Last year I used the occasion of the 21st annual MTV Movie Awards as an excuse to go back in time to the day-glo, New Jack Swing days of 1992 for a look at the network’s first stab at recognizing the “best” in filmed entertainment. This year, I figured why not keep it going as the 22nd annual gears up for this evening? Let’s step back in the time machine and zip back to the pop culturally nebulous days of 1993 and the second annual MTV Movie Awards show.
To set the scene, artists were winning a big piece of the ownership pie with the new Image Comics comic book label, grunge was already yielding on the radio waves to something called “alternative,” Al-Quaeda took its first shot at the World Trade Center, John Wayne Bobbitt exploded onto the world stage (unfortunately for him) and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was set to become a well-worn phrase.
“Unforgiven” won the Best Picture Oscar in March, but Clint Eastwood’s western masterpiece wouldn’t receive a single notice from MTV. Instead, the network hailed courtroom drama “A Few Good Men,” which is odd when you think about it in today’s context. When the MTV Movie Awards first started, there at least seemed to be a quasi-serious eye toward prestige. But if you were to put this show on now, I feel pretty confident that the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner vehicle “The Bodyguard” (which, after all, led the way with nominations) would dominate every single category. Yet it only picked up one golden popcorn statue. (Speaking of which, this was the first year the well-known trophy would be used, subbing in for the bulky film reel prize MTV used the year before.)
If not “The Bodyguard,” surely sultry thriller “Basic Instinct,” or Tim Burton’s sequel “Batman Returns” would dominate. But no, it was Rob Reiner’s Oscar nominee from a play by Aaron Sorkin. Sure, it wasn’t unapproachable for younger audiences, but it’s always just stood out as interesting to me that the more pop-ish stuff sat it out, not that I think “The Bodyguard” is a masterpiece or anything.
Anyway, musical performances on the show came from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart (whose Van Morrison cover “Have I Told You Lately” was keeping him young) and Stone Temple Pilots. Eddie Murphy, also nominated here and there for his film “Boomerang,” was our host.
So, with the memories back, let’s dig in…
BEST MOVIE — “A Few Good Men”
And here it is. Of the nominees, I would personally have gone with Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” a towering biopic in a fashion only he could have managed. I would have even been cool with an “Aladdin” win. But it was the only Oscar nominated movie of the bunch that took the prize, and its only one at that. Based on how the awards panned out otherwise, one might have expected a “Basic Instinct” victory. (Or an “Untamed Heart” nomination.) And, as noted, I’m just surprised “The Bodyguard” didn’t walk out of there victorious.
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE — Denzel Washington in “Malcolm X”
The best choice, no question. Washington’s performance probably deserved the Oscar, too. But kudos for avoiding heart throb bait in Kevin Costner (“The Bodyguard”), Tom Cruise (“A Few Good Men”) and Michael Douglas (“Basic Instinct”). No disrespect to “A Few Good Men” star Jack Nicholson, also nominated, for keeping him out of the “heart throb” discussion. We all know you’re a stud, Jack.
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE — Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”
It was a big coming out year for Sharon Stone, taking a hard left into soft core-ish eroticism here and later in the year with “Sliver.” I’d say it’s the right call. But again, it’s surprising the Whitney Houston temptation was avoided. The other nominees were Geena Davis (“A League of Their Own”), Whoopi Goldberg (“Sister Act”) and Demi Moore (“A Few Good Men”).
MOST DESIRABLE MALE — Christian Slater in “Untamed Heart”
Ah, “Untamed Heart.” The “Silver Linings Playbook” of 1992. I kid. Kind of. Slater fended off Kevin Costner (“The Bodyguard”), Tom Cruise (“Far and Away”), Mel Gibson (“Lethal Weapon 3”) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (“Nowhere to Run”). No easy feat. Well, maybe Van Damme wasn’t much competition.
MOST DESIRABLE FEMALE — Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”
Honestly? This was entering the era of “Kim Basinger is the hottest woman who ever lived” in my book. She had “The Real McCoy” and “The Getaway” around the corner, the apex of that. So I might have gone with her work in “Cool World” in this category (said my 11-year-old self). But you can understand why Stone picked up another popcorn here. I mean, come on — that shot… Anyway, the other nominees were Halle Berry (“Boomerang”), Madonna (“Body of Evidence”) and Michelle Pfeiffer (“Batman Returns”). Now that I think about it, Pfeiffer had a strong argument here.
