Raspberry Cliché


Last night Hollywood held its most rigidly predictable exercise in conventional wisdom: the Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. the Razzies, established to honor the worst films of the year. Sandra Bullock showed up to collect her Worst Actress and Worst Screen Couple prizes for All About Steve, then razzed the crowd for not bothering to watch her movie before voting on it:

Bullock then questioned the other award she "won" earlier Saturday evening—for "worst couple."

"If you had seen the film, seen it, with your eyes, it's pretty much a film about a woman stalking a man," she said. "That doesn't really set up the premise for a loving couple. So to give us the worst couple award is kind of a 'duh.'"

Good for Bullock. While I haven't seen All About Steve either, I did sit through the trailer, and on that basis I'm willing to believe that it's as terrible as everyone says. But does anyone doubt that it collected its awards because it was a flop with a bad reputation, and not because a majority of the voters actually saw and disliked it themselves?

The Razzies are prizes for the sort of people who really think Ishtar is one of the worst movies ever made, as opposed to an uneven but not particularly lousy comedy that got a lot of bad press because the director went over budget. Sure enough, Ishtar's Elaine May—a genuinely talented filmmaker—took the Worst Director prize for 1987, managing to beat the auteurs behind Jaws: The Revenge and Leonard: Part 6. As with All About Steve, it's an open question how many of the voters bothered to watch the movie before casting their ballots. Another effort infamous for going over budget, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, earned a Worst Director Razzie for 1981, though the Worst Picture prize that year went to the camp classic Mommie Dearest. (I'd rather watch either of those than several Oscar winners.) If the over-budget Titanic had failed to make back its expenses, you can be sure it would have been up for a Razzie. Instead it was a hit and won a Best Picture Oscar, and no one involved with it—not even Celine Dion—got a single Razzie nomination.

The Razzies' boosters sometimes seem to be not just aware but proud of the conformity at the heart of the ceremony. When a commenter on the awards' website complained that he was "sure there were worse movies than some of the bad ones they chose," he earned a quick retort: "There may have been worse, but were they NOTORIOUS enough? Infamy is the name of the game and that is usually what determines if a film goes home with a basket of Razzies." The forum's moderator endorsed this as "a fine and stirring defense," though in a sane world it would be seen as a critique. (Incidentally, if there were a Golden Raspberry Award for worst Web design, the Razzies would have to be frontrunners. Their site combines the sleek look of a GeoCities page circa 1996 with the navigational ease of a Mumbai shantytown.)

Look: Even Avatar's defenders will usually concede that the movie's dialogue left a lot to be desired. You'd think it would get at least a nomination for Worst Screenplay. Instead the Shadow Academy went for a bunch of easy targets, with the prize eventually going to Transformers 2 (or Trannies, Too, as the Razzmeisters have witlessly dubbed it). Transformers took Worst Picture too. I suppose you should give the voters credit for being willing to knock a film that was a financial success. In Razzie circles, that's what passes for bravery.