This Sunday, April 13, our favorite, forsaken talk-show host Conan O'Brien will host the MTV Movie Awards, which is probably something he will hate doing. Because, let's face it: The MTV Movie Awards is a rare anachronism —who watches MTV anymore? I ask because the winners of their Movie Awards are voter-based, which presents a bit of an uncomfortable dilemma in their Movie of the Year category: WHAT are they going to do with 12 Years a Slave?
On the Movie Awards site, MTV describes the category as "honor[ing] the most loved theatrical release of the season." Apt phrasing, as "most loved" nods to the voter-based win by viewers. The nominees are: 12 Years a Slave, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, and American Hustle. An odd mish-mash; only at the MTV Movie Awards could The Hunger Games stand up to 12 Years a Slave, and awkwardly, it seems like those two films will be going head to head for the winner of Movie of the Year. No matter who wins, there are going to be some strained acceptance speeches.
Of course, Catching Fire was an epic second installment in the The Hunger Games series, with an incredible new arena and more archery-centric baddassery from everyone's fav, Jennifer Lawrence. But it's an awkward juxtaposition to have it in the running next to 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's painful exploration of slavery in America, whiiiich already won the Academy Award. When it was up against another Lawrence film at the Oscars, American Hustle, the conversation was about race: would the Academy Awards diversify and recognize a black director telling a black story? It did, deservedly and a little late in the game.
But what is the contest here? Did they include 12 Years a Slave in the nominees because they felt pressure to? If it won, Steve McQueen would probably make the most strange acceptance speech of all time: "Thanks for texting in your vote and giving a damn about slavery."
Not to say that young viewers are not passionate or compassionate, but I feel it's an anomaly itself that 12 Years was included in the movie category. The MTV Movie Awards is pointedly a "fun" awards show that doesn't have any obligation to recognize the serious cultural merit of any film. They nominated The Desolation of Smaug, for god's sake.
But 12 Years is going to be the strange, serious elephant in the room this Sunday, and if The Hunger Games wins, will director Francis Lawrence nod to McQueen's film in his acceptance speech? It won't be a snub if 12 Years doesn't win — it just opens a strange conversation about more digestible media alongside serious pieces of cinema.