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Are the Razzies Out of Touch?

People are probably still analysing and analysing the Oscar nominees announced yesterday. I’m still formulating my opinion on the bunch – generally it’s a safe selection, but a reasonable safe selection – I thought I’d take a look at the other great annual awards ceremony. No, not the Olympics. No, not the Golden Globes. No, not even the Winter Olympics. The Golden Raspberry Awards – or Razzies, as they are affectionately known – are announced at this time of year, typically stealing a tiny percentage of the Oscars’ thunder. This year they announced the day before and gave us an eclectic line-up. For those unfamiliar with the Razzies, the idea is celebrate the worst that exists in film. However, part of me wonders if the Razzies have escaped the scrutiny that has long been a part of analysing their bigger brother: are the Razzies out of touch with the common movie-goer?

They've even got a cool little statue thing going on!

Now, before we begin I should preface this with a caution. The caution is this: I’m not even half-serious in writing this. It just happened to occur to me when reviewing the list of the nominees for the Worst Film Razzie that got me thinking: are these really the worst that cinema has had to offer this year? Are these the lows and the dredges of film-making? Should being involved in any one of these films be enough to ban you from going within five hundred metres of a camera for the rest of your natural life?

Which, by the way, is a phrase I never got. Does that mean that if you become a zombie or a vampire you are no longer bound by that ruling? Not that enforcing a court order would be the top of society’s list of things to do at that point, but I do wonder sometimes. Anyway, I’m off on a tangent. Of a tangent.

Anyway, are the Razzies really doing what they say on the tin? Are they really pointing out the worst of the worst for us to laugh at? I guess it depends on how you define ‘worst’. Looking at their five nominees (c’mon guys, get with the times, ten is the new five!), there are some indefensible movies on there. There’s Transformers 2, which was enough to make critics doubt their vocations and viewers doubt the existence of good in the world. There’s All About Steve, which demonstrated that the annoying part of Sandra Bullock hadn’t gone away, it was just sleeping – and it was waking up with one hell of a hangover. Old Dogs is yet another attempt by John Travolta and Robin Williams to make you forget why you loved them in the first place.

Then there are two debatable cases. There’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which famously bypassed critics on the way to middle America. And, based on the box office, middle America was pretty cool with that. The coasts were less so, but who are we to judge? And there’s The Land of the Lost, which was a much maligned comedy (that I actually found okay) but doesn’t seem to have physically hurt anyone in the same manner as the rest of the nominees.

I’m sure that everyone of us could point to worse movies we’ve seen on late night television or seen on DVD (Sky Movies has been the predominant source of such movies of late). Surely Lesbian Vampire Killers is more deserving a nomination than any of the contenders? Or Saw VI?

I accept that ‘worst’ is a very subjective qualification (just as ‘best’ is for the Oscars), but by virtually any measure there are worse films than Transformers 2, as much as we may malign it. There are certainly more misogynistic and offensive films out there, there are worse-reviewed films (Rotten Tomatoes is perhaps a measure here), and there are worse viewer-rated films as well (imdb.com offers handy user ratings). The Box, for example, got an ‘F’ when viewers were polled for CineScore. No film gets an F. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mounting a sweeping defense of the film which prompted Ebert to suggest that its fans were ‘not sufficiently evolved’, I’m just wondering if the Razzies do serve to highlight the worst of the worst.

Maybe the point of the awards is to localise criticism to those movies which manage the broadest amount of offense, bringing trash to the widest possible audience. Surely no one picked up American Pie IV on DVD expecting a masterpiece, after all? And by blowing a giant raspberry in the face of Hollywood blockbusters serves to raise a middle finger to the establishment. If such is the logic, what is The Land of the Lost doing on that list? It infamously tanked during its box office run and it isn’t as if the Razzies would be the biggest downer that those involved had experienced. Singling it out almost seems like pistol-whipping a blind kid.

It seems that the awards are more of a laser-guided ‘take that’ at the Hollywood establishment. It’s fun to mock The Land of the Lost because Will Ferrell was nigh untouchable a few years ago. All About Steve attracts attnetion because it stars both hip newcomer Bradley Cooper and established veteran Sandra Bullock. I will concede that Transformers 2 is just terrible, though.

But maybe the Razzies aren’t meant to be relevant. They are a joke, famously used to establish that celebrities like Halle Berry can laugh at themselves. It doesn’t seem that they serve the purpose of warning movie-goers away from bad movies in the same way the Oscar nominations steer movie goers towards good (or what they perceive to be good) ones – nominees typically receive a significant boost in income between nominations and the ceremony (Slumdog Millionaire being the poster child).

Maybe the Razzies are for film buffs like myself to laugh at and mock. The world’s biggest in-joke, a slap on the wrist to the huge studios and their ridiculously crap movies. I don’t like to focus on ‘worst’ films, not bothering to list the most traumatic cinematic feasts of the past year. Dwelling on the sheer volume of subpar films produced every year would be disheartening, particularly as someone who loves cinema. I try to forget the terrible ones as quickly as possible, to leave me more time and energy to savour and celebrate the good ones.

Perhaps a completely serious Razzies would just be too much to handle.

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