The Razzies Suck More Now Than They’ve Ever Sucked Before

The Razzies released their picks for the year’s worst movies right alongside the Oscars this week, just like they’ve been doing for the past 42 years. This year, the dishonors (LOL!) belonged to Blonde, with eight nominations, Good Mourning, with seven, Disney’s Pinocchio (not to be confused with the Guillermo Del Toro version), with six noms, Morbius, with five noms, and The King’s Daughter, with three noms.

I’d urge you to check out the whole list and ask yourself how many of the movies you’ve seen. I have seen four, and I am a professional film critic.

The Razzies have always kind of sucked, but the current media landscape seems to put them in an even more awkward position. Traditionally, and the reason I’ve always disliked the Razzies, is that they seem to have mostly used their platform to dunk on the most obvious critical and commercial flops of the year. Maybe that’s a little unfair; the nature of awards voting is such that awards are always sort of the least-common-denominator with a smaller sample size. Incidentally, you too can be part of the Razzies’ sample for just $40.

I’ve already been part of critics’ organizations and festival juries and I’ve never felt great about the movies celebrated in organizations where I was part of the voting bloc, so I can’t imagine spending $40 to be part of another. If you want to know what this feels like, just think of every election you’ve ever voted in and ask yourself whether you were totally happy with the results. One person’s opinion can be interesting, a group of people’s opinion almost never is.

I digress, but the reason I’ve always disliked the Razzies, irrational though that may be, is that they always seemed to take the most obvious shots at the easiest targets. Not only is that often dead wrong (as in the case of giving eight Razzies to the surrealist comedy masterpiece Freddy Got Fingered*, plus a nomination for worst film of the decade), it’s no fun.

The Razzies could and should exist to throw stones at bloated awards bait, movies like The Iron Lady or The King’s Speech or Three Billboards, things that could maybe benefit from being taken down a peg. Instead they usually just take a baseball bat to the lowest-hanging fruit (wait, cancel that metaphor, that actually does sound fun). To put it succinctly, the Razzies seem to exist to ridicule people who take risks, rather than people who don’t.

Or maybe it’s just impossible to do contrarianism by committee. You know what’d probably be better than The Razzies? Just letting Armond White do a live version of his annual, bugfuck “better than” list.

All of which brings us to this year’s Razzies, which nominated traditional Razzies targets like the openly experimental Blonde (which, yes, I enjoyed) and the famous-person-doing-a-weird-thing movie, Tom Hanks in Elvis (enjoyed that one too), and the perennial favorite, the famous-person-in-a-flop movie, Pete Davidson’s voice work in Marmaduke (which grossed a little more than $400K at the box office). In their ideal scenario, I imagine The Razzies would want to dishonor a celebrity’s bad vanity project (a lá Battlefield Earth, the movie that beat out Freddie for worst movie of the decade) but had to settle for getting one in on Pete Davidson for collecting a paycheck for what was probably one day of voicework.

These nominations uneasily shared a bill with random stuff like Good Mourning, a Machine Gun Kelly-vehicle I hadn’t heard of before this week, nominated alongside his pal the director, “Mod Sun,” another human I probably could’ve done without knowing. There’s also a 12-year-old actress from a Firestarter remake (Ryan Keira Armstrong) — a nomination Razzies founder John Wilson apologized for before I was even done writing this article — along with two nominations for the two sequels to 365 Days. 365 Days: This Day, and The Next 365 Days. 365 Days is, from what I gather, a romantic thriller franchise in Polish.

I don’t doubt that the Machine Gun Kelly movie sucks (this trailer, my God), I’ve been aggressively trying to disclaim knowledge of his existence for almost a full decade now, or that a child actor was bad at acting (as all but three or four in all human history have been). Yet this year’s Razzie nominations feel more than ever like weird flailing. And I think that says more about the state of moviegoing than it does the Razzies.

Part of the reason the Razzies feel so irrelevant this year (okay, more irrelevant) is that movies no longer occupy a significant-enough portion of mass culture for there to be bad movie touchstones. It used to be, people saw 10 or 30 movies a year and a handful stuck out as favorites and least favorites. These days there are the five movies everyone saw and the 30 random terrible ones you saw and probably couldn’t find another person in a 10-mile radius to complain about them to.

“Hey, remember that Polish rom-thriller on Netflix? That sucked!”

“…Are you having a stroke?”

Movie awards (and dishonors) rely on there being a mass movie culture, and increasingly there just isn’t one. Partly that’s due to movies being devalued by the entities who make movies. More and more the goal of a movie isn’t to be a really good movie, it’s to promote a brand; to turn you into a daily Marvel user or whatever. Lots of franchises (and again, “franchises,” not “movies”) resemble glorified NFT schemes, where a corporation already owns an obscure IP and needs a movie about it less to put butts in seats than to boost the value of that already-owned IP. Can you even remember which Avengers movie was the last one or how many there are? Probably not, and that’s the point. You remember the brand, not the movie.

People will point to “prestige TV” or the internet as new competition stealing attention from movies (not to mention the general trend of society just being less communally present in general), but movies have always had competition from other media. The moviegoing experience as we know it, and specifically as it existed when the Razzies were founded in 1981, was built partly out of antitrust action against the old studio system. It was why you didn’t see Paramount movies at Paramount theaters — that would’ve been illegal. Content producers were not meant to be content distributors; the idea was that movies would compete on an open market.

The streaming system has been an attempt to circumvent that, and it’s been a great way for those companies to get your money directly without having to go through theater owners and cable companies (or paying the creatives residuals on it). Movies don’t really compete on anything resembling an open market anymore, so you get a bunch of basically vertically integrated entertainment entities competing to promote their brand, to the point that certain movies even kind of feel like corporate pep rallies for that brand. Theater attendance has declined alongside the decline in movies actually trying to appeal to the basic emotions of the general public.

Entertainment has transformed from art and experiences that you could buy — in the form of movie tickets, DVDs, CDs, records, etc. — into that which you can merely rent (how many streaming services do you subscribe to?). Your access to whatever content you’ve subscribed to can be altered at the gatekeeper’s discretion. All of which has radically devalued the standalone movie.

The devaluing of movies in general is especially stark in the case of the Razzies. Because if you can barely remember the movies you liked, how much are you going to remember the ones you hated?

Bad streaming movies are mostly such a throwaway experience now that roasting the bad ones is like throwing rocks at a quarry. I may not mourn the Razzies when they go, but I’m already mourning the era of movies that made the Razzies possible.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can read more of his reviews here.

(*Tom Green became the first person to collect his Razzie in person, performing “a specially-composed piece of music” on the harmonica until he was dragged off the stage, which is yet another reason Freddy Got Fingered will always be legendary in my mind).