Unless you’ve been living in a cave, I’m sure you’re well aware that the 84th Annual Academy Awards are going to be taking place next weekend. But if you’re less-than-enthused about this year’s Oscar nominees, just remember that on the night before the ceremony, the nominees for the 31st Annual Golden Raspberry Awards are going to be announced! Ever since 1981, it’s become a tradition for Hollywood to hand out Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. Razzies, around Oscar time to honour the very worst films that were released that year. The Razzie ceremony is deliberately low-rent and tacky and the actual Razzie statuettes are shaped in the form of a gold-painted raspberry resting on top of a film reel, valued at around $4.97. It’s all in good fun and most of the films that are recognized at these ceremonies are well-deserving of their “honour”. However, this particular column is going to pay tribute to the performances that have received recognition at Razzie time. While a Razzie-nominated film can be a chore to sit through, a Razzie-nominated performance can still be a lot of fun to watch. For this list, I have selected twenty Razzie-nominated performances that I personally enjoy. Yes, some of these performances are really bad and deserved their nomination or subsequent victory, but they fall into the category of “so-bad-they’re-entertaining”. However, other performances on this list were really not bad at all and did not merit recognition at the Razzies, and their nomination may simply have been due to a bad case of sour grapes. Good or bad, the important thing is that none of these Razzie-nominated performances are boring and I would rather watch them again than many of the Oscar-nominated performances I’ve seen.
So the nominees for “Most Entertaining Razzie-Nominated Performance” are…
Jon Voight as Paul Sarone in Anaconda (1997):
You’ll find that this is common theme on my list: big-name actor is cast as the villain in a stinker and responds by camping it up as much as possible. Yes, Anaconda isn’t exactly a masterpiece and its CGI effects have aged HORRIBLY, but I do admit to having a soft spot for it. And that’s due entirely to Jon Voight’s hilariously over-the-top performance as evil snake hunter Paul Sarone. Quite frankly, without him, Anaconda might have been a crushing bore, but every time Voight speaks in his horrible accent and displays that ridiculously cartoonish sneer on his face, it’s hard not to smile. His death scene, where he gives off one last wink at J-Lo after being regurgitated by the giant snake, is worth the price of admission alone.
Danny DeVito as The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992):
Batman Returns remains one of the darkest, most downbeat summer blockbusters ever made and even though I was kind of taken aback by it at the time it was originally released, the subsequent Joel Schumacher Batman films really helped me appreciate this movie a lot more. Danny DeVito’s “Worst Supporting Actor” nod was the only Razzie nomination Batman Returns received and I’ve always been a bit baffled by it. The Penguin is such a cartoonish character that you’d think it would be hard to make him a menacing villain, but DeVito (an actor normally known for playing happy-go-lucky characters) manages to make him genuinely creepy. I mean, his evil plan involved kidnapping little children on Christmas Eve and throwing them into toxic sludge, for God’s sake!
Heather Donahue as Heather Donahue in The Blair Witch Project (1999):
When you watch the preceding clip on Youtube, you’ll see the following comment, which has garnered 61 “thumbs up” thus far:
“the razzie awards can go fuck themselves. im very convinced this girl is scared”
Couldn’t agree more! The Blair Witch Project was such a huge pop culture phenomenon back in the summer of 1999 that some people were totally overwhelmed by the hype and wound up being disappointed in the movie, particularly since many of them had never seen a “found footage” film before. It seems that whoever decided the Razzie nominations might have felt this way too, but I don’t see why they had to take out their sour grapes on poor Heather Donahue, who wound up taking home the “Worst Actress” Razzie. Despite being a first-time actress, Donahue was completely convincing and believable in the film, particularly since the nature of the filming required her to improvise most of her dialogue and often operate the camera herself. It’s normally not worth getting worked up over a Razzie award, but this one was just ridiculous!
