Britney Spears: Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
September 06, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

MTV’s Video Music Awards (Thursday, 8:00 p.m.) is always a spectacle larger than the sum of its parts. In the days leading up to the event, discussion of the nominated videos has been overshadowed by bigger questions: Will Michael Jackson make a surprise appearance to publicize his upcoming concerts and album? Will host Jamie Foxx improve on last year’s Wayans brothers debacle?

Will Britney perform with four live cheetahs, as planned, or will PETA protesters shut her down? More importantly, will she strip down to her skivvies again?

But with video directors like Spike Jonze (”Being John Malkovich”) and McG (”Charlie’s Angels”) making an impact in the film world, maybe it’s time to refocus attention on the videos themselves. Besides, even near nudity and drunken pop stars get boring eventually, right? EW offers its picks for five of the major categories.

Best Video of the Year
Fatboy Slim, ”Weapon of Choice”
Eminem with Dido, ”Stan”
U2, ”Beautiful Day”
Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink, with Missy ”Misdemeanor” Elliott, ”Lady Marmalade”
Janet Jackson, ”All For You”
Missy ”Misdemeanor” Elliott, ”Get Ur Freak On”

As with most categories at the VMAs, these nominations include clips selected for their mainstream musical appeal (U2) OR their genuine video artistry (Fatboy Slim). While the U2 and Janet songs are pop hits, the videos offer little to get excited about. Sure, the Marmaladies offer enough lace and fishnets to keep your attention, and Eminem and Missy Elliot shine in their own way, but for visual appeal, nothing tops Christopher Walken doing softshoe in Fatboy Slim’s Spike Jonze-directed ”Weapon of Choice,” by far the year’s most hilarious, watchable video.

Best Male Video
Eminem with Dido, ”Stan”
Lenny Kravitz, ”Again”
Robbie Williams, ”Rock DJ”
Moby with Gwen Stefani, ”South Side”
Nelly, ”Ride Wit Me”

Nelly’s sunny ride-along and Lenny’s emotive tale of fated love are enjoyable enough, but eminently forgettable. ”Stan,” on the other hand, is anything but forgettable, darkly visualizing Eminem’s tale of an obsessed fan and elbowing out Robbie Williams’ Mad-Max-meets-the-Roxy clip and Moby’s celebrity parody as our fave.

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