At this point in MTV's illustrious history, we just don't get the point of the network's annual Video Music Awards. Seriously — when's the last time you channel-surfed past Martha Quinn's old stomping ground and saw a real, honest-to-God music video? Or a clip that plays out in its entirety? Or even one that isn't interrupted by cut-aways to caterwauling mall rats or obscured by a crawl of unintelligible e-mail? That's what we figured. Don't feel bad, though; we can't remember the last time we saw a real video, either. But, while the VMAs may have become a joke, we still wouldn't have missed their 20th presentation for the chance to turn back the clock all the way to the era in which Madonna was wearing Gautier, not Gap, and the most offensive statement uttered on VH1's twisted sister station was "Wubba, wubba, wubba." After all, we need a good laugh as much as the next guy. And if we had skipped the streetwise ceremony, which aired live last night, we wouldn't be able to announce the winners of our own awards, the VMA MVPs. So, without further ado, please join us in saluting...
Best Rabble Rouser: Whether taking pot shots at Kobe Bryant or Ashton Kutcher, mouthy host Chris Rock pulled no punch lines. Our favorite zinger — and mind you, we don't feel good about it in the least — found the ex-Saturday Night Live joker taking aim at the lame duck of American Idol, but winging Superman in the process. "Getting Paula Abdul to judge a singer," he cracked, "is like getting Christopher Reeve to judge a dance contest."
Best Girl Group: Dressed in head-to-toe bridezilla, rival pop tarts Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera traded "Like a Virgin" verses before being turned into window dressing by the arrival on stage of a tuxedoed Mrs. Guy Ritchie and Missy Elliott to perform Madge's new single, "Hollywood." As if that weren't enough to send Queer Eye for the Straight Guy taste-maker Carson into fits, the number concluded with the once-controversial Boy Toy planting lingering kisses on her heiresses apparent.
Best Egomaniac: When Eminem claimed his moon man, main man 50 Cent optimistically joined him at the dais. "50 told me if I win an award, he wants to come out there and hold it for me," the erstwhile Slim Shady explained, "so he can see how heavy they are, 'cause he's probably gonna get a lot of 'em." Nobody likes a bad winner, yo. Make change for 50 Cent already.
Best Girly Man: Eminem once again made us miss the days when the scariest thing on MTV was Cyndi Lauper's hair by paying lip service to peaceable conflict resolution, then beating the stuffing out of a Crank Yankers puppet he said he was mentoring. What we actually liked about the bit, though — and yes, there was something — was that the tough guy had to change his ensemble before allowing himself to be seen on camera again. Precious, no?
Best Wusses: Although Good Charlotte concluded their limp rendition of "Anthem" by trashing their equipment, they still resembled nothing so much as a bunch of colicky Boy Scouts angling for a Revlon endorsement. Perhaps Rock put it best when he said, "Good Charlotte? More like a mediocre Green Day."
Best Imitation of a 1970s Blaxploitation Film: A duet between 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg overloaded the stage with more fur-bearing pimps and scantily-clad hos than there were on New York City's 42nd Street pre-Giuliani. So moved by the sight was Rock that he remarked, "Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. Isn't it nice to see that his dream came true?"
Best Beheading: Sadly, this entirely sensible act of violence occurred off screen. At least we hope it did. Somebody on the technical end — we won't mention any names, because, well, we don't know any — pushed a wrong button, silencing what was to have been a montage honoring Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Duran Duran and, even more horrifying, trapping the elder statesmen at the podium with noted wordsmiths Kelly Osbourne and Avril Lavigne. Poor Simon LeBon was so befuddled that it didn't even occur to him to tutor Lavigne — notoriously clueless about her forebears — on acts from the age when the M in MTV stood for "music," not "mean-spirited."
Best Linguist: Presenting with Snoop, Rock's fellow graduate of the not-ready-for-prime-time players, Adam Sandler, engaged in a dazzling, long-winded demonstrizzle of his abilitizzle to speakizzle Doggiz... Oh, to heck with it. Funny fellow did funny stuff. 'Nuff said.
Best Schizo: The winner is... Beyoncé. The problem is... how on earth are we supposed to describe her hits mix? First the Destiny's Child megababe was lowered from the ceiling upside-down. (Thankfully — or not — by then, she'd changed out of the J.Lo hand-me-down that would have made her a true boob-tube star, were it not for the power of prayer and double-sided tape.) Then she reenacted the big Spectacular! Spectacular! production number from Moulin Rouge with an army of hip-hop Rockettes. Then the I Dream of Jeannie pants came off, the bling went on, there was rapping and booty-shaking and histrionic vocalizing and did we mention booty-shaking? All in all, we liked it. We just didn't get it.
Best Jam Band: Coldplay. Oh, we know — Gwyneth's beau makes music that's so mellow, their albums might as well be underwritten by Sominex. But we'll gladly give them their due, especially when the alternative is Metallica, who sped through a medley of MTV-made smashes, among them "Beat It" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," with all the good cheer of... well, a Coldplay enthusiast. If there were elevator Muzak at Ozzfest, James Hetfield and Co. would be making it. For this, we didn't get to hear the reunited Duran Duran perform? In protest, we're not going to watch MTV ever again. At least not until the 2004 VMAs, anyway.For red carpet scoop from the VMAs, click here.