Entertainment

03.02.14

Backstage at the Razzie Awards, Honoring Hollywood’s Worst Films

A night of cups of wine, cheese on paper plates, and the only awards show to honor Will and Jaden Smith for After Earth.

While the entertainment industry gears up for its most important night, in a nondescript office building on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, a whole different kind of celebration is about to take place. This one features no red carpet, no paparazzi and, only in the rarest of circumstances, a celebrity. The Golden Raspberry Awards—the Razzies—honors the worst in film with the best (and weirdest) show a few dollars can afford. And I'm lucky enough to be there.

After dodging the few remaining raindrops from the torrential downpours that have paralyzed Los Angeles, I reach my destination at the corner of Hollywood and La Brea, just blocks from the Dolby Theatre. Knowing how legendary the Razzies are, I'm taken aback when the only indication of any sort of activity, much less an award show, is a photocopied sheet of paper with a giant raspberry taped to the door. I reach the two security guards working the front desk and am able to disrupt them just long enough to inquire where the "ceremony" (yes, I used air quotes) is.

Pointing to the elevator bank, they say in unison, "Eleventh floor."

After a quick ride, I exit the elevator but take a wrong turn. The first thing I see is a small container for urine specimen collection outside a doctor's office. Considering the countless scatological jokes I'll hear over the course of the evening, this is a fitting first vision.

I reorient myself and find the check in desk. I'm greeted there by Betsy and Tina who, sitting behind a folding table, sip discounted merlot out of plastic cups. They steer me toward what looks like an ad agency's conference room—featuring exposed concrete and ventilation systems. Clearly expense was spared over past years when the Razzies were held at locations like the Roosevelt Hotel and the Sheraton in Santa Monica. That said, it's a big step up from the award's early years when the ceremony took place in Razzie founder John J. B. Wilson's living room.

As I walk in, there's no shortage of activity. Nearly 10 camera crews set up along the back wall while, running the width of the room, a cash bar offers up cups of wine and cheese on paper plates. I also catch a peek at an attractive blond woman wearing a light gold dress, a tiara and a sash that reads "Miss Golden Berries." It's clear that this evening is part comedy routine, part press conference and part happy hour.

The room quickly fills with upwards of 100 people, mostly Razzie members and press. I'm told reporters are here from outlets as far away as Australia and Japan, where there is no shortage of interest in this event. And then there's a boy of about 16 (who, to my dismay, has no involvement in the show) wearing a hat made of aluminum foil. I've yet to receive a decent explanation as to what that was all about.

With the awards about 15 minutes from starting, chaos strikes. One of the Razzie staffers takes the microphone and informs the attendees that someone has forgotten to return the key to the bathroom. Considering the line at the bar, if this matter isn't resolved, there's bound to be a problem in about 20 minutes.

In the moments leading up to the ceremony, consensus among the people sitting around me is that the ensemble film (having seen it, I'm reluctant to call it a comedy) Movie 43 could be a big winner tonight.

One gentleman is convinced that blackmail must have been involved to secure a cast that includes Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere and Kate Winslet. As I'm reminded of Jackman's character and his unfortunate condition, I'm wondering if this man is right. What actor in their right mind would play a character with testicles hanging from their neck?

At the stroke of 9 p.m., the lights are dimmed and it's showtime. Like many other award show, the Razzies opens with a musical number. But in typical Razzie form, troupe member Paula Einstein takes the stage with nothing but a ukulele and offers a scathing parody of Hollywood's worst to the tune of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things."

Long-time Razzie performer, and the evenings master of ceremonies, Glenn Simon then steps up to the podium. Dressed in a black suit jacket and a black Razzie t-shirt reading "Own Your Bad," Simon recounts all the big budget bombs from 2013. He punctuates his tongue-in-cheek remarks with a simple reminder that Hollywood executives "don't know shit." This is met by a rousing round of applause and knowing nods.

With the awards about 15 minutes from starting, chaos strikes. One of the Razzie staffers takes the microphone and informs the attendees that someone has forgotten to return the key to the bathroom.

As each nominee is introduced, the worst/funniest of movie reviews are read. This includes such cringeworthy statements as “After Earth feels longer and slower than your average PBS pledge drive" and Worst Supporting Actor nominee Taylor Lautner (Grown Ups 2) offers the "worst example of human acting Hollywood has seen in a decade."

As "winner" after "winner" is announced (too many of which are connected to the M. Night Shyamalan bomb After Earth), the audience is left wondering whether these Razzies will be like 2010. It was that year that Sandra Bullock gleefully accepted her Worst Actress award for All About Steve. Sadly, there's no Will or Jaden Smith. No Tyler Perry in drag. No Kim Kardashian either. And none of the 13 directors or 19 writers of Movie 43 came to claim their Golden Raspberry. But the lack of celebrity didn't dampen the enthusiasm for these examples of cinematic tragedy.

If there was an awkward moment of the evening, it came with the In Memoriam segment. It is here the show remembered past Razzie nominees who passed during 2013, including Hal Needham, Peter O'Toole and Eileen Brennan. Whatever discomfort quickly dissipated as the segment paid their respects to Blockbuster Video and legendary film critic Roger Ebert.

The one-hour ceremony concluded with the much-anticipated Worst Picture award. The nominees—After Earth, Grown-Ups 2, The Lone Ranger, A Madea Christmas, and Movie 43—averaged just over 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes splat-o-meter. So this was clearly the bottom of the barrel for 2013. It turned out those sitting around me were right as Movie 43 took home top honors.

With the award show now complete, the after party was underway. This consisted of wine that was now free and leftover cheese. Others took a moment to snap photos with Razzie troupe members.

Just before heading out into the Hollywood night, I strike up a conversation with New Zealand actress Rena Owen. After a brief discussion of the Razzies, the conversation turns to the Academy Awards. She's picking Dallas Buyers Club for Best Picture, Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor and Sandra Bullock for Best Actress.

It is Oscar eve after all.