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HIGHLIGHT: You Go, Coco
Lesson learned from Conan O'Brien's opener: Know your crowd! After a star-studded opener, the host kept delivering stars who were perfect for MTV's key demo (or at least my heart), including a ''Best KissFight'' video with Will Arnett, a duet with Pitch Perfect's Adam DeVine, and gentle ribbing at an adorably sleeping, Pharrell hat-wearing Grumpy Cat. Throw in some Vines for The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, and the ginger giant pretty much nailed it.
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LOWLIGHT: White Noise
Only three musical performances took the stage the 2014 Movie Awards. Two of them were great (keep reading). As for the third? Well, it's not an exaggeration to say that Twenty One Pilots is much less known than, say, Eminem or Ellie Goulding. So why lead off with them? The aggressively ski-masked and mosh-pitted performance felt out of place — except in my nightmares.
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HIGHLIGHT: On a Role
Jared Leto scored the Best Transformation performance for his Oscar-winning turn as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, and he gave another elegant speech about the ongoing battle against AIDS, concluding with this affirmation: "Love who you want to love, live how you wish to live, and never let anyone ever stop you from turning your dreams into your reality.''
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LOWLIGHT: A Million Ways to Die on Stage
''You know, they say comedy is the hardest thing an entertainer can do,'' started Best Comedic Performance presenter Seth MacFarlane. And then his co-presenter Amanda Seyfried biffed her line. Hard. Indeed, Amanda, there is no greater challenge an actor faces than being funny on screen...or on an awards-show stage. No jokes about cocaine or dumping Taylor Swift could save this flubbed set-up, though MacFarlane made a valiant effort when he ad-libbed, ''So far, this is going just like the Oscars.'' Unfortunately, the early-in-the-evening dud put front and center exactly why these awkwardly overscripted bits of filler are almost invariably stilted. Which leads me to...
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LOWLIGHT: ''The Peabody for Hard Bodies?''
Exhibit B, ladies and gentlemen! Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for a well-calibrated Best Shirtless Performance, but the presentation of this particular award wasn't the night's first cringe-worthy bit of banter (and it wouldn't be the last, so keep reading). I mean, do we really need 10 puns about abs from Jessica Alba and Rita Ora? Get to the flesh!
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HIGHLIGHT: Take It Off
Thank you, Rita Ora, for hearing my prayers! The songbird saved us all from an earnest speech from Zac Efron. (No disrespect to earnestness or Zac Efron.) And, paging Marvel, she also might have a sideline gig assisting The Incredible Hulk in her future.
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LOWLIGHT: For Real, Though, Take It Off!
So we got Conan in a foam-abbed, Magic Mike-aping costume, but we didn't get any skin from Mike himself as Channing Tatum collected his Trailblazer Award. What's that about? During his intro, Jonah Hill roasted Tatum a bit for his good looks, then asked, ''Is he laughing? Is he laughing?'' If you ask us, Hill should have been asking, ''Is he stripping? Is he stripping?''
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HIGHLIGHT: ''Monster'' Performance
Eminem and Rihanna brought it with an energetic performance of their chart-topping single, ''Monster.'' Shady's rhymes were rat-a-tat, and Rihanna's runs were on-point. What more do you need?
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HIGHLIGHT: From Here to Maternity
The exception that proved the rule for tonight's awards-presenter banter, the Best Kiss award saw a funny bit where Neighbors stars Zac Efron, Dave Franco, and Seth Rogen welcomed ''three lucky fans'' to come on stage for a special smooch. The joke: Rogen was paired up with his own mother (or so the joke went). While gross at first blush, Rogen and his ''mom'' really sold the bit — like, they-both-might-have-mono-tomorrow sold it. Then, for the one-two punch, Efron said, ''That was awesome, man. It was a little hard to watch, but it was awesome,'' which set up Franco's joke: ''That actually made me a little hard while I watched. Is that bad?'' Off-color? Yes. But it was the shtick most tailored to presenters' talents of the night.
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HIGHLIGHT: Will and Testament
We're the Millers' Will Poulter launched 1,000 crushes with his dreamy accent and self-deprecating Best Kiss acceptance speech about being trapped in a love triangle with his costars Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts. Topping off the gag, a supposed text from Aniston that ended with the zing: ''P.S. You look like a dorky Tintin.''
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LOWLIGHT: Girls Will Be Churls
While presenting the Best Male Performance award, The Other Woman's Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Nicki Minaj, and Kate Upton had the thankless task of trying to make slaves and AIDS seem sexy when we all knew this would go to The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson anyway. Credit to the writer who compared Minaj's formidable rump to ''a pair of bongos'' for Matthew McConaughey to play, but man, who wrote this? ''And Josh Hutcherson, if we lived in a dark future, and a controlling government made us fight for our lives, and we had to eat poison berries and stuff...I'd be, like, totally down to do that.''
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LOWLIGHT: No J.Law?
Josh Hutcherson is, without a doubt, the most...uh...game of the Hunger Games stars, but an awards show just never feels complete without Jennifer Lawrence. So when her costar had to awkwardly linger on stage as Cameron Diaz announced Lawrence had picked up the Best Female Performance to accompany his Best Male Performance statuette, it only served to highlight her absence (and undermine his win).
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HIGHLIGHT: Paying Tribute to Paul Walker
Paul Walker was rightly included in all the typical awards-season In Memoriam montages, but this particular ceremony felt especially appropriate to honor the Fast & Furious headliner. Costar Jordana Brewster delivered a lovely speech, touching on his charitable work and his genuine spirit: ''For Paul, every day was an adventure to be tackled, and he wanted to make a difference in this world.... Paul's kindness was pure. He never asked for credit or glory. He was just a really good guy.'' (Click to watch the MTV Movie Awards tribute to Paul Walker.)
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HIGHLIGHT: On the Mark
While I could have done with more from Fear (the movie that earned him his first Movie Award nomination), Mark Wahlberg's speech while collecting his Generation Award — or, as Wahlberg deemed it, the ''You're Too F---in' Old To Come Back award'' — was gloriously profane and saucy. Can you get better than to tell hecklers, ''Shut the f--- up... I'm about to cry in a minute''? All it was missing was a ''Say hello to your mother for me.''
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LOWLIGHT: Where'd You Go, Coco?
Past the first half of the show, O'Brien was mostly missing, save for a pre-taped bit with the stars of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about Andrew Garfield's ultra-British computer password (''HarryStylesMakesMeSmiles,'' if you weren't paying attention). The short was a headscratcher after the host's strong start — not to mention a waste of talent from the winsome Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx.
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HIGHLIGHT: An 'A' to Zedd
Making one last push for Divergent, soundtrack stars Ellie Goulding and Zedd stepped up to the mic for a performance than ran the gamut. Goulding kicked off with an artfully windblown and beautifully low-key performance of ''Beating Heart,'' then Zedd and Miriam Bryant brought back up the energy with ''Find You,'' a track so danceable we're sure the adrenaline junkies of Dauntless would approve.
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HIGHLIGHT: Ending With Class
It was no surprise when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire secured the Golden Popcorn for Movie of the Year. After Sam Claflin blazed through the checklist of thank-yous, Josh Hutcherson ended on a thoughtful note by offering a few words of remembrance for his late costar Philip Seymour Hoffman: ''I know that if Philip were here, he would think this was really cool. To have him in our movies was really cool. He was one of the actors I've looked up to my entire life, and we think about him every day on set. Wherever he is, this definitely goes out to him as well.''