Sunday, May 26, 2024

Was It Really Bad? My Brief Reviews On Razzie “Winners”

With the Oscars comes the Razzies, an outdated version of celebrating the worst films that year which has overridden its stay as a thing. What was a funny joke now just feels like vitriol towards anything, especially if there’s a child involved, or if it goes after certain actors consistently. (To be fair, they rescinded any past nominations of Bruce Willis after his dementia diagnosis was made public.) But forty years later, it is around and Criterion Channel put out a number of films which won some Razzies. Some I had seen – Showgirls, Heaven’s Gate, Year Of The Dragon – others I haven’t seen because I didn’t feel the need to see such trash. But, I wouldn’t be a real cinephile if I didn’t give some of these movies a chance. So, I saw five films that stood out to me and gave them a shot at watching. Here is what I thought about them.  

Xanadu (1980)

Olivia Newton-John, hot from Grease, starred with Hollywood legend Gene Kelly in a musical co-composed with the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) meshing Greek mythology and 1940s Los Angeles. Interesting combo. ELO has bangers, this film and musical is a cult classic, and it turned out to be Kelly’s final film performance. But the film was so bad that, along with the massive failure of eventual Worst Picture winner Can’t Stop The Music, writer John J.B. Wilson established the Golden Raspberry Awards. Quite a harsh reaction, since some of the music I heard before was really good.

Sure enough, the whole story was a mess and shot so poorly that I really could not judge the rolling skate choreography fairly. Special effects were really cheesy, but this was the early invention of computer graphics, so I won’t be too harsh. Olivia-Newton John made it watchable thanks to her infectious energy in song and dance with solid pieces like the titular track, a number-one hit in “Magic,” Newton-John’s duet with Cliff Richard on “Suddenly,” and “I’m Alive,” which could not be as ELO as a song could be. Forget the movie, just listen to the soundtrack. 

Under The Cherry Moon (1986)

Prince was one of the most talented artists of all time and was on fire after the massive success of Purple Rain. He got to do anything he wanted and put the idea forward of doing another musical film where he had more creative input. Prince was actually not supposed to direct it, but the original director left the project two weeks after filming started, so he stepped in without repercussions from the Directors’ Guild because it was filmed in Europe.. Steven Berkoff and Kristen Scott Thomas, in her feature debut, co-starred and known Scorsese cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, shot the film. 

The music is great, like everything Prince has done, but he should’ve given the directing job to someone else. The script by first-time writer Becky Johnson (who would later co-script The Prince Of Tides and receive an Oscar nomination) has its obvious flaws for a rookie, but it can be forgiven. Prince saw this as a black-and-white film, acting as a throwback to ‘30s cinema, but this really should have been made in traditional color to capture the exotic nature of the French Riviera. Obviously, getting to the same level as Purple Rain was a high bar, but Cherry Moon just fails completely, although not as bad as other terrible rom-coms. 

Ishtar (1987)

Elaine May, Warren Beatty, and Dustin Hoffman to this day defend this adventure-comedy as a good film and it does have its supporters. Quentin Tarantino, Lena Dunham, Edgar Wright, and Martin Scorsese all liked the film. Two voters for Sight & Sound’s decennial poll for greatest film of all time actually voted for Ishtar. I had never seen it until now, but when I read about the plot – a struggling musical duo that goes to Africa and gets caught up in a coup to overthrow the government – I didn’t have good feelings.

Surely enough, I hated it. What in the flying f**k is happening here? The Beatty-Hoffman combo do not sell at all as musicians who try to become the next Simon & Garfunkel. Isabelle Adjani wasted her time and talent. How did Vittorio Storaro get involved with this??? It is wonderfully shot, but no thanks to Elaine May. It didn’t make me laugh and the whole thing would have been better if they just filmed the chaos in making this disaster which is the stuff of Hollywood lore. Read the camel story and you’ll know what I mean. 

Freddy Got Fingered (2001)

Tom Green wrote and directed this infamous comedy and took his Razzies in stride by attending the “ceremony” and bringing his own red carpet to the show. Like others who took the joke and accepted the dishonor in stride, Green saw it as them taking the joke with canned laughter and he wore the multiple Razzies awarded as a badge of honor. In fact, the movie has become a cult hit and some critical reevaluations see it as an underrated and misunderstood comedy. Even Roger Ebert, who hated the film, said, to Green’s credit, that he made, “an ambitious movie, a go-for-broke attempt to accomplish something. It failed, but it has not left me convinced that Tom Green doesn’t have good work in him.”

So, I decided to use the free 90 minutes I had to watch to figure out what the hell is Freddy Got Fingered about. My head could not have hit the table as many times with its shockingly crude, yet balls-out attempt at Green’s shock comedy on maximum overdrive. For my taste, it was too much; you truly cannot unsee certain moments such as the one involving sausages as well as the fact the title refers to an allegation of sexual abuse. Having been familiar with Green’s work, which was at its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, it wasn’t all bad, but you’ve been warned if you go down this birth canal of gross out humor. 

Gigli (2003)

Poor Martin Brest. He retired after this debacle and does not like reflecting on it. It broke up Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (who later reunited and got married) as the massive bomb of this romantic comedy was really telling with a budget of $75 million and a box office return of $7 million. The cast included Justin Bartha, Al “my eyes see Oppenheimer” Pacino, and Christopher Walken with Robert Elswit as DP and John Powell doing the score. How bad was this really? Considering that Brest himself said the film deserved to get killed and put blame on his creative conflicts with the studio, I sat down ready for the s**tstorm coming.

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, boooooooooooooooyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!

I cannot believe what I saw for two hours that some talented people read the script and thought this was a good idea. Or, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the garbage all the actors did after this film. Lopez’s character is a lesbian, yet she falls for Affleck’s character. The Baywatch obsession with the mentally challenged brother, played by Bartha, who is kidnapped and, spoiler alert, ends up staying kidnapped, but unharmed. This is not the ending of Midnight Run when Robert DeNiro decides to let Charles Grodin go free after all that hassle of catching him. It was all bizarre with no real plot, but the real-life happy ending of Affleck and Lopez is the most redeeming thing of it all. 

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