Welcome to the jewel in the crown of awards season. Tonight the world holds its breath for the 34th Annual Razzies, where all that glitters is most definitely not gold. Formed in 1980 by publicist John J. B. Wilson, the Razzies ‘honour’ the worst in film, and are held the day before the Oscars as a tongue-in-cheek precursor to the biggest night of the Hollywood calendar. Over the years, several winners have even graced the intentionally tacky Razzies stage to accept their awards in person, most notably Oscar-winners Halle Berry and Sandra Bullock.
Once upon a time the Razzies were just a fun piece of anti-establishment prankery. They added a dose of well-needed humility into the eternal backslap of awards season. But, somewhere along the way, things changed. Laziness and conformity crept in, and the Razzie nominations became even more predictable and boring than the Oscars. Just as Meryl Streep would be guaranteed an Oscar nomination even if she voiced a talking kettle, Adam Sandler can rest assured of his place on the Razzies’ list no matter what he does.
At the end of the day, the Razzies are not about picking the worst films of that year. They’re about attracting publicity by slagging off the efforts of some of the biggest stars in the business.
So think about it for a moment. Why do the Razzies actually exist?
It’s not to warn the viewing public, because the films in question are long gone from cinemas. Is it to shame the cast and crew involved into trying harder next time? That means nothing either. These film stars are not idiots. Do you think Will Smith, Adam Sandler or Tyler Perry thought they were making the next Citizen Kane when they signed up to After Earth, Grown Ups 2 or A Madea Christmas? These films have their place and their audience, because as much as the average critic will try to warn the audience with poor reviews, those cinema seats will still be filled in their thousands.
So again: why do the Razzies exist? Publicity and some cheap laughs. That’s it. I’ve been guilty of both of those crimes while writing my recent series of articles on the Razzie 2014 Worst Picture nominees, but I’ve also realised that even these terrible films have their merits. The Lone Ranger, for example, had two genius action sequences bookending the film and the action in-between them was passable at worst. After Earth had a dreary plot, but Jaden Smith’s physical acting showed promise whenever he wasn’t speaking.
Mocking terrible films is fun. I’m not about to deny that. But do we need an annual awards ceremony putting the spotlight on a host of films we’d all rather forget? Deep down, every film fan loves to make end-of-year lists of their favourite films, and deep down, every film fan knows that it’s pointless. You can’t compare a hedonistic romp like The Wolf of Wall Street with the brutal honesty of 12 Years A Slave or the visionary direction of Gravity. So if highlighting the best cinema has to offer is a waste of time, then how much more unnecessary is highlighting the worst?
Instead I like to take an approach inspired by the inimitable FILMCRITHULK and Quentin Tarantino:
Never hate a film.
That’s harder than it sounds with dross like Grown Ups 2 floating around American multiplexes, but you can honestly learn something useful from every film in existence. That’s part of what makes Tarantino such a great film-maker. He’s cannibalised everything of worth from the countless films he’s watched and poured that into his own work.
So here’s my suggestion: instead of wasting everyone’s time pointing out what we already know for an annual flicker of infamy, the Razzies should do something genuinely worthwhile with their appetite for publicity. If they really want to set themselves up as a parodic alternative to the Oscars, why not hit them where it really hurts? Why not champion the films that went unnoticed and overlooked by the Academy? Films like Short Term 12, Upstream Colour, A Field in England, The World’s End, Iron Man 3 and Stoker? All of them either too indie, too challenging or not challenging enough for the Oscars’ myopic window of prestige.
Even in a vintage year for the Oscars where the nominations don’t provide much to argue about, these kinds of films deserve to be recognised for their innovation, creativity and sheer entertainment value. BBC film critic Mark Kermode does something similar with his annual Kermode awards, but they’re limited by the one-man judging panel and a lack of publicity. The Razzies rack up endless column inches each year, so why not put them to good use?