The Golden Raspberry Awards are one of our greatest homespun counterculture traditions, one that set the stage for appreciation of bad film on a mainstream scale. While it didn’t change the world, it’s certainly an important institution.
But the award ceremony, which has always been designed as a way to piggyback on the attention of the Academy Awards, may be at a point where it its relevance is hitting rock-bottom. It’s always gone for the low-hanging fruit—the raspberries, really—but this year felt particularly, well lazy.
Over at Vanity Fair, Yohana Desta diagnosed the problem: “The Razzies Somehow Snubbed the Worst Films of 2017.” She says that the list of films and nominations somehow skipped out on works of awfulness like the questionably promoted Michael Fassbender thriller The Snowman and (most notably) The Book of Henry, a film so jumbled and confused in its mixture of genres that it had movie reviewers completely out of sorts. (Desta noted that Book of Henry director Colin Treverrow is widely believed to have lost a shot at directing a Star Wars film as a result of the disaster.)
Certainly, The Razzies got one movie right in its nominations—The Emoji Movie, Metacritic’s lowest-rated film of 2017, could be seen as a bad idea from a thousand miles away—but the nominations largely focused on the cheap shots, specifically the cash-in sequels (Transformers: The Last Knight) and series reboots (The Mummy, Baywatch) that have taken over Hollywood in recent years. It’s arguable that they’re not barrel-bottoming so much as kind of a waste of everyone’s time.
The nominations also took aim at movies that were merely polarizing and flew over the heads of the audience, like Darren Aronofsky’s Cinemascore stinker Mother!
But with the Razzies picked by a group of people willing to pay $40 for the right to be a part of the “Academy,” rather than an audience of experts, is it possible that the Golden Raspberry Awards are missing out on an opportunity to update its model for the modern day?
Here’s the thing: We’re going to the movie theaters a lot less. Likewise, there are a lot of movies skipping the theater entirely, and going straight to Netflix or one of the other streaming services. Additionally, because of the nature of bad films, we often aren’t immediately made aware of the bad films that will eventually become canonized as uniquely terrible.
The Razzies’ Barry L. Bumstead Award, an award given to films that didn’t receive a proper theatrical release, exists as a way of speaking to this point (and it notably went to the FIFA propaganda film United Passions in 2016, very much a deserving film), but the nature of the movies is far different than it was just a few years ago.
The Oscars certainly may find themselves addressing this question in future years, but bad movies (even those with big budgets) show up on a lot of mediums—and they may not look like traditional movies, either. The Barry L. Bumstead Award should not be a special award—it should be a main category.
The Razzies were an original idea for their time, but they probably need an upgrade. The 2018 model isn’t really doing the job—its target is too narrow.