Year after year, the Academy Awards delivers the same old schtick to the A-list Hollywood crowd: the same mildly funny but (mostly) politically correct jokes, the same sparkly outfits, the same barrage of shiny awards given out to the same movies that please the old white men of the Academy. So when I got the opportunity to attend the 35th annual Golden Raspberry Awards this year, I jumped at the opportunity.
The Golden Raspberry Awards, better known as the Razzies, are dedicating to celebrating the worst in movies, sort of like a Bizarro universe version of the OScars. Since 1980, the award show has been a toothless but necessary finger wag in the general direction of the artless side of Hollywood. This year marked the first year this ceremony would be opened up to the public (for the low, low price of $35 per ticket), meaning I'd be joined in the audience by the kind of people who willingly paid to see movies get panned.
I got my first whiff of this held-together-with-spit-and-bailing-wire vibe of the Razzies when I went to their website to check this year's list of nominees. Put plainly, their website is terrible. It looks like something that was made on GeoCities or AngelFire. After trying to avoid the site's dodgy banner ads and closing virusey pop-ups for nearly five minutes, I still couldn't find the nominee list. A quick Google search of "Razzie nominations" pulled up an in-Google sidebar list of the noms, sourced from Wikipedia.
This year's nominees contained the usual explosion-filled blockbusters, but also things like Kirk Cameron's Savings Christmas and Atlas Shrugged 3: Who Is John Galt. This surprised me, as the Razzies website states, "The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation's well-aimed Darts of Derision have always been directed at Hollywood's High Profile Humiliations (rather than at the easier target of low-budget/drive-in fare)." Picking on low-budget pap, insane as it may be, seemed to go against this credo.
I showed up at the event Saturday night looking very underdressed, but determined to have a good time. I had incorrectly assumed people would be pretty casual about the whole event and wouldn't bother to ironically (or unironically) dress to the nines. The first few cocktail dresses and tuxes my photographer and I passed through as we arrived painted a clear picture of how wrong I was. The place looked like my senior prom.
The show was held at the historic Ricardo Montalban Theater, spitting distance from the iconic Hollywood and Vine intersection. I would soon learn how appropriate this location was, as the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation made it clear early into the evening's proceedings just how much the group fetishized Old Hollywood.
Though the ceremony has seen some notable star appearances over the years, as a rule celebrities don't attend the Razzies, especially not the celebrities being "honored." The biggest attraction on this year's Razzie red carpet was an uncannily accurate Kim Jong Un impersonator who usually poses with tourists in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. A gaggle of old women had crowded around him and were telling each other, "That's the guy from The Interview!" I informed them that no, it was not.
Before entering the theater, I chatted with a young local couple, Angeline Rose and Troy, who were costumed in overall shots and knee-high socks for some reason. I asked them why they had decided to come to the Razzies.
"We just love bad movies," Troy said. "Have you ever seen The Room? That's our favorite. Do you think they'll award a movie like that tonight?"
After grabbing a glass of white wine, my photographer and I found seats in the balcony, where the press was supposed to sit, and settled in for the show. Before the house lights went on, I took a glance at the program, which offered a sampling of the humor we'd be experiencing tonight—for instance, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction was listed as, "Transformers 4: Age of Ex-STINK-tion."
Like the Academy Awards, the Razzies began with a musical performance. The opening number was a medley of tunes from the Annie soundtrack with lyrics that spoofed the nominees.
I should mention here that I'm not exactly the target audience for this kind of hammy, cornball shtick: I absolutely hate when Billy Crystal hosts the Oscars. I stopped participating in my school musicals, mostly because I couldn't get past the overly earnest cringeyness of it all. The Razzie performances were the epitome of this brands of self-satisfied bad comedy: The dance routine footwork was sloppy, the jokes were a bad attempt at Mad magazine–style humor, and the pratfalls were endless. Eight times over the course of the evening, fart noises were blasted over the speakers; this was supposed to be self-evidently funny.
Presenters that I'd never heard of came up after each new sketch/dance/circle of hell to announce the nominees for that category with a smug, campy delivery that even Bruce Vilanche would call overkill. One presenter, who I did not recognize, came onstage with a dog wrapped around his neck. This was never addressed and everyone else treated this like it was the most normal thing in the world.
When Keifer Sutherland was nominated for the film Pompeii, one presenter seemingly ad-libbed to her partner that the film was "more like Pomp-ous!" OK, let's be clear. Pompeii is a bad film, but in no way is it a self-aggrandizing flick. It's a relatively low-budget action flick that was shat out in the box office doldrums of February. Hearing these jokes gave me the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as when I'd hear people in as late as 2011 doing those terrible George W. Bush impressions.
None of the Golden Raspberry winners were in attendance to receive their statue, so the hosts cut to pre-recorded clips of "field reporters" attempting to track down the winners. Highlights of these clips included:
- Audio of "Ah-Nuld" (yes, spelled like that everywhere; no, I don't know why) Schwarzenegger having sex in the back of a Topless Maids van.
- A scene of crumpled tissues in a cave next to a DVD of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas, to suggest Cameron was jerking off to his own movie and, for some reason, needed to do this in a cave.
- A black-and-white clip of "Bette Davis" saying the equivalent of "back in my day, we knew how to act" in response to Cameron Diaz winning Worst Actress.
- A dirt trail because Megan Fox's career is leading to nowhere.
The somewhat bright spot of the night was a pretty decent Birdman parody from SyFy channel's Z Nation star Keith Allen. Much like Keaton, Allen found himself clad only in tighty whities and needed to sheepishly make his way around the side of the theater to the front door. The clip ended and transitioned to him making his way on stage IRL in said briefs. That would've been funny on its own, but since these were the Razzies, they had to muck things up at the end with him doing a fake stumble as he climbed the last step onto the stage and paused for too long while bent over to make sure the entire audience got a hilarious view of his butt and balls. (For what it's worth, Neil Patrick Harris did basically the same bit during the Oscars.)
The rest of the show was mercifully short and Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas swept most of the awards (rightfully so, if you ask me). Toward the end, Sister Rose Pacatte, who is one of the world's few movie-reviewing nuns, went onstage to present the first ever Razzie Redeemer Award to an individual who had pulled their career out of a tailspin and produced more laudable works. The sister dispensed some zingers before finally giving the angel-bewinged statuette to Ben Affleck for going from Gigli to Argo and Gone Girl. Affleck was not in the audience to accept this award. This must've come as a shock to the head host, however, who closed the ceremony with what was arguably the night's funniest line:
"Ben Afflick said he was going to be here, but he's a dick so… good night."
As the crowd began to shuffle out of the theater, I asked some of the guests how they enjoyed the show.
"Eh, yeah, it… was fun," one man said with the conviction of someone desperately attempting to stave off the oncoming wave of buyer's remorse about to hit. Another woman, who was visiting from Korea, seemed to have genuinely enjoyed it: "It was just nice to get to visit Los Angeles to see this!"
Obviously, the Razzies were not made for people like me. The jokes are accessible to the point of childishness, the references date back to the Clinton administration and before (a decapitated shark head in one sketch contained the necklace of drowning victim Natalie Wood), and the show exudes nostalgia for the era when movies were just muggy Broadyway shows on film.This all makes sense: The founder and executive producer of the Razzies, John Wilson, is now in his 60s. He's doing these for himself, and unfortunately, it shows. Loving bad movies has become more and more popular over the years; it's a shame that what could be a major touchstone for fans of The Room and MST3K is still so cheap.
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