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January 15, 2009 |

By Ted Boynton | Boozehound Cinephile | January 15, 2009 |

Pop Culture Item Consumed: The 35th Annual People’s Choice Awards from last Wednesday night, coinciding nicely with TK’s anti-anti-pretension rant from Pajiba’s Third Annual (Sh)it List. I may be giving a bit of a spoiler here, but it won’t surprise many readers to learn that the large majority of PCA nominees really, really suck. Not everything, of course, but trust that I was consistently laughing at them, not with them.

According to the disclaimer at the end of this year’s PCAs, the nominees are chosen by polling random people over the age of 13 (!) about their favorite movies, TV shows, and music out of a pool of entrants based on, among other factors, gross revenue generated. I guess that’s not surprising — high revenues tend to indicate either that a lot of people liked something or a few people liked it an enormous amount over and over again. (This is how I got Grandma’s Boy into the PCAs a few years ago.) Still and all, if handing out awards based on earnings seems a bit crass to you, well, just read on for some spine-tingling horrors.

Certainly, the PCAs’ entire goal is to be the anti-Oscars. Aside from rewarding extraordinarily undeserving candidates, the Academy Awards also wrote the book on pretension and snobbery. But all awards shows are, to some extent, masturbatory exercises in awkward self-congratulation. To put things in perspective, if the Oscars were, for example, pleasuring one’s self with perfume-scented, warmth-inducing KY jelly while imagining Christian Bale and Kristen Bell fucking on a sun-dappled beach in Fiji, then the People’s Choice Awards would be chafing away at yourself with a combination of not-gooey-enough bargain conditioner mixed with your own vomit-scented spit while lying on a scratch-and-sniff bedspread at Motel 6 making do with an aging Mary Hart because there’s only one channel in color while the trucker in the next room take a noisy, flu-induced shit.

Beverage Consumed: Jack and Coke. Heavy on the Jack. With apologies to those of you who enjoy this drink, it seemed a perfect fit for something as lowbrow and full of empty, diluted calories as the PCAs.

Summary of Action: As if having Queen Latifah as host wasn’t enough warning that it was going to be a rocky ride, the intro teaser for the galazy of stars (okay, maybe just a solar system; a small, backwater solar system) featured as presenters and inexplicable guests proudly listed off the following collection of mutts and D-listers: David Boreaniz, Tom Cavanaugh, Jennifer Esposito, Teri Hatcher, Eric McCormack, Shamarr Moore (WTF?), Kid Rock, Anna Lynne McCord, Jay Mohr, Robin Tunney, and the death knell of all that is entertaining, Robin Williams. I’m not sure if that’s Hollywood Purgatory or Hollywood Limbo, but Kid Rock makes my eyes spontaneously weep sulphuric acid, and Robin Williams should have been sent to “my uncle’s farm” years ago, where he could “run in meadows” and “play with other hack comics” and not at all be “drowned in a burlap sack,” no, never. Ever.

Now, imagine the most awkwardly painful host introduction you can think of. Now make it worse. No, worse than that. No, I want some goddamn orphans crying blood. Okay, that’s pretty good, and Optimus Rhyme, you’re actually frightening me a little. But it’s still not bad enough.

Queen Latifah (QL, from here on, which may also stand for Queef Lighter, at your option), dialed up to 7.5 on the Sassy Black-ometer, comes out and says “Yeeeaaaahhhhh, yeeeaaaaahhhh” a couple of times, then begins saying, loudly and, I foolishly hoped, rhetorically, “Can we make the people laugh?” She walks into the front of the audience to Adam Sandler and Robin Williams. Here is the actual transcript:

QL: Can we make the people laugh?
Sandler: [trademark, apropos-of-nothing man-child voice] Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh!
QL: Can we make the people laugh?
Sandler: [trademark, apropos-of-nothing man-child voice] Yeeessss we can!
(not a typo, it actually happened twice)
QL: I said, can we make the people laugh?
Williams: [cliché ghetto voice that stopped being funny ten years before the first time he used it] Yeesss we can!

At which point, Mrs. socalled got up, left the room, and did not return. That was seven days ago. Remember the first adult colonist the Space Marines find in Aliens, the one who scares the crap out of everybody by unexpectedly opening her eyes and saying, “Please … kill me,” then a little alien fucker bursts out of her stomach? I envied that person for the next two hours.

Ominous Portent Award: The first statuette handed out is for Favorite Funny Man. I’m going to list the actual nominees and a fake list, and you guess which is the real one and which one I thought up in the ten seconds after they announced the real one. No cheating!

