Twenty Years Ago Today: I Can't Believe It's Not the Oscars

Golden_Raspberry_AwardTwenty years ago today, the glitter people of Hollywood were looking forward to a self-congratulatory schmoozefest on the following day, because it was that time of year when they like to reward people whose studios paid for massive advertising campaigns with statues of anatomically incorrect little gold men. But elsewhere in the wilderness of Los Angeles, another awards ceremony was in progress, though this is one that few of the recipients are ever brave enough to attend. For tonight was the night of the 14th Golden Raspberry awards, in which the very worst of the past year's films would be derided and mocked with all the solemnity of a hyena on laughing gas.

The big films up for mockery this year included:

  • Indecent Proposal: in which Robert Redford tries to pay a million dollars to sleep with a married woman, and murdery hi-jinks result.
  • Body of Evidence: in which Madonna gives a treatise on the creative use of molten candle wax when applied to Willem Dafoe. Or something like that. The candle wax scene was the point when I walked out of the cinema to seek an alcoholic remedy for my boredom.
  • Cliffhanger: in which Sylvester Stallone shows how much fun you can have with mountains and camera cranes. Not so much with the story or acting or anything.
  • Sliver: which was something to do with voyeurism and CCTV. Or possibly there wasn't a film at all and just a UB40 music video that you were forced by law to watch before every other goddamn film that year.
  • Last Action Hero: the year's biggest box office disaster, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger made a film that mocked both him and the pictures he'd been making for the last decade.

These were all horrible movies - except the last one, which was primarily a horror to the studio accountants. In my opinion (bolstered by a recent rewatch of the film), the Razzies failed to spot a future trend in film and television: growing awareness of the medium itself, and a willingness to take the piss out of its conventions. Last Action Hero had many problems, but it still had more charm and wit than most other films from 1993, and featured characters who were genre savvy before anyone even invented the term. Scream would take the same kind of obsessive movie knowledge and turn it into a hit in 1996 - but Last Action Hero was a financial disaster.

Part of the problem was that they were trying to mock massively-budgeted blockbuster films by making... a massively budgeted blockbuster film. The ridiculous budget meant that they had to get the largest audience possible, while the section of the audience that appreciated metafiction wasn't big enough to support the cost of the film. Whereas Scream, a much cheaper film in a genre where the fans were even more obsessive, could easily do so.

But there were lots of other screwups as well - the production was a nightmare, the script was heavily rewritten by lots of people, the schedule was so tight that they barely got it finished, and somebody thought that a magic film ticket was a good plot device. It's a miracle the film hangs together as well as it does. Yet despite its faults it still gave us the best version of Hamlet ever, Charles Dance in full-scale villain mode, Ian McKellen as Death himself, and Arnold Schwarzenegger being aware of his own ridiculousness. And unlike all those other films being 'honoured' at the Razzies, this one has actually improved with age.