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE — Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny”
Hey, the only Academy Award winner to take a popcorn statue this year! Tomei won the Oscar for this same performance just a few months prior. (Or did Jack Palance REALLY read the wrong name?) This was just icing on an already delicious cake for her, and one of two prizes she’d win that night. Still, Whitney Houston gets passed over again. The other nominees were Halle Berry (“Boomerang”), Kathy Jajimy (“Sister Act”) and Rosie O’Donnell (“A League of Their Own”).
BEST ON-SCREEN DUO — Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon 3”
If it’s me? “White Men Can’t Jump” stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes walk away with this one. “You can put a cat in the oven, but that don’t make it a biscuit!” Anyway, I guess you have to go with Gibson and Glover at the height of a franchise’s popularity. The other nominees were Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas (“Basic Instinct”), Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner (“The Bodyguard”) and Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise (“Far and Away”).
BEST VILLAIN — Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Single White Female”
Whoa. “Single White Female.” Haven’t thought of that one in a while. A fun win for Leigh, who did a good job of playing certifiably psycho in Barbet Schroeder’s thriller. Wait, doesn’t Steven Weber die in, like, an awful way in that movie? I just had a flash. Anyway, Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” might have been a better choice. Or Danny DeVito in “Batman Returns.” Ray Liotta was also nominated for “Unlawful Entry.” Wait, just four nominees? No room for Gene Hackman in “Unforgiven?” Fine.
BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE — Robin Williams in “Aladdin”
A pretty inspired choice. And remember, Williams had people taking voice work a little more seriously that year, as he also won a special Golden Globe award for the film. “Groundhog Day” has lived on as a gem of comedy, so Bill Murray would have been a nice choice, but it’s hard to argue here. The other nominees were Whoopi Goldberg (“Sister Act”), Eddie Murphy (“Boomerang”) and Joe Pesci (“My Cousin Vinny”).
BEST SONG FROM A MOVIE — “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard”
Finally “The Bodyguard” wins something, it’s only award, in fact. And against some stellar competition. The biggest single of the year was Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” nominated from “Boomerang.” Sting brought Eric Clapton on to jazzily juice up his song “It’s Probably Me” for “Lethal Weapon 3” (may have been my choice). The Oscar-winning “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” was in the mix, and then there’s Alice in Chains with “Would?” from Cameron Crowe’s “Singles.” Truly an awesome lineup.
BEST KISS — Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei in “Untamed Heart”
The “Untamed Heart” duo picks up their second prizes of the night. How sweet. I would have gone with Michelle Pfeiffer’s lick on Michael Keaton in “Batman Returns.” The other nominees were Pauline Brailsford and Tom Hanks (“A League of Their Own” and kind of a stunt nod), Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman (“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”), Mel Gibson and Rene Russo (“Lethal Weapon 3”) and Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez (“White Men Can’t Jump”).
BEST ACTION SEQUENCE — “Lethal Weapon 3”
Eh, good enough, I guess. It was a pretty sweet sequence (the motorcycle chase and crash), and the stuff nominated from “Alien 3” (though that one was creative), “Alive: The Miracle of the Andes,” “Far and Away” (kidding me?) and “Under Siege” wasn’t as compelling.
Elsewhere that evening, director Carl Franklin (whose work can lately be seen in Netflix’s “House of Cards”) won the Best New Filmmaker prize for “One False Move,” while “Lethal Weapon 3” star Mel Gibson helped pay tribute to The Three Stooges with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The nominees for the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, hosted by Rebel Wilson, include “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Django Unchained,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Ted,” and on the whole, the slate was a lot less embarrassing than it has been in recent years. Even “Twilight” finally got the shaft as that pandering has begun to subside (or maybe the fan base is just growing up).
Don’t forget to check out our predictions for what to expect, and tune in tonight to see which films and stars walk away with the popcorn this year. Dan Fienberg will be live-blogging the fun over at The Fien Print.