John Lithgow as Eric Qualen in Cliffhanger (1993):
Sylvester Stallone is the Golden Raspberry Awards’ favourite whipping boy, so much so they’ve even nominated films of his which are actually pretty good. In spite of its numerous cliches and implausibilities, Cliffhanger is a pretty entertaining and exciting popcorn movie and generally considered to be one of Stallone’s better films. However, it still wound up garnering four Razzie awards, including a “Worst Supporting Actor” nod for John Lithgow’s performance as the villainous Eric Qualen. Lithgow is a lot of fun in the role, creating a villain slimy and conceited that he’d probably be twirling his mustache if he had one. I also find it weird that they decided to nominate Lithgow and not Stallone for Cliffhanger. If they were really that desperate to give John Lithgow a Razzie nomination, maybe they should have looked at Santa Claus: The Movie:
Jane March as Rose/Richie in Color of Night (1994):
For her work in the erotic mystery-thriller, Color of Night, Jane March had the unique distinction of garnering a “Worst Actress” nomination for her portrayal of the seductive Rose and a “Worst Supporting Actor” nod for her performance as the gender-confused Richie. Color of Night (which took home the “Worst Picture” award that year) is one of those infamous bad movies that I would recommend to anybody in a heartbeat because it contains everything but the kitchen sink and is so ridiculously convoluted and absurd that it’s never boring. Of course, by revealing that Jane March played both Rose and Richie, I’ve probably spoiled the film’s big “twist”, but come on… I think you could figure it out the moment “Richie” appears onscreen!
Tim Curry as Hermerker Homolka in Congo (1995):
I’ve heard this comment many times from people who’ve sat through Congo: “The movie sucked, but Tim Curry was hilarious”. Indeed, Tim Curry is one of those actors that will make you perk up whenever he’s onscreen, no matter how the bad film may be. While many of the performances in Congo are bland and wooden as hell, Curry at least seemed to know that he was in a stinker and played the material as if the film was a comedy, donning the most ridiculous accent imaginable to chew the scenery as Romanian philanthropist Hermerker Homolka. It should also be noted that Congo had the misfortune of being released here in Canada while the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka case was still in the headlines, so yeah, it was kind of weird watching a movie where such an over-the-top, cartoonish character was named Homolka.
Milla Jovovich as Leeloo in The Fifth Element (1997):
There are many reasons to disagree with this nomination, but here are the three big ones: 1) Leeloo was a pretty kickass heroine; 2) Milla Jovovich had to learn an entirely fictitious and invented language from scratch for the role, and 3) You really have no right to complain about any of the other actors’ performances in The Fifth Element when it features THIS GUY:
Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980):
If the opening sequence of Scream is any indication, a lot of people tend to forget that the villain of the original Friday the 13th was NOT Jason Voorhees, but rather his insane mother, Pamela. Palmer had worked in show business for almost thirty years by the time Friday the 13th was made, which allowed her to garner top billing in the movie despite not appearing onscreen until the last 20 minutes. Apparently, one critic was so angry at Palmer’s decision to star in such a violent film that he published her address and encouraged fans to write hate mail to her (and the dickhead wound up publishing the wrong address!). Anyway, Palmer has frequently admitted that she thought she was appearing in a piece of shit, so decided to camp it up like crazy, which only makes her performance great fun to watch.
Quentin Tarantino as Richard Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996):
Yes, yes, I know, while I consider Quentin Tarantino to be a filmmaking deity, I’ll freely admit that he’s not the greatest actor in the world. However, in the mid-nineties, when Tarantino was making numerous cameos and acting appearances in other people’s films, many of his critics acted like he was committing some sort of crime of mankind, so this Razzie nomination sounds a lot like sour grapes to me. No, his performance in the film isn’t Oscar-worthy, but he’s perfectly fine as an unstable psychopath, and suits the role quite well. Besides, From Dusk Till Dawn is such an awesome film anyway that I hate to see it anywhere near the Razzie awards.
