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5 Films That Didn't Deserve Their Razzie Awards

CanberraFilmFestival.com.au
CanberraFilmFestival.com.au

In 1981, American copywriter and publicist John J.B. Wilson started an annual event that would “honor” the year’s worst movies. (The 2012 nominees were announced earlier this week.) The Golden Raspberry Award, or Razzie, is often seen as a stigma of cinematic mediocrity, but sometimes they get it wrong.

1. The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick may be considered one of the greatest directors of all time, but in 1980, he was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Director for his film The Shining. Prior to its release, fans of Stephen King’s novel eagerly awaited the film adaptation—but Kubrick steered the narrative so far away from the source material that audiences were turned off. (King wasn't pleased, either.) The Shining received a mixed critical response for not being a conventional horror film, and it was nominated for two Razzies.

When The Shining was released on VHS, however, critics immediately re-assessed it: Roger Ebert said it was one of the greatest horror films ever made, calling it “strangely disturbing.” Today, there are numerous interpretations of The Shining, many of them documented in the film Room 237 which attempts to uncover the true meaning behind Kubrick’s vision.

2. Newsies (1992)

In 1992, Disney was soaring high with the success of their animated musicals—so they commissioned choreographer and director Kenny Ortega to helm Newsies, based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Critics and audiences didn’t take to the film’s 19th century New York backdrop, musical numbers, and workers' rights narrative. Considered one of Disney’s biggest flops at the time, the film received five Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Director.

Twenty years later, the film has been fully embraced by theatergoers and was adapted as a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical in 2012.

3. Ishtar (1987)

One of the biggest cinematic failures of the past 30 years, Ishtar became synonymous with the term “box office flop.” Critics panned the story of two failed singer-songwriters who unwittingly start a revolution in the fictional country called Ishtar. The film suffered from an over-bloated budget and Warren Beatty’s ego; in turn, it was nominated for three Razzies, and Elaine May received the Worst Director Award.

Unfortunately, May never directed another movie, despite her future accolades including her Oscar-nominated screenplay Primary Colors. Now, Ishtar is viewed as a biting and witty satire, considered ahead of its time; its view of Middle Eastern politics is surprisingly relevant today. Ishtar has yet to receive a proper DVD release, but rumors persist of future Criterion Collection consideration.

4. Showgirls (1995)

Director Paul Verhoeven is considered a master genre filmmaker, but in 1995, his reputation in Hollywood came into question with the release of the infamous Showgirls. The film is legendary for its bad acting, silly storyline, and dreadful dialogue (though the director claimed it was intentional); the film was nominated for 13 Razzies, and Verhoeven took home the Worst Director Award. He was the first and only director to accept it in person.

Today, many notable film critics and directors, including Jonathan Rosenbaum, J. Hoberman, and Quentin Tarantino, have re-evaluated and defended Showgirls as a serious satire of the trappings of Hollywood and celebrity. The film is also seen as a cult classic for its crude and vulgar subject matter and wry sense of humor.

5. Heaven’s Gate (1981)

Possibly the most notorious movie of all time, director Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate was responsible for bankrupting United Artists in 1981. The film’s $44 million budget ($122 million today) grew out of Cimino’s inability to reduce his vision. Critics waited to pan this film when reports of the director’s eccentric personality and the film’s 219-minute running time emerged.

United Artists later fired Cimino and cut the film down to a digestible 149-minute version. Grossing only $3 million ($10 million today), Heaven’s Gate became more than a box office flop—it became a fiasco. It was eventually nominated for five Razzies, and Cimino received the Worst Director Award.

Today, the Director’s Cut has received a small renaissance with a special screening at the New York Film Festival and a release and restoration by the prestigious Criterion Collection. While it remains controversial and polarizing, Heaven’s Gate is now considered a supreme achievement of Hollywood cinema.

*

For whatever reason, audiences and critics didn’t take to these movies when they were released. But with time, these films have come to be seen as misunderstood. So please remain dubious when someone calls a movie “the worst of the year.” Good movies are in the eye of the beholder.

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How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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