30 January 2006

Razing The "Razzies"

Categorically, I'm not against "The Razzies"...lord knows I love movies--and if you love the movies, to paraphrase that overvalued old crone Pauline Kael--you gotta love even the bad ones. Seriously, wouldn't you rather watch "Viva Knievel" again over "Remains Of The Day"...well, any day? But there's been an increasing laziness to John Wilson's annual piss-take on Tinseltown wrong-headedness--and now, in year 26, it's like Rex Reed and Mr. Blackwell have finally taken over. Tom Cruise as "worst actor" for "War Of The Worlds"? Okay, so we can all agree he made an ass out of himself in front of Oprah and Matt Lauer--and "Days Of Thunder" was two hours of my life I'll never get back--but give me a break. As for the inclusion of Jennifer Lopez ("Monster In Law"), tsk tsk, "Bennifer"/"Gigli" is sooooo 2003...

Wilson was a phone guest on CFRB's The Jim Richards Show last night, bemoaning the current cinematic landscape as the most lacklustre in (his) memory. Now to my recollection, it's been "a bad year for movies" steadily I was waiting for my eye exam in the lobby of Bromley's Opticians in downtown Pembroke and thumbing through the only reading material that wasn't aimed at toddlers--namely, a well-worn "Time" magazine year end review. Somewhere beneath the still of John Belushi as "Wild Bill Kelso" in Steven Spielberg's "1941", it was declared that 1979 was a terrible year for films. According to the cognoscenti, it's been a downward spiral ever since.

Conceptually, I agree with Wilson's essential philosophy, that movies with big stars and often bigger budgets should be held to a higher standard of quality, given that they've got more to work with to ensure a superior result. But to the Razzies, much like most mainstream film criticism, any expensive, star-driven vehicle without a lofty literary pedigree must be instantly dismissed as crap--the old "mainstream bad"/"indie good" nonsense that I thought most people outgrew in college.

So what, according to The Golden Raspberry Foundation, are 2005's worst offenders? Among them: "Deuce Bigelow", "The Dukes Of Hazzard", "Son Of The Mask", "House Of Wax", and some comedy with Jenny McCarthy that played about a dozen theatres. Oh, and that "Bewitched" riff nobody saw. Seriously, that's largely it. According to Wilson, this mere handful of throwaway efforts represents the state of filmmaking circa 2005, the same year that saw the release of the daring and innovative fare like "Good Night And Good Luck", "Old Boy", "Layer Cake", "Capote", "Munich", "A History Of Violence", "Syriana", and with many so-called "commercial" efforts like "Batman Returns", "King Kong", "Land Of The Dead", "Sin City", and "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" showcasing directors in top form.

1939 is considered by many film mavens to be the "greatest" year in film ever, with the evidence being "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Wizard Of Oz", "Gone With The Wind", and "Ninotchka". But that same year also gave us an endless series of sequels--followups to Andy Hardy, Blondie, Bulldog Drummond, Charlie Chan, Cisco Kid, Frankenstein, Maisie, Mr. Moto, Sherlock Holmes ,Tarzan, Thin Man, Topper--go ahead, look it up.

And of course, boomer film critics can't stop lamenting the end of the 1970s, which you probably don't recall as the decade in which every single weekend saw the release of films like "Mean Streets", "Nashville", and "Last Tango In Paris" until Lucas and Spielberg came along and ruined it for everyone. I watched a lot of movies as a kid in the 1970s, and remember stuff like "Pete's Dragon", "The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training", and "Race With The Devil" as being bigger hits than anything starring Bud Cort or shot by Haskell Wexler.

My point is, the movies are fine. Anyone who can look back on last year's crop of releases and honestly say there was little worth seeing needs to 1) get out more and 2) broaden their tastes. There's been much written about lacklustre box-office grosses and the movies themselves are being blamed. But even if you can convince me that 2005's films were mostly awful, then riddle me this: what the hell were people buying in those jam-packed HMV and Best Buy aisles this past Xmas (likely not Criterion's Jacques Tati remasters)? Or downloading 'round the clock (probably not Fassbinder's "Berlin Alexanderplatz").

I realize "The Razzies" are utterly disposable and meant to be harmless fun, but what's too bad is how much they share with the blithe, intolerant tone of today's so-called "serious" art/entertainment reportage. No doubt today's ultra bland Oscar nominations will appease those who feel that the cinematic art form will somehow not survive the works of Jamie Kennedy and Hilary Duff--personally, I'm hinging its destruction on the entirely-justified Razzie nominee Uwe Boll. With Ang Lee waiting in the wings to deliver the final blow...