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Edgy, pushed to the edge

Sarah Silverman took jabs at Paris Hilton. Jack Nicholson swore. And the MTV Movie Awards shifted realms.

June 05, 2007|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

The folks at MTV have long prided themselves on edgy award shows that are more about pushing the envelope than opening them. On Sunday, however, the network took the envelope, crumpled it, dipped it in the toilet and threw it in the face of the closest celebrity. Was it entertaining? Sometimes. Was it relentlessly sour? Absolutely.

Where to begin? The 2007 MTV Movie Awards featured a boozy Jack Nicholson dropping F-bombs on stage, Paris Hilton looking near tears when the Gibson Amphitheatre crowd lustily cheered the proposal that she be sent off to jail early. Then host Sarah Silverman suggested that the bars of Hilton's cell should also be painted to look like penises so the heiress would feel at home. And that was all before the first commercial break.

The MTV Movie Awards have always been more of an extended commercial for Hollywood blockbusters than an actual living, breathing event and, traditionally, the memorable pop-culture highlight moments have belonged to its slinkier older sister, the MTV Video Music Awards. But this year, with much fanfare, the network brought in Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice," "Survivor") as executive producer and tapped Silverman, the girl with the pretty face and stunningly filthy mouth.

Silverman had to tone her material down for the live broadcast but still tossed plenty of Molotov jokes, such as a riff on the nature of Tobey Maguire's genitalia and the cruel beat-down on Hilton. The show's cameras zoomed in on Hilton in the audience and, for a moment, it seemed possible to actually feel sorry for her. Silverman shook her head and dropped an ad-lib that could have been the slogan for the night: "Why do I feel dirty?"

Dirty is as dirty does. When fans voted that the award for best on-screen kiss (what, you were expecting a foreign film category?) should go to Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen for their lip-lock in "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," it was a no-brainer that they would repeat their gooey guy smooch during their acceptance speech. But who expected them to grope, writhe and ride each other on stage?

The watchword of the night was "rehab." Baron Cohen, accepting the award for best comedic performance, gave one of his rambling trademark speeches about his alter ego, Borat Sagdiyev, getting drunk on "fermented horse urine" and ending up in clean-up custody; Silverman took a few shots at Lindsay Lohan and her recent 12-step travails; there was a short spoof film called "Texas Chainsaw Rehab"; and British chanteuse Amy Winehouse came out to perform her hit, "Rehab," which, oddly, seemed to be an especially sober performance.

There was plenty of star power, that's for sure. Nicholson, wobbly and a bit perplexed by the whole occasion ("I wasn't sure," he slurred, "about this show tonight"), won for best villain, in "The Departed." Johnny Depp got an avalanche of applause for his pirate work and winning the trophy for best performance, but (unlike Nicholson) the bespectacled expatriate seemed horribly out of place, a shy artiste dragged from a cafe and into a strip club.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" was given the award for best picture, but the real winner of the night seemed to be "Transformers," the upcoming Michael Bay movie that was advertised on overhead screens before the show started. The cast of the robot movie came on stage twice and seemed unsure how to speak or act. Maybe it was the awkwardness of winning an award in the new category of "best summer movie you haven't seen." Movies never had to be great to win at this show; now they don't even have to be released.

"I'm not sure what to say," actor Josh Duhamel told the crowd. Then he remembered: "It comes out July 4."

There was a contest for best amateur spoof film (the winner melded "300" with "United 93"), but the best homemade movie of the night was the video sent in by young Jaden Smith, who won the award for breakthrough performance for starring with his dad, Will Smith, in "The Pursuit of Happyness." The family video was cute, silly and lighthearted, unlike most of the show. Luckily, the instant it was over, the guy assigned to warming up the crowd during commercials got things back to where they belonged: He informed the crowd that Hilton had checked herself into jail early.

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