It’s awards season: that time when actors and film-makers don their tuxedos and gowns to grace the red carpet at multiple glitzy ceremonies, basking in the glory of their cinematic efforts.
There is, however, one movie awards show with a difference.
The Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies, exists to acknowledge the worst films and performances around.
Now in its 36th year, what began as a fun idea in the living room of copywriter and publicist John J. B. Wilson has turned into something much bigger, with worldwide media attention and a big glitzy ceremony of its own.
Following the recent announcement of this year’s Razzie nominations, and ahead of the show later this month, Joe Richards caught up with John to talk awkward moments, terrible movies, and what it’s like being the founder of the anti-Oscars.
Hi John. Do you spend your life sitting through a lot of bad films?
“I do. I hope our members do too. I like to look at three or four yard sticks before we list anything. Hollywood’s own measure of success is money, so we look at how much it cost, and how much was lost.
“Then I also like to look at what I call Razzie Pedigree. The people that made this movie – are they people who have a history with our awards? Like, for example, Adam Sandler. I like to use the term ‘Razzie Repeat Offender’. These are people who, for whatever reason, are stuck in a rut.
“Occasionally somebody really good will be in a really bad movie as well . On this year’s nominations list, we have three people who are Oscar-winners. Gwyneth Paltrow, co-starring with Johnny Depp in Mordecai. Julianne Moore, who won best actress last year for Still Alice is in this ridiculous witches and sorcery picture called Seventh Son, and then the one that’s the most fun, because he’s up again this year for an Oscar for The Danish Girl, and that’s Eddie Redmayne.
“He won best actor at the Oscars for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking a year ago, and he’s in one of our five Worst Picture nominees, Jupiter Ascending, the most fun of the five, I have to say. I love the ones that you can laugh at.”
What has the reaction been from Hollywood and the film industry to the Razzies?
“For the most part, there hasn’t been one. We’re treated like the fart that happened in church. In general, they ignore it. They think if they don’t give it any attention it will go away.
“We are now 36 years old, and we have never lacked contenders. The secret agenda of the Razzies is that we keep hoping there will come a year where there won’t be enough to do our show, where the people in the business have only done good work. Three and a half decades later, it hasn’t happened yet.
“But one thing that I think is most interesting this year is the ultimate Razzie champion of the ’80s, Sylvester Stallone. Literally, every single year for like 10 or 12 years running he was a Razzie nominee or winner. He’s been nominated for 30 different achievements, he’s won 10 awards, but he’s up this year for a new award that my business partner Maureen Murphy came up with called, ‘The Razzie Redeemer’.
“It’s about the fact that there are people who turn around and do something of quality. In Stallone’s case, we decided to put him up for this award for Creed; he has won the Golden Globe for it, and this is probably his best work in quite some time.”
“The Redeemer award is also about acknowledging that, for the most part, the people we’re talking about here are talented and successful. We all know they can do good work. We’re not saying ‘how dare you do this stuff’, we’re saying ‘WHY’, you know?!
“The benchmark for embracing the Razzies is Halle Berry, who followed up her Oscar for Monster’s Ball with a little turkey called Catwoman. She came to the ceremony and did a speech that was brilliant. She completely embraced it and had a heck of a lot of fun with it. Now Catwoman doesn’t ever come up for her any more, except in the context of ‘wow you had the guts to show up and you were incredibly funny’. That’s what we keep hoping for.”
Sandra Bullock has also shown up to the awards. Do all the nominees get invited and is it awkward when they come?
“I do research to try and find a contact for these people and let them know that they’re going to get all kinds of publicity because they’re going to win a Razzie.
“If they attend, we give them the stage. Halle Berry was up there for eight minutes, I think Sandra Bullock was up there for six. If they want to be mad they can be mad, if they want to be funny they can be funny, if they want to defend themselves they can defend themselves. We’re not going to tell them what they should do.
“One of the other funnier ones was Uwe Boll who, if you’re into bad movies, you should know who that man is. He won a career achievement award and he was making a movie in Africa at the time. He was really mad but he was very funny, and he kept mispronouncing our names.
“You know the old saying that ‘any publicity is good publicity’? I guess we’re the ultimate test of that, but nobody who has interacted with us has ever not come off looking good.”
Is there such thing as a ‘good bad film’, in your opinion?
“There are a handful from over the years that I absolutely love, and I will actually go back and watch them again every now and then.
“One of the things that I’ve discovered is that you can not deliberately do a bad movie and have it come off. That’s very rare. The only one of those that I’m aware of that pre-dates the Razzies, but it was intended to be bad, is Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The screenplay, of course was co-written by Roger Ebert. My god that’s a really bad movie, but it’s on purpose.”
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Oscars at the minute, about its lack of diversity. Do you have any thoughts on that?
“The LA Times hired some really good investigative reporters a couple of years back and they found out that the voting membership in the Academy is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly old. I used to say it’s between 80 and death. The average academy voter does not reflect the current business. The industry itself isn’t exactly diverse; the fact that an African American directing a movie is still kind of a big deal kinda tells you that.
“I think they have reason to be embarrassed and I would have to say that Michael B. Jordan in Creed was quite good, and certainly should have been considered. They certainly had enough choices that they could have been more inclusive.”
How do you see the Razzies evolving in the next few years?
“We are currently negotiating about trying to the get the thing finally broadcast. Part of why it never has been is that almost everyone who wants something to do with it, wants to change it and take the teeth out of it.
“We’re hoping to find someone who gets it. One of the major entertainment channels here in America spent the whole meeting fixated on who do they interview about their dresses on the red carpet, and we kept saying ‘we’re not the Oscars’.
“It would be funny to do a red carpet but people aren’t going to dress up to come to the Razzies. ‘It’s a joke, you know? Do you get it?'”
The 36th annual Golden Raspberry Awards take place on Saturday 27 February.
Main image via Getty