Al Pacino as Starkman in Gigli (2003):
As you can imagine, Gigli totally cleaned up at the Razzies in 2003, taking home six awards and sweeping all the major categories. As someone who’s actually sat through the film, I can verify that Gigli is just as bad as they say it is and it’s not even bad in an entertaining way… except when Al Pacino is onscreen! Since Pacino finally won his first career Oscar by starring in Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman, he probably felt that he owed the director a favour and decided to make a cameo in Gigli as an angry mob boss. I think J-Lo’s infamous “gobble, gobble” line in this film would apply to how Pacino chews the scenery here, but at least he’s hilarious to watch and, for a few brief minutes, makes Gigli bearable.
Lou Ferrigno as Hercules in Hercules (1983):
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this performance made the list, considering that we once did an entire Shouts From the Back Row podcast about this film’s infamously schlocky director, Luigi Cozzi. While Hercules did earn a “Worst Screenplay” nod for Cozzi, It’s actually something of a miracle that Cozzi made it through his entire career without garnering a “Worst Director” Razzie. Anyway, this was Lou Ferrigno’s first screen role after many years as the Incredible Hulk, and he had the dubious distinction of being nominated for “Worst Actor” while taking home the Razzie for “Worst New Star”. However, it’s impossible not to enjoy his epic attempts at grappling with a guy in a bear suit.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater in Last Action Hero (1993):
Yes, Last Action Hero is considered one of the biggest bombs of all time, but if you’ve read my “Robin’s Underrated Gems” column on the film, I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you how unfairly maligned I think it is. Given how badly it flopped, it surprised no one that Last Action Hero picked up six Razzie nominations. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger has always been a whipping boy for the Razzies committee, having garnered multiple career nominations, but I believe Last Action Hero is one of his most enjoyable performances, a gleefully self-deprecating turn where he is not afraid to lampoon his own larger-than-life image.
Bill Cosby as Leonard Parker in Leonard Part 6 (1987):
Leonard Part 6 is one of the most infamous flops of all time and, yes, it is just as awful as everyone says it is. However, Bill Cosby deserves a spot on this list simply because he was able to admit what a colossal mistake he had made. In spite of being the film’s star, co-writer and co-producer, Cosby flat-out told the public just how bad Leonard Part 6 really was and advised them not to go see it, which would probably lead to a massive lawsuit if any star ever tried that today. But Cosby was obviously a good sport about the whole situation since he became the first celebrity to publicly accept all the Razzies the film won, which included “Worst Picture”, “Worst Actor” and “Worst Screenplay”. I know Bill Cosby was the big spokesman for Coke during the eighties, but when I see clips like this, I wonder if he dabbled a bit in the coke that doesn’t come in a red can.
Pia Zadora as Jerilee Randall in The Lonely Lady (1983):
I’ve devoted an entire “Robin’s Underrated Crap” column to the epic disaster that is The Lonely Lady, which is one of the most hilariously trashy bad movies of all time. Though it’s somewhat forgotten today, The Lonely Lady just cleaned up at the Razzies in 1983, garnering a whopping eleven nominations and taking home six awards, including “Worst Picture”. Of course, Pia Zadora took home a well-deserved Razzie for “Worst Actress”, her second victory in a row after her much maligned-performance in Butterly the previous year. What’s hilarious is that I’m sure the people who made The Lonely Lady legitimately thought that this epic meltdown scene was going to win her an Oscar!
Billy Barty as Gwildor in Masters of the Universe (1987):
I think the nostalgia is definitely talking on this one, as we had an in-depth discussion about Masters of the Universe on our Shouts From the Back Row podcast about movies we loved in our childhood that just don’t hold up at all. Even though we loved He-Man when we were kids, now that we’re much easier and wiser, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a LOT wrong with this film! One of its biggest problems is the character of Gwildor, who was not even in the original cartoon, yet was created for the movie for the express purpose of selling more toys. Gwildor was played by legendary dwarf actor Billy Barty and I think it is kind of unfair that he wound up garnering the film’s only Razzie nomination while Dolph Lundgren was completely shut out. Still, I don’t think anyone wanted to go see a He-Man movie to watch scenes of Gwildor stealing fried chicken!
Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985):
Sylvester Stallone is the poster child for the Golden Raspberry Awards as his diverse career as an actor, director and writer have earned him a whopping 31 nominations and 10 victories, putting him far and above the rest of the pack! However, the only film of his that captured “Worst Picture” was his most successful: Rambo: First Blood Part II, which was a MASSIVE hit with audiences in 1985 despite very negative reviews from critics. Whatever you think about the film’s politics, I think Rambo: First Blood Part II is still great deal of mindless ultra-violent fun and remains probably my personal favourite Stallone film. And while Stallone took home “Worst Actor” for his performance in this film, he still managed to deliver one of the most epic line readings in the history of cinema: “Murdock… I’m coming to get YOU!!”.
Patrick Swayze as Dalton in Road House (1989):
If the late, great Patrick Swayze had actually taken home the “Worst Actor” award for this role, I’m sure you can guess what his acceptance speech would have been: “Pain don’t hurt”. Few bad movies have built up a more popular cult following than Road House and while even its biggest fans cannot deny how ridiculously stupid it is, the film is just impossible to dislike. Swayze should get major props for being able to get through the most homoerotic fight scene ever with a straight face, looking like a major badass even while his opponent tells him: “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!”. An honourable mention should also go to the recently departed Ben Gazzara who garnered a “Worst Supporting Actor” nod for his hammy turn as the evil Brad Wesley.
Linda Blair as Brenda in Savage Streets (1984):
Linda Blair won a “Worst Actress” Razzie for her work in a trio of films that year: Night Patrol, Savage Island and Savage Streets. In fact, Blair appeared in so many bad films during the 1980s that she also won a special “Worst Career Achievement Award” that same year and became the official “Razzie Scream Queen”. Savage Streets is far and away my favourite of all the trashy films she made during the eighties and is the ultimate example of a “guilty pleasure”: no matter how you look at it, it’s impossible not to feel guilty for enjoying a film with a scene where a deaf-mute girl gets gang-raped! Yes, the film is so vile on so many levels, but it’s so hilariously trashy and over-the-top that I can’t help but find it entertaining. If playing a 25-year old high school student who dresses up in skin-tight leather and shoots people with crossbows will win you a Razzie, then I don’t want to see what will win you an Oscar.
Willem Dafoe as John Geiger in Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997):
You will often see Speed 2: Cruise Control on lists of the worst sequels of all time, but I have to admit that I’m actually quite fond of this film. I am! I really am! It’s a case study in how to make a really entertaining bad movie because even though Speed 2 pushes stupidity to its breaking point, it still moves at a great pace, never becomes boring, and provides plenty of senseless and visually spectacular destruction. I don’t care what anyone else says, that climactic sequence where the cruise ship obliterates an entire marina is pretty friggin’ awesome! Anyway, Willem Dafoe’s performance as the Green Goblin looks like a work of great subtlety next to his ultra-campy turn in this film as a crazed terrorist who, uh… carries around his own jar of pet leeches to such the copper poisoning out of his blood. Yet another example of a great actor looking at the material and saying: “Fuck it, I’m chewing the scenery like it’s gum!”.
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989):
The Nostalgia Critic recently did an episode on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which is considered by most fans to be the worst entry in the series, and he made you realize just how much of a bizarre ego trip the project seemed to be for William Shatner, who also served as director and co-writer. After all, how else do you explain the completely gratuitous fight scene between Kirk and a three-breasted stripper who looks like a cat lady?! Anyway, Star Trek V took home the “Worst Picture” Razzie in 1989, while Shatner took home “Worst Actor” and “Worst Director”. Was Star Trek V really the worst movie released that year? Probably not, but you know the folks at the Razzies were bursting at the seams for years to go after William Shatner. Once you look at Star Trek V as some sort of bizarre vanity project for Shatner, stuff like the infamous “Row Row Row Your Boat” scene becomes quite hilarious and fascinating to watch.