The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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The lovely Ms. Helfer Vernon was followed by the somewhat less lovely David Paymer. A first-rate character actor who is also directing television these days, Paymer is still best known for his roles in “City Slickers” and his very justly Oscar nominated turn opposite Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night.” He responded to my brilliant question, about whether he’s gotten any negative feedback from bankers for his memorably oily portrayal in Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” with all the seriousness it deserved.

“No one’s complained but they should realize that if they evict poor people from their homes then they’re gonna get dragged to hell!” he said with a grin that would make Paymer a great old-school TV horror movie host, if they still had those.

Paymer was followed by another terrific supporting player from Raimi’s cult not-yet-hit, Dileep Rao. Rao was not only previously interviewed by PH Editor Will Harris, but when I mentioned it, he proudly described Harris as “a bud of mine — I knew him back in the day.” (Harris and Rao bonded primarily online as fans of the Trashcan Sinatras, a Scottish pop band.)

The sad truth was that, after sincerely complimenting him on his on-the-money turn in the film, I had nothing interesting to ask the actor. So, I resorted to the the eternal fall back: “What are you doing next?” His answer was a new production he’s very excited but was allowed to say absolutely nothing about. That led to a discussion of another little upcoming movie he will be in, James Cameron‘s much ballyhooed, yet also still mostly top-secret 3-D sfx/CGI extravaganza, “Avatar.” Naturally, there’s not much he can say about that.  “I think they do that so the story stays intact.” Hard to disagree, but a bit limiting.

Another reporter asked him if anything spooky happened on the set of “Drag Me,” and Rao gamely came up with an anecdote about an ill-tempered goat, which doesn’t quite add up to a supernatural occurrence, but that’s probably because supernatural occurrences are, you know, fictional. Anyhow, it was time for Mr. Rao to get going. Fortunately, the interview with Will has plenty of good stuff. If only I’d remembered he was a “Jeopardy” winner I could have at least asked him what question finally sent him off the show. Nice guy, though.

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Soon, we watched Quentin Tarantino and Keith Richard stroll by us at warp speed and it was time to retire to my blogger’s station where I got to watch the show…on a big screen TV in a tent a few hundred feet away from the actual festivities. Oh, the glamorous life of the entertainment press.

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Now, the consensus on the Scream awards is that it’s a loose, fun evening. And that’s largely true if you ignore some pretty strange or artistically indefensible award choices by the fans. (A terrific cover of Bob Dylan‘s masterpiece, “Desolation Row,” by My Chemical Romance from “Watchmen” defeated by some Linkin Park ditty from the second “Transformers” movie? Ouch. ) Another interesting quirk of the evening that was a small problem for me, but most fans will doubtless dig, is that Spike TV’s standards and practices folks seemingly have no issue at all with gore. It wasn’t only during the “Best Mutiliation” award that this gore-phobe had to turn away from the television set.

The first award of the night was typically offbeat in that it went to a movie that isn’t even finished yet. The “most anticipated fantasy film” award went to Tim Burton‘s upcoming version of “Alice in Wonderland.” That proved to be a pretty good excuse to make that film’s Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp, appear on stage for the first of two times that evening.

And that led to one of the better quips in the evening when the next presenter turned out to be comic actor Justin “I’m a Mac” Long, representing his straight-man gig in “Drag Me to Hell.” Long confessed his feelings of inadequacy in comparison to Depp. “I feel like Richard Greico,” he said, risking a “21 Jump Street” gag. Moving to the award for “Best Science Fiction Actress” Long admitted that his “first boner” could either be attributed to Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia or “the triple-boobed Martian in ‘Total Recall.'” The award itself seemed to have been based more on pulchritude than on acting skill as it went to…wait for it…Megan Fox for that notorious piece of Oscar-bait, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

The actress who, as described by yours truly, got into some hot water a while back for comparing thud-and-blunder specialist director Michael Bay to Hitler (Holy Godwin’s Law, Batman!) tried hard to sound a sincere note and she certainly gave her attempt a unique ring. I’ll resist my tendency to mock and simply present the moment as is.

