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How bad can films get? Group aims to plumb the depths

When the award winners are announced in mid-March, expect them to include "Batman & Robin," Tom Arnold, "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag," Alicia Silverstone and Pamela Anderson Lee's homemade sex videotape.

Obviously, we're not talking about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which announced the nominees for this year's Academy Awards on Tuesday. No, these are just some of the nominees for the 20th annual Stinkers Bad Movie Awards (see the complete list of this year's Stinkers nominees on Page E14).Similar in mean-spirited, but humorous, tone to the Razzies and the Golden Turkey Awards, the Stinkers reward the worst in cinema each year. But the Stinkers are actually the longest-running of the bunch.

Californians Mike Lancaster and Ray Wright founded the Hastings Bad Cinema Society, a group of movie buffs "dedicated to honoring Hollywood's major studio, big-budget fiascos," in 1978, and gave their first Stinkers award the next year to the sappy romance picture "If I Ever See You Again."

According to Wright, he and Lancaster got the idea for the Stinkers while working as movie house ushers in Pasadena - which allowed them to see more than 100 films in their spare time.

"Some of those movies were so bad," he said during a telephone interview. "Even though we got in for free, we felt like we had been cheated."

So Wright and Lancaster decided to dedicate themselves to the worst that Hollywood has to offer, scribbling their first worst list on a napkin during the 1979 Academy Awards telecast.

"It was just to amuse ourselves and our co-workers, then it just sort of mushroomed into an annual event," Wright said. "If you would have told me 20 years ago that we'd be getting requests from all over the country, I wouldn't have believed it."

Since then, they and the rest of the Hastings society have given awards to bombs like "Howard the Duck," "Caddyshack II" and "Dune." And in 1993, Lancaster and Wright expanded their focus to include actors, fake beards and resurrections of TV shows.

One area where the Stinkers have excelled - and where they exceed their competitors - is in presenting awards in unusual categories, such as The Sequel Nobody Was Clamoring For, Worst Screenplay for a Film That Grossed Over $100 Million (Using Hollywood Math) and Most Annoying Fake Accent.

The Stinkers are an equal opportunity awards ceremony as well. The Hastings society doesn't just single out such perennial stiffs as Arnold, Silverstone, Sharon Stone and Steven Seagal (although they have as good a chance to win as anybody), members have also nominated and given awards to Oscar nominees and winners Frances McDormand, John Travolta, Joe Pesci, Marlon Brando and Whoopi Goldberg.

Wright said this year's Stinkers could have the highest turnout yet, since Hastings society members handed out more than 15,000 ballots to overnight campers on the Rose Parade route in Pasadena on New Year's Eve.

Anyone can join the Hastings Bad Cinema Society and vote for this year's Stinkers by writing to P.O. Box 91114, Pasadena, Calif. 91109-1114 or by contacting the Stinkers Website ( for more information.

All entries must include $1 for processing, but Wright promised that all proceeds will be given to charity. Entrants are automatically entered into a drawing to win copies of some of the society's past winners and current nominees, as well as movie collectibles.

The final deadline for entries is March 11. Winners will be announced March 15, one week before the actual Academy Awards ceremony.

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I don't actually think I'm very good. But I don't have very good judgment, and it's nice to think I might be wrong." - Actress Helena Bonham Carter, winner of the National Board of Review's Best Actress Award (and an Oscar nominee) for her work in "The Wings of the Dove"

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: "I'm a love-aholic now and of all the holics you can be, that's preferable. You have to remember that I grew up in a spotlight. That's not easy. But I've found that the truth will get you through anything. If you're honest, people will tolerate you and sympathize. Sure, I did a little drugs and drinking when I was 13. But I'd rather have gone through that as a kid. Kids move on." - Actress Drew Barrymore, currently appearing in "The Wedding Singer"