Worst In Show

Every dog has his day, and for the truly awful in film, the Razzies ceremony is it.

March 20, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

"Awful."

That's a word that won't be bandied about much in Hollywood this weekend, as the film community gathers to celebrate the best it has to offer. There will be an abundance of praise, smiling actors and filmmakers profusely thanking the little people who made it all possible, and everyone basking in Tinseltown's congratulatory glow.

Awful will be the furthest thing from everyone's mind.

Except, of course, at the Razzies, the alternative Oscars, the place where the accomplished and the artistic are decidedly unwelcome, the awards show where the awful gets its due.

Celebrating badness for 22 years, the Razzies reign as a Bizarro-world answer to the ritz, glamour and class the Oscars hold dear. Leave it to the motion picture academy to honor such films as American Beauty, Shakespeare In Love and Schind- ler's List. Here in this alternate universe, the legendary films include such paradigms of wretched awfulness as Showgirls, Hudson Hawk and Howard the Duck.

Sunday night, millions of peo- ple all over the world will turn on their televisions to see whether A Beautiful Mind, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or another nominee is judged the top picture, whether Russell Crowe winsa second straight Best Actor nod, whether Halle Berry will become the first African-American Best Actress winner.

Saturday morning, maybe 100 people or so will gather at Santa Monica's Abracadabra Theatre to see if Tom Green's determinedly repulsive Freddy Got Fingered can earn a record-tying seven Razzies, putting it up there with Showgirls and Battlefield Earth among the irredeemably wretched.

John Wilson, founder of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation (GRAF) and guiding spirit behind the annual dishonors, is pulling for that to occur.

"This is the first time in my memory that there's actually something nominated that I loathed so much, I really want it to win," he says over the phone from Los Angeles, disdain dripping from his voice. "It isn't just that it's funny-bad, it's that it sucks."

How refreshing, in a world where everyone seeks to recognize excellence (and where awards shows breed like rabbits), to know there's a place where the truly tawdry, where the relentlessly rotten, can receive the brickbats they deserve. Thank goodness the Razzies have been around to recognize Pia Zadora's embarrassingly emotive performance in Lonely Lady (Worst Actress, 1983), Sylvester Stallone's monosyllabic turn in Rambo III (Worst Actor, 1989) and Joe Eszterhas's putridly purple prose for Showgirls (Worst Screenplay, 1995).

The Razzies trace their beginnings to 1981, when Wilson was looking for a way to liven-up his annual Oscar-night party. A long-time movie fan - "I grew up in a family where we watched the Academy Awards every year," he says - Wilson decided it was time to walk where aesthetes dare not follow.

"I think I first got the idea back in the fall of 1980, when I saw a double-feature of Can't Stop the Music and Xanadu," he says, recalling the cinematic embarrassments starring, respectively, the Village People and Olivia Newton-John. "It was a 99-cent theater, and I still wanted my money back."

Thus inspired, Wilson printed up a ballot and passed it out among his friends and co-workers. That resulted in the nominations; winners were determined on Oscar night, by vote of those lucky enough to be at his party (if anyone who actually has to think about these films can be called "lucky").

"We had a cardboard podium, we used a broomstick as a mike stand, I put together an actual script," Wilson says. "We just hauled people up who were eating to do this presentation, and everybody thought this was just so funny. So we sent out a press release."

In a way, the 47-year-old Wilson had been preparing for this role much of his adult life. A professional writer since graduating from UCLA in 1977, he's spent much of that time writing film trailers and promotional materials. (One of his greatest regrets is turning down the opportunity to work on a making-of documentary for the film Mommie Dearest, probably Wilson's all-time Razzie favorite). Match that background with what the Chicago native admits is his "particularly snide sense of humor," and you've got the perfect person to tweak Hollywood and annually deflate its sense of self-importance.

"I think the studios know when they have a dog," he says. "I think they know when they release this stuff, they're not going to get that other award; they're going to get ours."

The big losers that first year were Can't Stop the Music (picture), Neil Diamond (actor, The Jazz Singer) and Brooke Shields (actress, The Blue Lagoon). The results appeared in exactly one publication, the Los Angeles Daily News.

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