Cold-opening Sunday night’s MTV Movie Awards with fun. Performing “We Are Young” felt as close to a mission statement as MTV was going to make with their annual hybrid of popularity contest/free-publicity blast. Every year, we get older, but the golden popcorn stays the same age, so it’s no surprise that in between roughly seven billion ads for the season premiere of Teen Wolf, the awards were a free-for-all between youth-targeted franchise phenomena Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter.
Before host Russell Brand faded into the background for much of the show, he delivered the evening’s real mission statement, though, with a call-and-response of “Twilight! Hunger Games!” to get the fanbases riled up and set the stage for whatever drama can possibly be wrung from the actual awards.
After three straight years of utter dominance at these awards, suddenly Twilight found itself some real competition from the genuinely admirable heroism of The Hunger Games. If you’re the type who still uses the word “Twilight” as shorthand for anything annoyingly youth-obsessed, it’s probably strange to consider the heavy-breathing vampire saga a grizzled veteran of any kind, but with Katniss and Peeta representing the New Hot Thing, Kristen Stewart’s trademark mumbles were suddenly cast as the establishment, and thus we’ve decided most of the awards can be considered according to this rubric of new and old. The whole evening, in fact, seesawed between the reckless chasing of new obsessions (Project X!) and the horrifying realization that Harry Potter now counts as nostalgia, while Johnny Depp is basically your grandpa. Way to make it weird, MTV.
TEAM KATNISS: Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller — the latter dressed up and acting like the antisocial troublemaker from some mid-’90s season of The Real World — got the ball rolling on the Perks of Being a Wallflower publicity campaign by teaming up to present the Best Male award to elfin Josh Hutcherson, whose open-hearted enthusiasm is rivaled only by his tendency to wear really doofy hats.
TEAM BELLA: Jennifer Aniston. A de facto elder stateswoman and looking VERY eager to make an impression on the post-Friends generation, Jen took home the prestigious Best Dirtbag award for her role in Horrible Bosses. Okay, (1) Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help was straight-up ROBBED, but (2) this would be the first of many awards whose winners were tipped off by being told to show up.
TEAM KATNISS: After winning the Best Female award for the last three years, Kristen Stewart was not only not nominated this year, but she was made to PRESENT the award (along with man/mountain and Snow White co-star Chris Hemsworth) to Jennifer Lawrence. And to add insult to injury, Lawrence was unable to accept in person because she’s filming a movie with Bradley Cooper. K-Stew would have KILLED to have been able to use that excuse at one of these awards shows.
TEAM BELLA: Do you think Adam Sandler has an “MTV Awards” closet where he just keeps dozens of unwashed T-shirts and baseball caps to choose from for the next time he has to make sure everybody knows he doesn’t care about anything? But even Sandler and the co-stars of his next abomination — Andy Samberg and poor Leighton Meester — couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the Best Kiss award. No kidding, I think Best Kiss is the one thing the MTV Movie Awards has historically done right (at least since they discontinued Most Desirable Male and Female). Twilight has had the award on lockdown the last three years, and this year made it four-for-four. Here’s the problem with that, beyond the predictability: they’re not memorable kisses! “Oh, remember that superromantic moment in Twilight: New Moon when Edward and Bella kissed, again?” says NO ONE. Anyway, this led to more Awkward K-Stew theater. At least she’s trying this year, guys. “Trying” in this case means desperately calling upon co-stars to join her onstage, followed by a goony pretend-to-make-out-with-myself moment.
TEAM KATNISS(-ish): Kind of a fusion between old and new when Charlie Sheen basked in his bad behavior, then donned his edgy and dangerous reading glasses to present the “Instant Cult Classic” award to Project X. We could get into a whole thing about whether anything can even BE an instant cult classic, but honestly, I’m willing to let the kids have this one. There is no point making taste arguments about the movies you latch onto as a high schooler, and if you let me have Can’t Hardly Wait, I’ll let you have Project X. After a montage of great “party movies,” Wiz Khalifa took the stage to perform a song from that Bushwick warehouse party from last week’s Girls.
