The Academy Awards are still the definitive awards show (ostensibly), but the general consensus seems to be that they've grown a little stale. Or a lot stale. The general consensus seems to be that they've grown some degree of stale. And even though the Oscars recently celebrated their 85th annual occurrence, they're still having trouble figuring out what works and what doesn't – what it is that people want to see when they sit down to watch a celebration of the year in film.
The MTV Movie Awards, the latest edition of which airs this Sunday night, have never had that problem. While they occupy a very different place in the movie world, the more casual nature of the program has ensured that it's consistently fun and playful (and short), and the folks over at the Academy might should probably pay attention if they want to avoid a repeat of this year's debacle.
So with that in mind, here are five lessons that the Academy Awards could take from the MTV Movie Awards:
If there's one thing that's been constant about the MTV Movie Awards, it's that they have not been afraid to evolve. Not just in terms of the types of films they respond to (though it's hard to imagine that "JFK" and "Bugsy" were among the nominees at the very first MTV Movie Awards in 1992) but also in their ability to shake up categories. "Best Scared As Sh*t Performance" sounds gratuitously silly, but it's a solid way to show appreciation for the teen horror genre that has been so popular with MTV viewers in the last decade. I'm not saying that the Oscars should be adding new categories every year and trying to sound cooler, but perhaps a small degree of flexibility? I've been going hoarse for years yelling about how the Original Score and Original Song categories need to be opened up to reflect the reality of the filmmaking process in 2013, but thus far, tradition has won out.
Honor Your Elders
In MTV's case, that means Will Ferrell, as horrifying as it might be to contemplate that. He's getting their "Comedic Genius Video Vanguard Artist of the Millennium Award" this year. The presentation will be held during the show, televised in full, and may or may not feature Ferrell in character as Ron Burgundy. But there it will be, for the entire viewing audience to watch.
The Oscars have taken to handing out their Lifetime Achievement awards at a separate ceremony, weeks before, away from the hustle and bustle of the real show. This has caused a good bit of consternation among Oscar fans, seeing it as a sign of disrespect to their elders. And, look, watching a Paramount executive speak for five minutes after accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is probably nobody's idea of a good time, but if Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes proved anything, it's that Lifetime Achievement awards can end up being the most TV-friendly moments of all.
Look At All Parts of the Moviemaking Experience
I will admit that I am probably the only person who is advocating that the Oscars actually be a longer awards show, but I could probably name a half-dozen more categories they could include, if they really wanted to honor everything worth honoring the moviemaking business. Best Stunt Coordination/Performances. Best Casting. Best Trailer. If you're going to be THE movie awards show, do it up right.
The MTV Movie Awards don't go that deep into the moviemaking well either, but they do give a pretty good scan of the moviemaking experience that their demographic enjoys. That means onscreen badasses, shirtless performances, "WTF moments," what have you. Because the MTV audience wants memorable moments that everybody was talking about. Those moments that transcended the fragmented spheres of genres and media and made everybody pay attention to the same thing. They're serving their audience. The Oscars should serve theirs. Which reminds me ...
Stay In Your Lane
The temptation when discussing the lessons that the Oscars should take from the MTV Movie Awards is that they should get younger, cooler, less stuffy and musty. I'm here to tell you that that's all wrong. There's something positively Cool Dad about when the Oscars try to feel hip. It's very much like watching an adult say the word "hip." The second it comes out of your mouth, you've lost it. MTV goes aggressively for the youth market because that's who's watching. They're not watching the Oscars. Not in numbers that advertisers like to see. Which is a problem because of demographics and disposable income and yada yada. I get it. Economics. But nothing good has ever come of the Oscars pretending to be something they're not (case in point: Seth MacFarlane).
Young people watch the MTV Movie Awards. Movie People watch the Oscars. Young people who grow up to be Movie People will watch the Oscars. Provided the Oscars are still about movies. That's where "stay in your lane" comes in. Play to the audience you have. Don't flail about looking for an audience and lose yourselves in the process. MTV isn't scrambling to honor Michael Haneke just to look smarter than they are. The Academy doesn't need to pretend to like "Ted" just to seem cooler.
Recognize the Utter Brilliance of Salma Hayek's Performance in "Savages."