A blockbuster rated PG-13 is destined to win the Golden Popcorn at the MTV Movie Awards this weekend, judging by the show’s recent winners.
While R-rated awards season titles “American Sniper,” “Boyhood,” “Whiplash” and “Gone Girl” are all nominated for the top prize, the most likely winners are PG-13, including Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and Jennifer Lawrence’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”
Beginning in 1992, MTV’s first six Best Movie winners were all rated R, including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “A Few Good Men,” “Menace II Society,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Se7en” and “Scream.” In 1998, the PG-13 “Titanic” briefly (and deservedly) interrupted the R-rated winning streak before “There’s Something About Mary,” “The Matrix” and “Gladiator” returned the risque rating to awards glory. Since then, the only other R-rated Best Movie winner was “Wedding Crashers” in 2006.
The softer MPAA rating of recent winners is less worrisome than the awards show’s shift from modern classics to VFX-driven tentpoles of questionable quality that appeal to the YA crowd.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Transformers” started a troubling trend before the “Twilight” franchise took over the show for four straight years until it ceded the spotlight to “The Avengers” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
I don’t begrudge any of these box office juggernauts their remarkable financial success because, with the exception of “Menace II Society,” all of the Best Movie winners listed in the third paragraph made over $100 million at the domestic box office. It’s just dangerous when younger audience are trained to confuse the biggest with the best. All awards shows are popularity contests to an extent, but perhaps the high school crowd that serves as MTV’s bread-and-butter demographic has too much “power” in its hands?
Of course, the MTV Movie Awards aren’t supposed to be the Oscars. The show’s primary goal is to entertain a few million teenagers for a couple hours, not to get the awards “right.” But I wish the voters would hold themselves to the same standards as MTV’s audience in the ’90s, which apparently had much better taste.
I know MTV targets a younger, more PG-13 audience these days, and I’m not asking for voters to show some love to this year’s Julianne Moore or Robert Duvall. But how can anyone take the show seriously when Scarlett Johansson is nominated for “Lucy” instead of “Under the Skin,” “Chef” or “Captain America: Winter Soldier?”
That said, MTV deserves credit for catering to its teenage audience. Whereas the “Twilight” victories were foregone conclusions, this year’s show should at least have some suspense, given the passionate fanbases for Jennifer Lawrence, Marvel, Chris Pratt and Vin Diesel, and the “Fault in Our Stars” team of Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and author John Green. All are essentially parts of franchises, even the sequel-free “Fault.” Looking back, “Scream” and “The Matrix” were the MTV-nominated R-rated films that launched franchises, while “Terminator 2” was the only R-rated sequel to win.
On the bright side, the MTV Movie Awards are also more entertaining and less rigid than your average stodgy awards show, thanks to a string of edgy hosts (Amy Schumer takes the reins this year) and a willingness to experiment with different categories.
This year’s Best ‘WTF’ moment nominees include the scene in “Top Five” in which Rosario Dawson puts Tabasco sauce up Anders Holm’s ass, a form of sexual assault that inspired laughs rather than outrage. It’s worth noting that four of the five nominees for Best Shirtless Performance are male too, since it would be crass to nominate women — unless it’s camera-friendly Kate Upton, apparently.
Meanwhile, the Best Kiss category, which has historically been dominated by same-sex kisses, once again features an inspired group of liplockers. Past winners include “Cruel Intentions,” “American Pie 2,” “Brokeback Mountain” and most recently, “Talladega Nights.” This year, Rose Byrne and Halston Sage are nominated for “Neighbors,” whose star Seth Rogen is nominated alongside James Franco for “The Interview.”
Regardless of who wins, Schumer will no doubt be a hilarious host as she starts the long PR tour for Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck.” And I can take solace that at the very least, MTV nominated her co-star in that film, Bill Hader, for his amazing lip sync scene with Kristen Wiig in “The Skeleton Twins,” which the Academy had the nerve to snub. Maybe MTV’s audience could teach older Oscar voters some new tricks?