The MTV Movie and Television Awards remain the most mercurial of all awards shows. The categories change annually – for example while last year we had “Best Fight Against the System” and “Best American Story”, this year we have “Best On-Screen Team” and “Most Scaredest” or whatever it’s called 1 – but this is perhaps because the movies themselves don’t actually change that much from year to year.
It is perennially the same assemblage of high-dollar summer action movies 2, college-friendly studio comedies, and the occasional very serious drama, but now some of those classifications have stretched to include television shows. So, naturally, the vagaries of which aspect of the thing is awarded have changed, so that the whole thing doesn’t seem quite so samey.
Or at least so I presume. For all I know there’s some battle royale going on in the MTV offices whereby categories are fighting it out to be chosen, and nobody ever defeats “Best Kiss”. I’d believe it either way.
The Marvel fights here are all fun – especially the Thor: Ragnarok one – but this one comes down to two very different ideas. The fight between Charlize Theron and the sniper dudes in Atomic Blonde was realistic, kinetic and well-choreographed. It was a real technical achievement. On the other hand, a large part of the power of superheroes is the iconography 3, and Wonder Woman‘s fight across no-man’s land delivers on that. While the New Critics would have us analyze every text based only on the elements present therein, it’s hard to not feel something about the image of Wonder Woman, a much-loved character who finally got her own movie, the first female-led superhero movie, no less, rising up out of the trench in her full Wonder Woman costume and dispatching a bunch of soldiers. It’s a remarkably effective scene, and it definitely deserves whatever awards it can get.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gal Gadot vs. German Soldiers, Wonder Woman
Best Music Documentary
Sean Combs’s rise to success certainly makes for good corporate speech, life-coach style storytelling, but there is very little of it that’s suited to a documentary. Jay-Z’s Footnotes for 4:44 is an interesting companion to a very good record, but it’s also not really elevated above that. Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated is the sort of bog-standard music documentary that used to clog deep cable before it started being produced by (and therefore clogging) YouTube. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s The Defiant Ones is similarly dull, and has the added benefit of eliding what would be the interesting part of either man’s story. Gaga: Five Foot Two is fine and at least has some traction and a reason to exist, which elevates it somewhat.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gaga: Five Foot Two
Best On-Screen Team
I liked Jumanji more than I thought I would. I liked the second season of Stranger Things less than I thought I would. Ready Player One is pretty far beneath consideration 4. I think that the Black Panther folks were a better team than the It folks.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Durira and Letitia Wright, Black Panther
It’s true that Letitia Wright and Taika Watiti both walked off with their parts of their respective movies (Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok), and it’s true that Dacre Montgomery and Madelaine Petsch are….people that exist on television, but only one of these people stole scenes in a movie so hard that she is, in fact, the host of this awards show based largely thereupon.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
Best Reality Series/Franchise
Whatever else you may say about how far RuPaul’s Drag Race has dragged itself away from its initial burst of funny creativity, it’s still a better show on its worst day than anything else in this godforsaken category.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Most Frightened Performance
This is most frightened not most frightening, so I’m going to assume we’re either meant to judge whether the person involved does the best job of convincing me they’re in the scariest situation possible, or the best job of conveying that they are the most scared in the first place. I don’t like it when I have to work to figure out what the category is expecting me to evaluate, so I’m going to assume that it’s Cristin Millioti. Her head is 85% eyeballs by volume 5, so she’s probably the best at looking real scared. If I weren’t allergic to Black Mirror I’d probably have more to say about it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cristin Millioti
Let me explain: I hate it for the same reasons I hate it every year. It’s dumb, it’s the bad kind of pandering, and I hate it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: No one, ever. No one is ever the rightful winner of this category.
