Because awards season is so endless and so relentless in its hyperbole—Best This and Greatest That and Sexiest Whatever—you can understand why some folks get sick of all the accolades and decide to flip them on their head. Hence, all those end-of-the-year worst-movie polls, which give critics one last chance to smack around the really terrible films they had to sit through. That's also why we have the Golden Raspberry Awards (or Razzies), that annual "celebration" of bad movies. Sunday, the nominees for the 32nd Annual Razzies were announced—just before the Oscar telecast—and just like every year I had the same reaction: "Who cares?"
It's not because I love the movies up for Worst Picture. (I've seen four of the five, and, yeah, they're all horrendous.) It's just that the Razzies are part of the very publicity machine they mean to mock. They're as celebrity-obsessed as the Oscars; they just won't admit it.
It seems right that the Razzies were started by a publicist. A guy named John Wilson created the award back in 1980, and the organization now has 657 members. They vote for things like "Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel," although this year "Worst Eye-Gouging Misuse of 3D" wasn't included among the categories. (By the way, you too can become a member: You just have to give them money. And if you think that keeps the group from seeming less-than-official, this might be a good time to remind you that the Independent Spirit Awards work the same way.) Oh, and it's not like you actually have to see the movies to cast a ballot: As Wilson told Razzies fan Dan Kois over at Grantland, "We can't prove that someone saw Jack and Jill."
And that's entirely my problem with the Razzies. I realize it's not supposed to be scientific, but if their voters don't need to see the howlers they vote for, well, then what are they voting on? Movies that make them mad in theory? Celebrities they don't like? And yet the Razzies are big enough that their award announcements are treated as actual news, and in recent years Worst Actress "winners" Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry have actually appeared at the ceremony to accept their prize. You could argue that this speaks to the Razzies' all-in-good-fun tone, but what it mostly seems to be is a smart PR move by stars who want to look like they're in on the joke and save some face after a particularly disastrous movie. (And why not? Apparently, films that get a lot of Razzie nominations end up seeing an uptick in rentals. That'll teach those bad filmmakers!)
The Razzies' main purpose is picking on stars whom Wilson and his cohorts think have it coming. As Wilson acknowledged in his interview with Kois, the ballot he sends out to voters includes suggestions in each category. If the Oscars are ultimately a popularity contest, the Razzies are sort of an anti-popularity contest: To be a serious Razzies candidate, you have to be famous enough to be truly disliked. (I suspect that if the godawful Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star hadn't been co-written and produced by Adam Sandler, who earned a record 11 Razzie nods this year, it wouldn't have made the Worst Picture cut. Nick Swardson on his own isn't big enough yet to really despise, although lord knows he's trying.) Just like with the Academy Awards, it's all about star power. That's why you won't see universally loathed movies like Apollo 18 or Shark Night 3D win a Razzie.
The Razzies make fun of only the fattest of targets, and in doing so they commit the same crime as the Oscars—they judge movies as a function of fame and publicity. They aren't, as many people suppose, the bad-movie equivalent of the Oscars; they're more like the upside-down People's Choice Awards. Both are voted on by the general public and both give awards to the biggest, most obvious stuff in the culture. Nobody takes the People's Choice Awards seriously. Why not just ignore the Razzies as well?
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.