TEAM BELLA: Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, still dining out on “Walk This Way” after all these years, presented the Generation Award to Johnny Depp, which is kind of a sad, perfect synergy. “Too often, actors find success in a single comfort zone,” Perry monotoned. “They find a niche, keep going back to the same well.” HA HA HA, but not Johnny Depp, I guess? After how many of the same pancake-makeup-and-weird-voice Tim Burton movies now? The montage of moments from throughout Depp’s career called up the appropriate nostalgic thoughts (Cry Baby! Ed Wood!), though it’s hard to look at Jack Sparrow now and not wish that character had remained a beloved one-off rather than run into the ground after four movies and counting. But it’s awfully tough to hate on Johnny after that Danny Elfman Edward Scissorhands music kicks in. It’s a good thing, too, because we were then treated to one and a half performances worth of movie-star indulgence as Depp took the stage with the Black Keys. Hey, it was at least fun to see Depp trying hard at something again.
TEAM KATNISS: Here’s the thing about giving a “Trailblazer Award” to Emma Stone: Emma Stone is still a thing that is in the process of happening. You can tell by how they had to scrounge up an actress as unknown as Martha MacIsaac, star of the upcoming 1600 Penn, to talk about how much Stone’s career has inspired her. This despite the fact that Stone’s career, at least as a recognizable mainstream name/face, began with Superbad, not even five years ago. To her credit, Stone seemed to realize this, and she ended up giving a surprisingly heartfelt (teary, even!) speech that managed to survive shout-outs to J.D. Salinger and The Beatles (and Lorne Michaels?) and ended up saying something quite sincere about kids following their own path.
TEAM KATNISS: All apologies to Snooki and Jwoww, but no MTV promo was more thrilling than the announcement that Awkward. is returning on June 28. If the trailer is to be believed, Matty might not EVER wear a shirt again.
TEAM BELLA: Try as it might, the culture just cannot seem to kill off The Real World. Which, for the record, is JUST FINE. Kind of bummed the new season is in St. Thomas rather than Pittsburgh, as had been rumored, but you can’t have everything.
TEAM KATNISS: The only short-film comedy showcase of the night saw Joel McHale playing archery coach “Lester Boonshaft,” whose advice has been ignored by such luminaries as Jennifer Lawrence and JJ Abrams. Good show by Lawrence, actually, and a sign that McHale will find plenty of soft places to land once Community is inevitably canceled.
TEAM KATNISS: Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender took a moment to bask in the audience’s highly justified screaming, before presenting the Best Fight award to The Hunger Games, which helps answer the question of why there had been so many reaction shots from that blond boy who plays Cato last night. Also, can we make it a rule that Josh Hutcherson never has to stand next to any of his male costars in public? Poor kid is positively wee, and standing next to the statuesquely Nordic Alexander Ludwig is going to give him a complex. (By the way, this category probably should have been won by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton for Warrior, but at least MTV can rest easy knowing they nominated the one good thing about that movie ahem Oscar-nominated Nick Nolte.)
TEAM BELLA: Just when you thought you were getting good at the predict-the-winner-based-on-who’s-here game, Ellie Kemper goes and loses out on Best Cast despite being in TWO nominated movies (Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street). Instead, it was one last laurel for the Harry Potter franchise as Emma Watson accepted the Best Cast award for Deathly Hallows Part 2.
TEAM KATNISS: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Joe Mangianello did the Lord’s work in promoting Magic Mike, with Mangianello showing up in character as “Big Dick Ritchie.” The lucky winner to join them on stage was Elizabeth Banks, who won Best Onscreen Transformation for The Hunger Games, despite the fact that the category sounds like yet another excuse for Best Performance by a Werewolf or Vampire.
TEAM BATMAN: The final half-hour of the show turned into an extended Warner Bros. ad buy, as Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and an ecstatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt took the stage to present exclusive scenes from the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises. The promotion for this one has felt pretty subdued, likely waiting for Avengers fever to subside, but if last night was any indication, expect an all-Batman, all-the-time assault for the next month or so. It was certainly the big dog among the ad campaigns, which saw basically every group of presenters representing their upcoming movie, followed by a trailer in the following ad break. (Two exceptions: no presenters on hand for The Bourne Legacy or Savages, despite the fact that Albert Finney and Joan Allen would have made a HOT pair to present Best Kiss.)
TEAM CLARICE STARLING: Winner of the night, as far as I’m concerned? Jodie Foster, who showed up despite The Beaver being cruelly shunned in all categories (and Best Dirtbag was RIGHT THERE!), sold the particularly dismal prompter banter like a total pro and managed to look like she was having a ton of fun (Kristen Stewart) while also not begging for it (Jennifer Aniston). For her trouble, of course, Jodie got to present Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 with the Best Movie Award and have Kristen Stewart barely look at her while trying to slough the trophy onto a co-star. Her Panic Room co-star, of all people. Not that MTV would ever remember a movie that old.