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Stinkers fouled silver screen in ’99

Get a ballot and nominate favorites for annual awards

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Despite record box-office numbers, the 1999 cinematic year wasn't all good.

Remember "Baby Geniuses," that horrid "Babies Alone" comedy that stunk up theaters last year? Or how about those cinematic duds, "The Haunting," "The Love Letter," "Chill Factor" and "My Favorite Martian?"

Well, in case you didn't remember them, there's an organization around to help.

That group would be the Hastings Bad Cinema Society, which has been "scraping the bottom of the cinematic barrel since 1978," according to founders Ray Wright and Mike Lancaster.

And judging by that unique stench in the air it must be nearing time for them to give out their Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the most comprehensive "tribute" to awful cinema in the world.

The films mentioned above — as well as many others — are expected to be among the "winners" when the Stinkers recipients are announced March 24, two days before the Academy Awards are given out in Hollywood.

Similar in mean-spirited but humorous tone to the Razzies and the Golden Turkey Awards, the Stinkers reward the worst in cinema each year. In fact, they provide a refreshing alternative to all of the backpatting, handshaking and derriere-smooching Hollywood indulges in this time of year.

"Hollywood continues to aim squarely at the lowest common denominator. Whether that is a good or bad thing, it certainly keeps us busy," Lancaster explained.

He and Wright got the idea for the Stinkers while working as movie-house ushers in Pasadena — jobs that allowed them to see more than 100 films for free in their spare time.

"Some of those movies were so bad, even though we got in for free, we felt like we had been cheated," Wright recalled.

Since then, the Hastings Bad Cinema Society has given awards to such bombs as "Howard the Duck," "Caddyshack II," "Dune" and "The Avengers." And in 1993, the focus was expanded to include more than a dozen categories.

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, Most Annoying Fake Accent, Worst On-Screen Couple and Most Painfully Unfunny Comedy.

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

"We have never been afraid to nominate a former Oscar-winning actor or actress for a Stinker," Lancaster said. "Because, after all, it's only a movie, and it's just our opinion. We are not changing the world or curing cancer here, we're just having a little fun at Hollywood's expense with our goofy parody of the Academy Awards. It's a fun hobby and it keeps us off the streets."

Nor for that matter, are they afraid to take shots at big box-office hits. Movies that are expected to receive Stinkers nominations — and possible awards — are such multimillion-dollar-grossing films as "The Blair Witch Project," "Inspector Gadget," "The Sixth Sense" and "Wild Wild West."

Not that Lancaster expects everyone to agree with the final results of the Stinkers balloting.

"Our opinions are no better or worse than anyone else's. We just know what we like, and more importantly, what we don't like, and aren't afraid to voice our opinions," he said. "If people don't agree with us, great. It doesn't hurt our feelings."

Wright and Lancaster are still in the process of narrowing down the candidates. So there is still time to join the Hastings Bad Cinema Society and have your voice heard.

On Feb. 15, the group will begin mailing out its "Worst of 1999" members-only ballot, with all 20 bad movie categories on it.

Annual membership in the organization is $5, but members are free to photocopy the ballot for friends, family and even perfect strangers.

"All we ask is that you share it with people who love movies as much as you do," Wright said. "Get your spouse, kids, friends, relatives and co-workers — even the ushers at the local multiplex — in on the fun. They probably saw just as many bad movies as you did in 1999."

Completed official ballots must be postmarked no later than Monday, March 20, 2000, to count in the election.

To join the Hastings Bad Cinema Society and vote for this year's Stinkers by writing to PO Box 91114, Pasadena, CA 91109-1114 or by contacting the Stinkers Web site www.thestinkers.com for more information.

Deseret News movie critic Jeff Vice can be reached by e-mail at jeff@desnews.com