Jason Segel / Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Seth Rogen / Zack & Miri Make a Porno
Paul Rudd / Role Models

Steve Carell / Get Smart
Jim Carrey / Yes Man
Adam Sandler / Bedtime Stories

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you which is the real one. Now I’m not saying that Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Zack & Miri or Role Models was a great comedy — 2008 was just a weak year for comedies. Nor am I suggesting that the Apatow Mafia should be hailed as head and shoulders above everyone else trying to be funny, though that’s worthy of consideration. But I think it’s an indictment of the voting format when the nominees are two guys whose best years are far, far behind them, and another guy who was the lead in one good comedy three years ago. Fuck, man, Harold and Kumar Go to Guantanamo was ten times funnier than any of the nominated films.

As Long As That’s After Happy Gilmore, I Say “Do It!” Award: When Sandler wins, he says in his acceptance speech, “I make my movies for the people. If I’d made my movies for the critics I’d have hung myself twenty years ago.” Yes, I’m sure that’s why he signed on for Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Stoopid critics, only massive numbers of trailer park denizens, man-child soccer dads, and frat boys could appreciate those films. (Oh, wait — they both tanked commercially but scored solid critic reviews? But what happened to that fabled Sandler integrity to “the people”?)

What Chance Have White Men Had in This Country Anyway? Award: What a relief that they have an award for Favorite Star Under 35; young people have a really difficult time competing against older folks in show business.

TMQ Memorial “We’re All Professionals Here” Award: After Ellen DeGeneres edges David Letterman and [snicker] Regis & Kelly for Favorite Talk Show Host, we return from a commercial break and the cameras catch some crew members still on stage. At first I thought maybe the PCAs were so in love with “the people” that they herded some in off the street to run the equipment, but it turns out there’s a special crew to periodically hose down Queen Latifah while she’s out of her tank. QL is in full-on Sassy Mode, doing a lot of “whoo-whoo-whoo”-ing and yelling about half her lines.

It’s True, Steve, Comedy Is Not Pretty Award: So it turns out that, in addition to the I’m-laughing-at-you-not-with-you Favorite Funny Man award, there’s a separate Favorite Comedy Movie award. Since I’m all about recycling gags, here we go again: Pick out the real list of three nominees.

27 Dresses
Get Smart
Mamma Mia

Pineapple Express
Tropic Thunder
Burn After Reading

Here’s a hint: The ones that actually contained the occasional chuckle or creative idea weren’t nominated. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade (though I would enjoy taking an epic, A League of Their Own piss all over this particular parade), but even the occasional head-trauma victim who enjoyed Mamma Mia would tell you that scientists have not yet determined whether it’s a movie, much less a comedy. The only amusing things about Mamma Mia are (a) the wealth of jokes that can be made at its expense and (b) the idea that Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Sjkaaarsgylenhaal would have competed for the same woman at some point. (Eh. I haven’t actually seen the movie.)

The worst part? 27 Dresses won.

Let me repeat that.

27 Dresses was the PCA Favorite Comedy Movie. I actually sat through part of this abomination recently to see if it might merit a Real Time Review — I must inform you that, now that the U.S. Attorney-General will no longer tolerate torture, the 27D-RTR is off the table — and I gleefully multi-tasked by driving roofing nails through my feet to distract me from the assault on my frontal lobe.

Entire Pitch for 27 Dresses: Dipshit No. 1 - “Hey, here’s an idea! Let’s have Katherine Heigl reprise her role as the unlikeable, only-unfunny part of Knocked Up, except we’ll make her character the whole movie.” Dipshit No. 2 - “No, it needs a tweak. Let’s turn the normally likeable James Marsden into a creepy stalker.” Dipshit No. 1 - “It screams ‘hit’!”

She’s Almost Back to Sleeping in Her Car Award: From the utter Life-Non-Sequitur Department, here’s Jewel as the roaming sideline reporter interviewing passersby to give away — I’m not making this up — a “VIP Pass to the CVS Pharmacy Backstage Beauty Studio,” complete with makeover. It doesn’t really compare to the Spirit Awards’ Super Duper Tru Value Hardware Fashion Show, but they can’t all be winners.

Jewel: Hi, would you like to answer a question for a free makeover?
Random Unfortunate: No, I’d like to go into the Starbucks you’re blocking. Wait a minute, are you Renee Zellwegger?
Jewel: Who? Hey, where are you going? [starts to run after fleeing interviewee] Wait! Don’t you want to hear my new poem, “A Week Without Knees”?
Random Unfortunate: [slashes own throat, sets self on fire, runs in front of speeding bus]

Now You’re Just Fucking With Us Award: See if you can figure out which of these was the PCA nominee trio for Favorite Dramatic Movie — extra degree of difficulty with multiple lists.

Revolutionary Road
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

The Secret Life of Bees
Eagle Eye

The Dark Knight

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rachel Getting Married
Brideshead Revisited

Hint: Tonight’s host is in one of them; in fact, the winner. If you guessed the list in which all three films are complete rat chum, you’re a winner!

