On any given year, the People’s Choice Awards is the most irrelevant and un-entertaining movie awards show on television, only narrowly beating out the MTV Movie Awards. This year, with the writers’ strike crippling its ability to at least attract famous pretty people, the People’s Choice Awards was doubly inane. Hosted by Queen Latifah on a closed set somewhere and featuring endless highlights from the past and pre-recorded thank you speeches from the few artists they could corner on camera, it was pretty much little more than a demonstration of the lengths a television network will go to sucker in viewers by selling false expectations.
A little awards show history first: Before 2005, the People’s Choice Awards used to be decided by Gallup polls that actually gave the average Joe the chance to nominate whomever or whatever they wanted to inapplicable categories. Then some genius decided they should switch to Internet voting, and offer voters only three of their own nominees which are chosen by mysterious methods.
First off, you can abuse Internet voting, so how could anyone ever take these results seriously as expressions of the national collective? Second, the nominees are so baffling I doubt even producers could explain how they make the cut. For example, Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition was nominated for Favorite Competition Reality Show. Now, there isn’t even a competition on the show, unless they’re referring to the selection process its producers go through in choosing which down-on-their-luck family to generously help. Then, of course, one has to wonder how Drew Barrymore ends up nominated for Favorite Leading Lady for Music and Lyrics, a movie nobody including she saw – then actually wins – or how Joaquin Phoenix is nominated for Favorite Leading Man for We Own the Night, a movie nobody including he saw (seriously, he doesn’t watch his own movies) – then actually won for it!
This is all a longwinded way of saying that the People’s Choice Awards is just an excuse for major movie stars and recording artists who otherwise wouldn’t be given awards, you know, the chance to be given awards. Sort of like the MTV Movie Awards or the Kid’s Choice Awards. Hell, they even seem to make up random categories so that popular -- but not necessarily real, worthy artists or projects -- can be nominated and then accepted by celebrities “the people” would like to hear speak into a camera; “Favorite Action Movie,” “Favorite Funny Female Star,” “Favorite On Screen Match Up,” “Favorite Sci-Fi Show,” and “Favorite Threequel” are all examples of this. Why not add categories like “Favorite On Screen Death,” “Favorite Duet by Otherwise Bad Singers,” or “Favorite Nude Scene” to really spice things up? After all, they’re no more or less legitimate than a lot of these other categories.
Ultimately, the most despicable element of the 34th Annual People’s Choice Awards was the choice of the producers not to mention the writers’ strike. Queen Latifah mentioned it in passing, as if it was a technical inconvenience that mechanics might have cleared up later this week. Even more confusing was how many of the stars who did offer up video thank yous opted not to mention the strike either. Reese Witherspoon insisted actors were nothing without writers, but didn’t say she stood with them. Paul Rudd offered a smirk and a wink. But only Joaquin Phoenix was willing to go out on a ledge, a la Bob Dylan and that lame British dude in Love Actually, by using cards to communicate what he had to say because he was, he pointed out, speechless without writers. Lowering the cards, he finally spoke directly to the producers: “What’s wrong with you people?”
It was the only the only highlight of the night, but it was a great one at that.