And the Smithee Goes To...

The 18th Annual Ann Arbor Smithee AwardsWhy should Los Angeles always get all the glamor and glitz of movie award ceremonies?

Saturday night was a momentous cinematic occasion in its own right as the University of Michigan campus played host to the highly acclaimed 18th Annual Ann Arbor Smithee Awards.

The awards – named after Alan Smithee, the nom-de-shame Hollywood directors have historically substituted for their own when they wanted to disassociate themselves from the finished product – took place in Room 1800 of the Chemistry Building and featured such prestigious categories as Most Ludicrous Premise, Stupidest-Looking Monster, Worst Science, and, of course, Worst Picture.

As the award categories suggest, the nominated films are heavily weighted toward awful science fiction and horror movies, but the year of release is irrelevant. This year's nominees included everything from 1951's Unknown World (for Worst Science) to 2003's 13 Seconds (for multiple categories, including Worst Picture).

Devil Girl from MarsHow it works is that the Smith-ka-teers (Bryan Cassidy and Greg Pearson, the two Michigan grad students who created the Smithees in 1991, and their associates) select five films for each category, clip the relevant parts of each, and show the clips to the auditorium full of B-movie lovers, oddballs, and masochists (over 200 of them this year!). The audience then votes for its favorites, using high-tech "voting packs" of recycled scraps of paper, pens, and plastic spiders provided to everyone.

I'm something of a crap film connoisseur myself, so I'm not ashamed to say I'd seen several of the nominees before in their entirety, including Devil Girl from Mars (1954), Troll 2 (1990), and PiƱata: Survival Island (2002).

Mmmm, cheeseballs!My date, who is an actual Hollywood veteran, got into the spirit, too, especially when we saw all of the swell snacks and beverages provided gratis – "food" such as Peeps, Pixy Sticks, cheeseballs, Oreo knockoffs, and other things too frightening to mention. I stuck mostly to the cheeseballs, but the pumpkin-flavored soda and bacon-flavored gumballs intrigued me as well. (Note to self: avoid pumpkin-flavored soda and bacon-flavored gumballs in the future.)

So which celluloid atrocity won Worst Picture? Unfortunately, we had another event to attend that evening, so we were forced to leave before the end of the ceremonies. I'm hoping to stay for the whole thing next year.

My small, poorly exposed gallery of Smithee is on Facebook.