Is That Klassy or Qlassy? Award: After Reese Witherspoon elbows aside Angelina Jolie and Keira Knightley for Favorite Female Movie Star, the camera cuts to Kate Hudson sitting in the audience … energetically chewing gum as if it has a shitty-rom-com center. This would be a nice contrast with perceived class act Witherspoon, except that moments later, when asked which is her favorite character that she’s played, Witherspoon responds “Elle Woods.” Yes, Elle Woods of Legally Blonde. Not Tracy Flick. Not June Carter Cash. Elle Fucking Woods, a role that would be suitable for a certain talentless offspring of Private Benjamin, which lead us to …

Miss Teen USA South Carolina Award: Is there a greater waste of space in Hollywood than Kate Hudson, who by the way is your 2009 PCA winner for Favorite Leading Lady? Aside from being a how-to guide for murdering the spirit of aspiring film students, her filmography may be the longest active crusty skidmark of hideously shitty movies that cost a fair amount to make. Since Almost Famous, which was good in spite of her, she’s got nine horrible romantic comedies blended with Four Feathers and The Skeleton Key — she has to be closing in on a half-billion dollars of studio money that might as well have been set on fire. Actually, that would have been a better use if it warmed up Robert Downey, Jr.’s jacuzzi or something. Put another way, instead of fueling our hatred, the backers of atrocities like Alex & Emma and Fool’s Gold could have funded 2,500 daring indie projects like Swingers. So that was money well spent.

Upon winning, Hudson thanked, who else, “the people”: “It’s because of you guys that I continue to get jobs.” Well, now we know the target of the next MurderTank mission — everyone not in possession of a Pajiba Kool Kids Kard (decoder ring sold separately). Later, Hudson was interviewed about her triumph, and she had this to say: “I mean, it’s really about our fans, you know, it’s why we love doing what we do, and to have people enjoy what we do is, like [waves hands/shakes head], you know, that’s it. So, it’s awesome.” I’m having a mini-stroke. Jack and Coke, stat!

Beyond the generally ridiculous nominees, the content of the show is punishingly stupid and aggressively unentertaining. Every segue is painfully awkward and graceless; every “joke” is actually an empty remark said slowly in loud-happy voice; and throughout the night a comment window in the lower left corner of the screen allows viewers gush by e-mail with such insights as “Queen Latifah is da bomb! She is so real and uncompromising.” Yes sirree, she refused to compromise her decision to sell the tiny shred of credibility she clings to so that she could pimp the DVD release of The Secret Life of Bees and her upcoming album — complete with PCA tie-in gimmick allowing a viewer to contribute a song!

While the TV ratings weren’t impressive, the PCAs won the night for CBS, which means a fair number of viewers were treated to two hours that really felt more decade-ish. There was more puerile content than one person could possibly mock properly, but if I try to describe it to you, your face will melt like a Nazi opening the Ark of the Covenant. Suffice to say Rascal Flatts was prominently featured. “Two and a Half Men” won Favorite Television Comedy. And a series of (relatively) major awards was reduced to a montage because the artists involved had the good sense not to attend. Seriously, not showing up at the PCAs is a good way to ensure that either you won’t win or you’ll be shoehorned into a pastiche of clips so that no one will remember that you won.

In fairness, it wasn’t all willfully retarded. The Dark Knight got a lot of love, winning five awards — though not Favorite Dramatic Movie. Hellz no, the PCAs created a separate category, Favorite Superhero Movie. Which really winnows the field, you know? It really took away the suspense of whether Hellboy 2: The Charlie Daniels Rematch had a chance. And I really thought they took it too far when Indiana Jones won Favorite Former Action Hero Who Shit the Bed.

Tina Fey won for Favorite Funny Female Star, though she got montaged because she was home relaxing her pores. Wall-E won Favorite Family Film, leading me to ponder whether a single voter understood that the film’s entire reason for existing is to critique PCA voters’ garbage addictions and 48-inch waists. Hugh Laurie won an acting award for “House” (Favorite Cranky Brit?), which isn’t my cup of tea but which I grasp as a good quality product. And Seal gave an impressive a capella performance that belonged in a significantly more important awards show.

All of which goes to TK’s point: Popularity, in itself, doesn’t make something unworthy, and Pajiba doesn’t stand for that idea. But a fair intellectual analysis cannot help but note that popularity and the turd quotient continue to correlate strongly. And someone needs to keep pointing that out.

How the Pairing Held Up: Pretty perfectly; Jack and Coke provides a syrupy sweet buzz that is the comfort food needed to survive a two-hour viral infection like the PCAs. Bear in mind, however, that this was a professional critic on a closed course; please do not try this at home.

Overall Rating:Well, since I bothered to show up, I’m giving myself a PCA.

Ted Boynton is a dedicated sot who plans to leave his barstool to stalk Whit Stillman, now that someone has found Whit Stillman. Ted also manages to hold down a job and a wife, three hours each per day, whether they need it or not. Readers may scold, hector, admonish or taunt Ted by e-mailing him at [email protected]

The 35th Annual People's Choice Awards : Boozehound Cinephile / Ted Boynton

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