Now this is a category I can get behind. Two of the Disney properties here – Avengers: Infinity War’s Thanos and Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Kylo Ren are well-humanized without being glorified, which is nice, and makes for a better villain. Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) is the vessel for one my favorite comic-book villains of all time (spoiler alert, I guess?), which is pretty cool, but not quite in the same league. This one comes down to a villain that’s just a literal inhuman cosmic monster (Bill Skarsgard in It) and a villain that’s tremendously human (Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther). I don’t want to say Michael B. Jordan is the Best Everything Ever, but, well…
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
I think I said more-or-less everything I have to say about Wonder Woman, so if you go read the fight category that’s pretty much how I feel about it. I like Black Panther and Rey just fine in their movies, but they sort of come up short by comparison.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Best Comedic Performance
So anything from I Feel Pretty and Schitt’s Creek are right the heck out. Kate McKinnon was as good as she could be on Saturday Night Live, but since this is for the most recent season, and the most recent season was about as poorly-written a season as I can remember, I think maybe she wasn’t enough to save it. Tiffany Haddish deserves all of her praise for the year she became a star, but I find her occasionally to be exhausting to watch, so I guess I have to go with Jack Black here, for Jumanji.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jack Black, Jumanji
Best Performance in a Show
This is the time where, annually, I praise the MTV Movie Awards for not separating the men and women into different acting categories. In addition to it (the segregation, I mean) being an absolutely ridiculous practice that only serves to enforce existing gendered casting 6, it also becomes extra-silly when most of the shows (all but one, in fact, although see below) are driven by women. Anyway, having said that, I think the best job done here was by Darren Criss who brought a real human element to someone who was, by all available evidence, not very easy to humanize, and who did so by transforming himself into something nigh-unrecognizable.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Best Performance in a Movie
Boy, people sure did go extra-crazy for Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name. They also went crazy for him in Lady Bird, which Saoirse Ronan is representing here. Daisy Ridley continues to be quite good as Rey, but, y’know. Ansel Elgort is playing less a “character” than an “archetype,” which is cool and which I’m generally in favor of, but Chadwick Boseman is doing him one better in that regard.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther
Well….huh. I mean, it’s not that I don’t see why these are the choices here, but somehow I still ended up somewhat blindsided by it. Go figure, I guess. I’m not a part of the theoretical audience for 13 Reasons Why, and also it is boring. I am definitely in the theoretical audience for Game of Thrones, but you can fill a soap opera with boobs and fire and I will still just think it’s a soap opera, and therefore boring. I think if Riverdale would have been more focused on bright colors and puns (like its source material) I would like it more, but as it is it’s boring. Stranger Things squandered a lot of promise on being….you guessed it…..boring. So I guess it’s Grown-ish, which at least has jokes.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Grown-ish
All of these movies are good. It and Wonder Woman’s problems come when they hew to closely to their parent genre (i.e. they both trip and fall at the ending). Girls Trip is a fine comedy. Avengers: Infinity War loses considerable points (as great as it is) for requiring at least a passing knowledge of a couple of dozen other movies to get the full experience. That leaves us with Black Panther, which happens to be fine with me.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther
- and yet “Best Kiss” is here every time, because we live in the darkest timeline. ↩
- leaving aside that the categorization of “summer” and “action” are shifting due to there being tent-pole movies year-round – Black Panther is nominated here a bunch, and came out in February, formerly a film-release graveyard. ↩
- this is a contributing factor to how the DCU continues to get it so wrong – they throw away the Superman-ness or Batman-ness of the characters in favor of subverting them, which sometime smakes for good comic book storytelling, but rarely actually works in movies. For all their much-discussed darkness, the Christopher Nolan Batman movies were still, fundamentally, optimistic and heroic. They also (and I like them quite a lot) don’t exactly function as classic Batman stories, and are movies first and foremost, but trade in on the iconography, which is, of course, what I’m talking about in the first place. ↩
- in many ways, I am very easy to pander to. This is not one of those ways. ↩
- please note that I mean she has the regular human complement of two eyeballs, but they’re very large, not that she’s, like, a beholder or something. ↩
- that is to say, when you separate men and women as actors from each other, it becomes easiest to see the differences when the roles themselves are gendered more clearly – compare this category here to any half-dozen nominees for, say, the Golden Globes, even in comedy, and you’ll quickly see that the things that men and women are traditionally awarded for at more “serious” awards shows is pretty ridiculous. This is why it’s hard for me to take any awards show actually seriously, guys. Especially the ones about acting. ↩