Why the Razzie Awards Need to Retire

Sandra Bullock at the 2011 Razzies

The greatest moment in Razzie Awards history happened in 2011, when Sandra Bullock showed up to accept her ‘worst actress’ award for All About Steve. In a very funny and deadpan speech (see video below), Bullock defended the maligned comedy, urged Razzie voters to reconsider, and gave copies of the DVD to everyone in the audience. It was a triumphant moment for Bullock, who went on to win an Oscar for The Blind Side the following evening. And it’s where the Razzies should have ended.

The Golden Raspberry Awards began as a joke between friends in 1981, where Los Angeles publicist John J.B. Wilson invited his Oscar party guests to make their own awards presentations in his living room. The following year, Wilson sent out a press release about his satirical awards show, and before long, the Razzies were a staple of awards-season news. Razzies are now determined mainly by votes from Golden Raspberry Award Foundation members (i.e. those who pay an annual membership fee, beginning at $25), of whom there were 750 last year. “Tired of all those chi-chi showbiz awards shows that are wall-to-wall air kisses, back-slapping and brown-nosing?” says the membership pitch. “Wanna give All Those Over-the-Top AWFUL Celebrities a piece of your mind??… If you’d like to be a part of Tinsel Town’s most amusing (and embarrassing) night, and have YOUR opinion be heard all over the world, HERE’S YOUR CHANCE!”

Hollywood’s pompous awards season certainly deserve to be taken down a notch. But the Razzies aren’t accomplishing that. Instead, they’ve become a retread of popular and critical opinions that have already been widely published online. There are no surprises on the shortlist of 2015 Razzie contenders leaked by Gold Derby, which includes both badly-reviewed studio films (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Legend of Hercules, Annie, Sex Tape) and badly-reviewed indie films (Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt?). The Razzies aren’t letting the air out of these films, because they haven’t got any left. Giving a ‘worst picture’ award to a bomb like Transcendence isn’t sticking it to the Hollywood brass; it’s shooting at an easy target.

And boy, do the Razzies love an easy target. Ostensibly, the awards are supposed to go after — in Wilson’s words — “big-budget, big-name, well-known movies” which “have no excuse to be as bad as they are.” But there’s no Hollywood bombast to small movies like the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, which has already received a healthy beating from critics. Moreover, after more than thirty years of Golden Raspberries, it’s a given that certain actors will be nominated for anything that they do. This year’s nominees Adam Sandler, Nicolas Cage, and Cameron Diaz were all shoe-ins for Razzies, much like certain actors seem to be shoe-ins for Oscars. In their increasing predictability, the Razzies are becoming dangerously similar to the awards ceremonies they’re supposed to mock.

The Razzies’ finest moments have been the times when they actually did succeed in making Hollywood take itself a little less seriously for a moment. It was amazing when Halle Berry showed up to throw Catwoman under the bus in 2005, and fun when Paul Verhoeven gleefully accepted his seven Razzies for Showgirls in 1996. When they nominated the shark from Jaws: The Revenge for worst actor, or declared “58-year-old leading men wooing 28-year-old leading ladies” the worst movie trend of 1998, it felt like the Razzies were making valid satirical points. Once in a while, the Razzies even managed to land a blow against awards-season injustice: Pia Zadora’s multiple Razzie nominations were a direct response to her infamous Golden Globe win for Butterfly.

But at a time when everyone can voice their opinion online and when sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes aggregate bad reviews for our collective guilty pleasure, the Razzies seem like a pointless exercise. By all means, let’s take awards season less seriously. But targeting the bad movies we’ve all collectively agreed are bad? That’s as uninspired an idea as the last Transformers film (which, in case you’re keeping track of groaners, the Razzies insist on calling Trannies #4.) The Razzies need to get back in touch with their roots as an irreverent, pointed attack on Hollywood excess. If it’s too late for that, then they should just take their All About Steve DVDs and go home.