Say this: It’s hard not to enjoy yet another opportunity to watch “Moonlight” win an award. When Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome gleefully accepted the award for Best Kiss — speaking passionately about how “this is for the others, the misfits” — it was probably the most legitimately great moment of the show, an honest and true celebration of post-millennial culture fittingly spotlighting two post-millennials.
This, however, came during the same night that John Cena pouted over not being able to sell the word “woke” and the latest Cyrus clone singing in front of a half-pipe of skateboarders. At times, it wasn’t totally clear who this show was for — or why it even exists.
Is it because it’s new, that the title “MTV Movie & TV Awards” doesn’t really roll off the tongue? But MTV’s innovative choice to integrate both film and TV into its categories did play pretty smoothly — reflecting the fact that at this point, the lines between mediums are shakier than ever.
The opening musical number, selling the blending of movies and television with a “Beauty and the Beast” tribute, featured a bunch of impressive technical moves but was ultimately pretty forgettable. And the show also borrowed a classic internet meme by recutting the trailers for “Logan” and “Rogue One” to recast them as different genres — not a bad idea, but one that had been done before, and didn’t really stick in the memory.
Here what was memorable: While MTV is not the first awards show to erase gender lines in evaluating performance (despite what “Billions” star Asia Kate Dillon might have suggested) it is a high-profile decision that winner Emma Watson (for “Beauty and the Beast”) seemed genuinely touched by.
However, Watson’s effusive speech wasn’t the only moment of the show that felt overlong. The show, while coming in at only two hours and ten minutes, felt like it was three hours, in part because unlike, say, The Oscars, the award-presenting to “other stuff” ratio leaned way more towards “other stuff.” And by “other stuff,” we mean the constant promotion of summer blockbusters, musical performances at times only tangentially connected to films or TV shows, and comedy bits featuring host Adam Devine and his famous friends.
While the first two are a proud part of MTV tradition, the last element bears noting — oftentimes, an awards show host will recede into the background of the night as things go on (and planned comedy bits get cut for time). However, there was a whole lot of Devine in both pre-taped and live bits. The level of jokes wasn’t bad (always here for Jillian Bell) but it got to the point where, by the end of the night, Devine had to rush around dropping off all the awards they would’t be able to get to properly distribute.
We weep for you, RuPaul. You deserved the opportunity to take the stage after “Drag Race” won for Best Reality Competition. And it was unfortunate, not getting to see Lil Rel Howrey get full due for his win for Best Comedic Performance in “Get Out” so that Mark Wahlberg could present a nonsensical “Transformers” clip with the same level of enthusiasm he reserves for Funky Bunch jokes.
In the past, MTV’s weirdo categories have always been a favorite, if only because there’s a delicate implication with the idea of “best” already in play with award shows. But tonight, here’s what the MTVA ultimately triggered: An existential crisis over the basic point or value of awards shows, flat-out.
Why get vigorously worked up over who might win the award for Best Fight Against The System (a nobly inclined category and wonderful opportunity to except what does it actually mean?) and then, while you’re at it, why get fussy about who might win for Best Actor? What does any of this mean, the doling out of statues based on seemingly arbitrary voting? Is there perhaps a better way to celebrate great accomplishments in film and television than making them fight against each other to be declared “the best”? If you’re not even going to bother handing out the awards during the show, are you flat-out acknowledging that the whole point of these shows is simply a crass exercise in marketing?
Some talented people got some very heavy statues over the course of the show, and were quite often very cute about it. But in attempting to redefine how the modern day awards show might work, while grasping for class and ass in the same night, MTV might have destabilized the inherent value of award shows, flat-out.