Megan Fox Ends the Rumors | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

An entertaining combination of unintentional and intentional amusement occurred a bit later when 6’4″ Alexander Skarsgard of “True Blood” accepted his “Best Villain” award at a mike that had apparently been set up for the much shorter Kate Bosworth. Gamely leaning down, Skarsgard said that he was proud to be named the “most evil man in Hollywood” and dedicated his award to his fifth grade wood shop teacher in Sweden. “He was a very evil man and he inspires me.”

Eventually, there was the first award that went to something I’d both seen and respected. “Watchmen” — a flawed but accomplished film — won for “Best Comic Book Movie.” (If Frank Miller’s soulless travesty of “The Spirit” which, unbelievably enough, was also nominated, had won I believe the very earth would have opened up and swallowed us whole.) Accepting the award was the film’s perfectly scary Rorschach, Jackie Earle Haley, who responded with appropriate enthusiasm. “This rocks out loud!” He then wondered what director Zack Snyder would say if here there: “This is awesome!” That actually does sound like Snyder.

Then, for me, a highlight — a new trailer for Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming version of Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. It looks like Paramount is going for the full horror treatment in marketing the film, with this trailer at least. It’ll be interesting to see just how scary, or not, the new film is. One thing I’d bet on, however, about the movie: If Marty wants us to be scared, we’ll be scared.

Then, Johnny Depp comes back and I start to get annoyed. Not by Depp, but by the youngish guy next to me whose tweeting obsessively while having an argument with either his girlfriend, sister, or coworker, I couldn’t quite tell. (Let’s hope she isn’t all three.) Was he even watching? And, two rows back I’m being treated to a live commentary one older guy’s inside-dope on what’s going on behind the scenes that makes absolutely no sense. Fortunately, for you, however, the Spike TV people did provide a short video clip of the evening’s most historic moment.

Johnny Depp Honors Kieth Richards | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

Nice to see Keith looking about as hale and healthy as you can expect the guy to be, and in fine verbal form as well. His quotable line for the evening referred to a 1989 lifetime achievement award. “I liked the ‘living legend,’ that was all right, but immortal is even better.”

The next presenter was Jennifer Carpenter who was announced as the winner for “Best Supporting Actress” for her work as the title’s character’s endearingly emotional, foul-mouthed younger sister and homicide detective coworker on “Dexter.” I’m a fan of the show and I was happy to see her get the award. Like the rest of the show’s supporting cast other than Julie Benz, she’s taken some hits for her acting, especially as compared to the virtuosic efforts of star and her now real-life husband, Michael C. Hall. Her work on the show has always been solid in my opinion and she’s made what could have been a grating character into a sympathetic and integral part of the show.

Delivering some rather dumb lines that had been written for her with aplomb, it fell to Carpenter to present the award for “Best Horror Movie” which turned out to be “Drag Me to Hell.” Apart from lead Alison Lohman, who was not there, the entire main cast appeared on stage alongside cowriter/director Sam Raimi. After Raimi thanked the cast and his wife, the actors had their turn. Lorna Raver, who really did deserve an award of some sort for her role as the exceedingly unpleasant Mrs. Ganush, was very much in the spirit of the evening, despite looking shockingly normal, returning her director’s compliments and proclaiming “Raimi rocks!”

Next, it was the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” presenting a special farewell award to the multiply awarded “Battlestar Galactica.” Writer/producer David Eick made a comment about how a few years ago, the mere mention of BSG would elicit laughs (for good reason, I’d add) and thanked the fans for transforming that perception. Actress Grace Park made a gag about members of the audience getting “Oprah” style gifts of memorabilia.

The show’s Admiral Adama, Edward James Olmos, was in his usual philosophical frame of mind and still enjoying his role as a leader of sorts while recalling a past example of first rate science fiction in which he appeared. “‘Blade Runner’ got accepted more on its 30th birthday than it did when it was born,” Olmos said. “Battlestar Galactica” will do the same. We love you fans more than you love it. So say we all! So say we all!” The crowd seemed to like that.

Steven Moyer of “True Blood,” accepting the “Best Horror Actor” award from Liv Tyler was more in vein of a stiff upper lip. He acknowledged his real-life British accent as part of a growing number of English actors playing Americans on U.S. television. “If you think this is some sort of vampiric affectation, I’m channeling Hugh Laurie.”

