aforementioned wolfpack mentality, there is an air of bullying about them. They pick on easy targets, and ask others to join in their scorn. They are about mockery and a playful fratboy mean-spiritedness. And while this can be fun, there doesn’t seem to be much of a cathartic function to the awards beyond a giddy, adolescent schadenfreude. I think that bad films are a good teaching tool, and can illuminate to filmmakers and to audiences exactly how not to make a movie. If the Razzies were to take a more objective, intelligent bent, then perhaps we’d have a healthier way of looking at bad movies, rather than just mocking them.
The Academy Awards have a gigantic prom to celebrate their distribution. The Razzies should also be allowed on television. Although rather than a large, opulent party with gowns and limousines, televise a Charlie Rose-type roundtable analysis. Talk about why the bad movies are bad. If a filmmaker or performer is game enough to discuss their work (Halle Berry, after all, appeared in person to collect her Razzie), invite them on for the discussion. The tone should be one of casual analysis. Try to unlock what made these movies tick. Or not tick, as the case may be.
These five simple steps should be enough to move the Razzies from a mean frat joke into a serious dissection of the movement of modern commercial cinema. We’re not here to mock. We’re here to help.
Top Image: The Golden Raspberry Awards
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia, and Blumhouse. You can follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.