It takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to show business. I am, as the publicists I work with and a fair number of my fellow members of the reviewing corps can tell you, what you’d call jaded. Not to mention bitter and cynical, and the first two months of any cinematic year are rough ones for the corps. Halle Berry, though, showing up at the Razzie Awards to accept her dis-honor as the worst actress in a leading role for the debacle that was, is, and always will be CATWOMAN made my jaw drop.
The Razzies, for those unfamiliar with them, are the brainchild of John Wilson, founder and Head Raspberry of the Golden Raspberry Awards Foundation. Each year, the membership nominates a slate of the worst Hollywood has foisted on the public and then, the day before the Academy Awards, holds a ceremony announcing the winners of Oscars evil, but much more fun doppelganger. Part of the joke has always been that, one, the Razzies are so much more honest as an evaluation of dreck because no one campaigns for one, and, two, no one ever, but ever, shows up to accept even if, like Joe Eszterhaus or Ben Affleck, the state publicly that they will. Okay, Tom Green showed up to collect for FREDDY GOT FINGERED, but whether or not he was clear on the concept is debatable. Which is not to say that celebrities havent attended the Razzies. Robert Conrad famously accepted the Razzies awarded to THE WILD WILD WEST, as did the John Travolta action figure from BATTLEFIELD EARTH for that films bumper crop of Razzies. This year, in fact, Michael Ferris one of the many, many screenwriters for CATWOMAN accepted the Razzie for Worst Screenplay with wit that almost but not quite masked the vitriol he felt for a script written by committee. So when Berry, strode up to the podium, head held high, it was not only a surprise, it was the signal, one hopes, of a sea change in the attitude that official Hollywood has always had about the anti-award.
For Hollywood, the Razzies dont exist. This explains why the teeming throng of journalists that covers the awards every year hails from Japan, Australia, Western Europe, and, this year at least, Croatia. Other than the years that Ive gone, the only Americans to be found are stringers and their ilk. If the awards are mentioned at all, its a brief item announcing the winners and then on to more Oscar wardrobe coverage and who is marrying and/or divorcing whom. And this is a shame, because the Razzies perform a valuable public service, letting us laugh at what can be so very, very wrong with moviemaking. Call it the vision thing. Sometimes its a lack of it, sometimes, its losing sight of it. Either way, it adds up to a soul-sucking time at the movies. The Razzies, like the smack from a zen monk designed to awaken those sleeping literally or figuratively, have the gift of rousing those whove lost their way with a wake-up call that comes with a trophy.
And that was the feeling when Berry proceeded to make fun of herself and her film with a palpable gusto. It wasnt just a gutsy thing to do facing the crowd that had spent the evening howling with laughter at every dig at her film and her performance, it was also a classy one, acknowledging in a wry and cheerfully self-deprecating way the award that official Hollywood chooses to ignore. Showing up in full star mode, hair, make-up, and wardrobe red carpet ready and brandishing her Oscar (for MONSTERS BALL) like a punch line, she proceeded to parody her Oscar acceptance speech, winning over a crowd that she already had in the palm of her hand. She even brought her manager out on stage to publicly thank him for convincing her to take the role before proceeding to thank her agent and other members of her professional team before launching into a surprisingly touching tribute to her mother. She was the one, Berry told the audience, who taught her that she couldnt be a good winner if she didnt know how to be a good loser. She then introduced CATWOMAN co-star Alex Borstein, whose continuing friendship she described as the only good thing to have come out of the experience, adding her thanks to Borstein for doing such a good job of lying to her face every day of the shoot about how great she was doing.
Is this a turning point for the Razzies? As they celebrate a quarter century of paying back Hollywood on behalf of audiences everywhere for egregious excesses (CATWOMANs budget came in at $100 million) and the sort of insular puffed-up self-importance that regularly carpet bombs moviegoers with weapons of cinematic destruction such as ALEXANDER, the cluelessness of BABY GENIUSES II, will the Powers That Be be forced to take notice? One dare not hope for a change on the silver screen. Bad movies, like the poor, will always be with us, but one can nurture the dream that some purveyors of such might start being smart enough to see that poking fun at themselves, perhaps before anyone else can, is not only the surest route to regaining their celebrity luster, for some, (are you listening Mr. Stallone?), it may be the only way.