Then came the most important award of the evening for the cinephile and movie geek set. Quentin Tarantino, dressed like a character from the proposed “Kill Bill” sequel in a polka dotted suit suit with perhaps one button too many fashionably undone (have we learned no fashion lessons from the seventies?) came on like a horror evangelist, hurling praise at the recipient of the “Scream Mastermind Award,” the man who basically invented the flesh-eating zombie in the original 1968 “Night of the Living Dead, 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead” and so on, George A. Romero. Though I quite literally have to get myself drunk to see his best known movies, that’s at least partially testimony to the Pittsburgh-based film-maker’s absolute command of his craft, and it was easily the most deserved award of the evening. Romero was characteristically good-natured and relatively low key, recalling his first job on that early horror classic, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He also worked in a plug for the newly renamed next installment in his career-spanning zombie epic, “Survival of the Dead.”

After Anna Paquin accepted her “Best Horror Actress” award for “True Blood,” Harrison Ford presented the best director award to J.J. Abrams for “Star Trek,” who thanked Leonard Nimoy “for spreading the magic and Gene Roddenbery for doing all the hard work.” The audience was then told to “set your phasers on stud” for the appearance of Trek co-stars John Cho and Karl Urban, who presented a deleted scene from the film involving bad-guy Eric Bana and some violent action.

The next big award was for “Best TV Show” and, not surprising given the vampiric/romantic trend of the night, that award went to “True Blood.” Creator Alan Ball followed the trend of night by complimenting the audience for being “crazy!” and happily proclaimed Scream the “most fucked up award show I’ve ever been to in my life, and therefore the best.”

The pro-vampire-love-story trend also continued with Elijah Wood presenting the “Best Fantasy Film” award to, no surprise, “Twilight,” which won in a number of categories. Wolf-boy hunk Tyler Lautner accepted the award for the movie, quickly followed by the now justly derided clip from the upcoming sequel.

Actress Rhona Mitra then presented the “Break Out” film award to “Zombieland.” Accepting the award, a surprisingly wholesome looking Woody Harrelson appeared, looking like a balding version of Woody Boyd, the “Cheers” bartender. His speech, on the other hand, went in a more traditional Harrelson direction. “A little confession, I hate scary movies because they scare me, honestly. They the shit out of me. I couldn’t watch TV after ‘Poltergeist.’ I gave up surfing after ‘Jaws.’ I can’t go near a kitchen ever since ‘Julie and Julia.’ You know, nightmares.”

That was followed by the appearance of  real-life science fiction fan Morgan Freeman, along with some spiffy camera work, who presented the award for “the Ultimate Scream” to J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” In a fit of absolute brilliance by the Spike TV folks it was accepted by…well, I could tell you, or I could show you.

William Shatner Roasts JJ Abrams | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

Really, this clip doesn’t begin to do justice to the brilliance of having the infamously non-featured Trekker William Shatner appear. Say would you will about the original James Tiberius Kirk, the man knows how to suck up attention. Sheer brilliance.

Still, the Scream organizers cleverly avoided too much of an anticlimax with the next and final presentation. The Comicon Icon Award was presented by an extra-personable Tobey Maguire at his most Peter Parkerish, to the most famed creator in comic book history, Stan Lee. Accepting the award, Lee was his usual theatrical and avuncular self. He was also clearly a bit overwhelmed, but not with gratitude and humility. He was brought on to the stage by a “Spiderman” themed device that USA Today called “a flying sled,” but which reminded me of a theatrical “god in the machine” kind of devices. Anyhow, poor Stan the Man thought the machine wasn’t entirely stable and was apparently scared witless. Nevertheless, he dealt with it in typical good humor, praised Sam Raimi and Maguire, and closed with a hearty “Excelsior!”

The clip I’m going to close with leaves out the best part of the moment, but it will give you a general sense of the evening’s somewhat calculated zaniness. Whatever else is true of “Scream,” it’s not stodgy.

Tobey Maguire Honors Stan Lee | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

For more on the Scream Awards including, as of this writing, a complete list of nominees but not the winners, check out Spike TV’s site here.

  

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