“Dawson's” freak

James Van Der Beek is the unofficial winner of the biggest head award at MTV's not so very irreverent Movie Awards.

Topics: Shakespeare, MTV,

The MTV Movie Awards! So laid-back! So irreverent! So Gen-X! (Oh, wait, no,
what is it now, Gen-Y?) Anyway, they spoof big movies! They mock big awards shows!
They give out weird-looking trophies in cute categories like best
kiss and best villain and best fight!

Maybe they should just go all out and drop best movie and best performance
in favor of categories like best inconsistent British accent or best agent
or best teeth. Matt Dillon, Matt Damon — lots of good movie teeth in 1998.
Puffy the dog in “There’s Something
About Mary.”
Geoffrey Rush in “Shakespeare in Love.”
I don’t know, just an idea. It could be the future of awards shows. It could be punk rock.

You’ll probably see the show, you tell me. I just sat freezing in the press
tent, “no party access” boldly emblazoned across my reportorial chest,
trying to pay attention to the monitor. That was hard, though. They kept
trotting in celebrities and turning off the sound so we could find out what
they thought of “Star Wars.”
Apparently, Hollywood’s irreverent
up-and-coming talent draws the line at saying anything not-so-nice about George Lucas.
Perhaps the most damning review came from Stephen Dorff, co-winner (with Matt Dillon) of the best villain award for his performance in “Blade,” who drawled “Yeah, yeah, I liked it, you know,
for what it was, you know, I liked it.” That took courage, right?

For a few harrowing moments just before celebrity arrivals,
it seemed only media with stars on their passes were going to be allowed
access to the red carpet. The five of us not sporting stars took the news
badly, and responded by sulking rather aggressively. Luckily, it was a
false alarm. There was plenty of room. The whole evening was kind of quiet,
sleepy almost.

I secured a prime spot along the barrier where I was flanked by a large
group of Taiwanese reporters and a two-man Latin American TV crew. The
Taiwanese reporters had a woman on the inside. She periodically ran back to
the group to announce the next arrival and disseminate false (but often
titillating) information like, “Jennifer Love Wet! I Know Who Did Last
Summer!”



Reporters lined up across the carpet from the fan stands, where we waited
for the procession to commence. PR girls trolled the carpet like dope dealers,
muttering, “I’ve got Sean Hatosy from ‘The Faculty’? Sean Hatosy?” and “Kevin Smith?
Director of small independent films?” Kevin Smith had no takers, quite possibly due to his
honest but ill-advised choice of denim bermuda shorts for evening. A reporter next to
me jumped at the chance to pose a breakfast-related question to Sean
Hatosy, though. “I like eggs,” he confided.

The fans were happy to see Rebecca Romijn Stamos, celebrity celebrity
greeter, in a fringed leotard. One of the biggest perks of her job must be
all the teenage boys lobbing clever getting-to-know-you lines at her, like
“Rebecca, I want to shag you!” and “You forgot your pants!” That must be
cool.

Some other things you may need to know: Puffy the dog looks just as surly
in real life. Keri Russell’s butt comes to a point, no lie. Katie Holmes (breakthrough performance
winner, for “Disturbing Behavior”) is reminiscent of a young bassett hound, but is taller than you’d
think. James Van Der Beek’s head looks like a breadbox. Jackie Chan, in long hair, straw
hat and red bandanna, was going for cowboy but stopped just short at Andean
busker. Hugh Grant looked concerned. The members of Dru Hill wore suits
made out of cow.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who escaped the clutches of her publicist to run back
to the stands and high-five her fans, is truly the movie star of the
people. Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez drew the biggest cheers from the
crowd, prompting wild, saliva-incontinent on-camera enthusiasms by
the Latin American correspondent — who was then cruelly snubbed by both.
Jackie Chan enjoyed a lengthy exchange with Taiwanese reporters. He said
something about Puffy.

Then back inside the press tent to watch TV. Courtney Love and Van Der
Beek presented the award for best on-screen duo (Jackie Chan and Chris
Tucker for “Rush Hour”), and I noted that James’ incomparable cranial form
was not lost on Courtney either. “My crush on you is consuming me,” she
giggled, “so you should just present ’cause I’m gonna jump on your head!”

