Golden Raspberry Awards: 2009
The Golden Raspberries started off as an informal joke. Something for a publicist and his friends to do after the Oscars had ended. Over time, it has become and enduring and irreverent tradition. In theory, The Razzies poke fun at the worst movies of the year. But like any awards ceremony, the Razzies frequently make the wrong call. We’re going back and looking at the history of the Golden Raspberry Awards one year at a time.
The thirtieth annual Razzies nominated the movies of 2009. Avatar smashed box office records to become the highest grossing movie ever made. Director James Cameron lost Best Director to his ex, Kathryn Bigelow, who won for directing 2009’s Best Picture, The Hurt Locker. Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock took home the top acting prizes. In a Razzie first, Bullock was also a winner at the Razzies.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (screenplay by Stuart Beattie and David Elliot & Paul Lovett; story by Michael B. Gordon and Beattie & Stephen Sommers, based on the comic book by Larry Hama)
- Land of the Lost (written by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas; based on the television series created by Sid and Marty Krofft)
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (written by Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman)
- All About Steve (written by Kim Barker)
- The Twilight Saga: New Moon (screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg; based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer)
Winner: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Last year, the Razzies brought their boot down on Uwe Boll, the controversial German director generally considered to be the biggest hack in the world. As part of his self-promotion, Boll started a feud with the world’s most successful hack-director, Michael Bay. Ever since Armageddon in 1998, the Razzies have been casting sideways glances at Bay. But they have never fully targeted him until now.
We’re going to see a lot of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at the Razzies this year. That puts me at a distinct disadvantage as I have never watched (nor do I have any desire to watch) any of the Transformers movies. If I had been born a few year later, I might have an emotional connection to the toys and cartoons the movies are based on. But since I wasn’t and I don’t, these movies look headache-inducing.
(I did ride the Transformers ride at Universal Studios in Orlando. It was very much like the Spider-man ride only not as good because all the CGI robots look the same and the noise was indeed head-ache inducing. But at least it was only about 7 minutes long instead of over two hours!)
Looking at Rotten Tomatoes, the second movie in the Transformers series did represent a severe drop in quality from the 2007 original. While critics didn’t exactly praise Michael Bay’s ode to the eighties toy craze, reviews for the first movie were generally positive. The same cannot be said for Revenge of the Fallen which was scorned by critics.
There are reasons for that drop in quality. Despite having essentially the same creative team as the first movie, the sequel was made in a hurry. Not only was there the usual pressure to strike while the iron is hot, in this case the sequel was rushed over concerns of looming strikes for the writers and directors guilds.
Since this is the Worst Screenplay category, let’s look at the movie’s writing team. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman came from a background in television. Both were writers on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Their first movie was Michael Bay’s The Island in 2005. While that movie wasn’t a hit, it set them up to write the first Transformers.
Post Transformers, Orci and Kurtzman produced Eagle Eye and wrote Watchmen. They were chosen to write the script for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. After that, they were so hot, they considered passing on writing a sequel to Transformers. Eventually, they agreed to return if they could share writing duties with Ehren Kruger who is probably best known for writing Screams 3 and 4.
After Revenge of the Fallen, Kruger took over writing duties on the Transformers franchise while Orci and Kurtzman moved on to the Star Trek sequel and The Amazing Spider-man 2. At this point, the writing partners were faced with a difficult decision. J.J. Abrams left Star Trek to make Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That left directing duties open for Star Trek 3. For a time, the job was given to Orci.
But Kurtzman wanted to continue working on the Spider-man franchise. Sony had plans to build an Avengers-style cinematic universe around Spidey and Kurtzman was in a position to shape that. Unfortunately for Kurtzman, Amazing Spider-man 2 was not well-received and Sony pulled the plug on the entire deal. He has since moved on to rebooting The Mummy for Universal with Tom Cruise replacing Brendan Fraser.
Orci’s plans to run the Star Trek movie franchise were similarly thwarted. The writer got into a public pissing match with a fan who was critical of Star Trek Into Darkness. When faced with criticism of his work, Orci was quick to respond with “There is a reason why I get to write movies, and you don’t.” In fact, it’s become his go-to response for any criticism of his work. Given the quality of the movies he has written, I’m not sure what that reason could possibly be.
Eventually, Orci was replaced as the director of Star Trek Beyond. While he is still credited as a producer on the movie, those involved insist that Orci’s script was thrown in the trash (where it likely belongs).
As is usually the case, we’re going to see these five movies nominated in several categories. Four of them were also nominated for Worst Director and Worst Picture. The odd movie out is The Twilight Saga: New Moon. It’s also the only one of these five movies that won’t take home any awards this year. But that’s okay. The Razzies knew they would have two more opportunities to target Twilight.
- Michael Bay for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Walt Becker for Old Dogs
- Brad Silberling for Land of the Lost
- Stephen Sommers for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
- Phil Traill for All About Steve
Winner: Michael Bay
Michael Bay had been begging for a Worst Director Razzie for years. Despite being one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, he has yet to make a really good movie. The best-reviewed movie in his filmography was The Rock in 1996 and even that one had mixed reviews. After that, he was nominated for Worst Director twice; for Armageddon in 1998 and for Pearl Harbor in 2001.
For a stretch between Pearl Harbor and Transformers, the Razzies left Bay alone. It’s not that his movies weren’t bad. Bad Boys II and The Island were panned by critics. But post Pearl Harbor, Bay seemed to be drifting into irrelevance. It took Transformers to bring him back. After that movie revitalized Bay’s career, he was deemed worthy of receiving Razzie nominations again. And this time, he finally took home the prize.
This isn’t Bay’s last nomination for Worst Director. He has directed two more Transformers movies to date after all. So we’ll be talking more about the King of Explosions in the future.
Of the remaining nominees, Stephen Sommers was probably the best-known. After writing and directing The Adventures of Huck Finn, the first live-action Jungle Book and Deep Rising in the 90’s, Sommers made it big with his update on The Mummy. He followed that up with a sequel (The Mummy Returns) and he produced a spin-off (The Scorpion King).
In 2004, Sommers seemed poised to conquer Hollywood with his monster mash-up, Van Helsing. Expectations for that movie were sky-high. Universal planned to follow Van Helsing up with a multi-media blitz that would have included sequels, TV shows, video games and theme park attractions. But alas, the movie flopped.
Since then, Sommers has produced sequels to The Mummy and The Scorpion King, but he rarely directs any more. There were five years between Van Helsing and G.I. Joe. His only other movie as a director was the 2013 cult film, Odd Thomas. His nomination for Worst Director was the Razzies way of telling Sommers not to come back.
Phil Traill is mostly a TV guy. He has worked on several sitcoms, most notably 14 episodes of The Middle. All About Steve is the only movie he has directed that you are likely to have heard of. Walt Becker’s filmography is amazingly consistent. He is the helmer of Van Wilder, Wild Hogs and Zookeeper in addition to Old Dogs. How does he get by with only one Worst Director nomination?
Finally Brad Silberling was a somewhat accomplished director. He had hits like Casper and City of Angels on his resume. He directed the first Lemony Snicket’s movie which was supposed to launch a series, but didn’t. Land of the Lost was his only other high-profile job. Before the movie was released, there was talk of sequels. But that didn’t last long.