Will Smith rode onstage on a horse, where he was joined by Dru Hill and
then, oddly, by Stevie Wonder. Obligatory shot of a delighted Jada Pinkett
in the audience. Jada’s so supportive. Televised displays of marital bliss
can be measured in terms of how far forward the spouse sits in his or her
seat and swivels, and she did good.

Adam Sandler won best comedic performance for “The Waterboy,” and gave the
second best acceptance speech of the night. I only caught bits of it, as
Jackie Chan was, at that moment, singing, “I’m back to the saddle again!” in
the tent. Sandler thanked the makers of Paul Masson Chablis for their
affordable product, Vivian the hairdresser for teasing his mother’s hair
into a fabulous bouffant, the Brooklyn Heights pharmacist who recommended
lambskin condoms to his father for neglecting to mention their 96 percent
reliability factor, the makers of the ’65 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme for
their spacious backseat and, finally, his parents, for never treating him
like a mistake.

Another highlight: Jim Carrey accepted the award for best male performance
in full long-haired hippie drag (“Would it kill you to play Foghat once in
a while?”) while smoking a cigarette and punctuating his speech with the
chorus from “Let It Flow.” He thanked his new biker friends, and “all the
young ladies for dressing up so fine. There’s a lot of fine-looking pussy
in here tonight!” Neither Carrey nor Sandler made it to the tent, though,
so that’s all we got.

But Courtney did, and, still aglow from her recent proximity to the Head,
continued her paean to Dawson. “I’m getting written into ‘Dawson’s Creek!’”
she chirped, “I’ll be the hot drama teacher!” Later, Van Der Beek
laughed at the suggestion. “I’ve always said Dawson needs an older woman.”
I’ve always said Dawson needs an enema.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, winners of best kiss and best female
performance, respectively, were unable to attend and sent their thanks via
video. I’m not sure if it was because they were both nominated for both
awards and Cameron walked away with the juicier one, but the award for most
gracious acceptance speech definitely did not go to Gwynnie, who nasally
claimed to be “quite pleased with her big bucket of popcorn.” She neglected
to thank her daddy, sit up straight or weep. Maybe she’d already seen
Cameron’s giddy acceptance tape and taken it personally. “This is my first,
and I got it not for the best hand job, or best kiss, but for best
performance!” We like her better.

Rose McGowan, nominated for best villain, was a Gothic princess in a red
vintage dress. Unlike many of her coevals, she was the picture of
snide-free aplomb, and seemed not at all baffled by all these huddled
people asking her questions. Asked by a weary reporter how she felt about
her award, she deadpanned, “I didn’t win, but I’m glad because a victory
over Chucky would have been hollow, for me.”

And so on. Talent trotted in, reporters asked about their clothes, their
hair products, their movie influences. (The latter really stumped Van
Der Beek, who managed to mumble “Well … ‘Star Wars,’ of course … and … uh …” –
long silence during which you could almost hear the gears grinding to a
halt somewhere deep inside his extraordinarily large — “The Shawshank
Redemption!”) Someone asked Rachel Leigh Cook about all the films being
made about young people. “Oh, that’s changing,” she said. “You’re going to
see a lot of films next year about older people — people going to college,
getting their first apartments, stuff like that.” Older person Jon Stewart
made a funny about his outfit (“I’m wearing relaxed fit jeans from the Gap.
Is that still in?”) then mercilessly toyed with the sincere queries of an
ABC News reporter. (“What was that about? He says he’s working on a news
show, I ask about the news show. Then he says it’s a comedy show. Jon
Stewart being flippy, what am I supposed to do with that?” she asked me
later. I didn’t know.)

I was vaguely aware of host Lisa Kudrow doing Lisa Kudrow all night, and
I’m not sure I get it. Is she angry? Sick of it all? Fed up with humanity
and its foibles? She certainly was scornful of a reporter who asked that
she say hello to the fans back in Argentina. After a long, blank, nostrilly
stare: “Oh. Hello. To the fans. In Argen-tin-a.”

Later, as the haggard reporters piled into the shuttle van and began
taking out their many frustrations on the poor little nose-ringed driver
girl, I tried to make some sense of the tragedy. It wasn’t that the show,
as far as I as could tell, was boring — the film spoofs alone were probably
worth the time. It’s just that a lot of these kids winning awards today,
they’re so cautious, they’re so grown up, they’re so blissfully unaware of
their built-in obsolescence. And some of them have very large, very square heads.

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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