Ladies and Gentlemen,
Super Bowl Oscar Sunday has come and gone. The show itself, to my mind, was a powder keg with no match in sight: all that canned potential and frankly, no spark delivered. While I was thrilled to see what I felt was the best picture in the Best Picture category – The Grand Budapest Hotel – win some four well-earned “artistic” awards, and the Imitation Game’s Graham Norton’s pithy, perfect invocation to us dreamers to “Stay weird; stay different!” was the highlight of my night, the rest of it all was a bit of bore, ne c’est pas?
But, not so for the Red Carpet! We asked for something to sink our teeth into, and the stars delivered fodder to feed the starving. There was precious little to steal the breath, but plenty to keep us panting. So here I am again, standing firm on my knock-off Valextra soapbox, telescope in tow, to bring you the report on the celestial meteors of the night, and the black holes too. Without further ado…
Flashes of Ecstasy
Cate Blanchett in Margiela by John Galliano:
Full disclosure: Cate Blanchett happens to be my wife. Now that we have gotten that awkwardness out of the way, let us discuss how this look is perfection personified. Dare I use the fashion-bludgeoned word, “chic” to describe the level of elegance here? Blanchett was essentially a bridesmaid at this year’s ceremony: a presenter, not a nominee. The decision to go minimal is an apt one. The unfinished edge detail around the armholes and that gorgeous, gaping back add just the right note of intrigue to the obsidian sheath. Her turquoise bauble is not the sort that usually beguiles me, yet on her, complimenting her eye-colour, it not only electrifies the dress, it illuminates her face. Kudos to her style team for keeping the makeup unobtrusive and the hair swept back with juste the right amount of whimsical abandon. Cate is an anthropomorphisation of Coco Chanel’s, “look for the woman in the dress, if there is no woman, there is no dress” epigram. She exhibits graduate-level dress wearing capabilities, whether it be in bejeweled Armani (Oscars 2014) or not-so-basic black Margiela. Tangentially, I appreciate her nod to Galliano as he returns to the fashion world after his anti-Semitic rant in a Marais restaurant rendered him a pariah. I believe he has mea culpa-ed enough for us to welcome his genius back, even if with hesitantly open arms.
Marion Cotillard in Christian Dior Haute Couture:
When I saw Marion Cotillard walking up to be interviewed by the press, uncertainty crept over me. Then she turned around. Raf Simons outdid himself dreaming up such a quietly alluring and unusual reverse of a dress. It reads almost like a knotted curtain or some sort of westernized kimono and obi. This back should not work by virtue of its volume, but it does because of its proportions. The circles on the fabric (is it a jaquard? are they paillettes? I can’t truly tell) are the element the curtail the front of the dress from being dull. All of this, plus her sleek hair and elegant earrings equal a a recipe for a very french sort of sophistication.
Rosamund Pike in Givenchy:
I often like Rosamund Pike. I even liked the polemic piece by Dior she wore to the SAGs. Last night, I loved Roasmund Pike in this luscious Givenchy siren’s song of a dress. The lace is demur, the colour is risqué and the strapless silhouette of the gown is rescued from being formulaic by the sheer mid-riff panels and perfectly-sized waistband. Truth be told, the redolence here of the wedding dress Riccardo Tisci created for Kim Kardashian cannot be denied, but the idea is executed in this iteration with far more finesse. And, because her makeup, hair, and jewelry are but a whisper, the red shoe does not render the look too loud, especially given that that the shoe itself takes up so little real-estate. I have not one quibble.
Margot Robbie in Saint-Laurent (with Van Cleef & Arpels Necklace):
Robbie’s Saint-Laurent dress is a beautiful one. The sheerness of the bishop sleeve imbues the dress with a lighter quality than it would have had otherwise. BUT what I am truly here for is that Van Cleef & Arpels museum-worthy necklace. I would rob for that thing – I’m talking full-fledged heist here. Extra points for the flawless makeup and brilliant hair!
David Oyelowo in Dolce and Gabbanna:
Gentlemen, this is how you do it. Full stop. This is one of the few and far-between situations in which a coloured vest not only works, but is required.
Lupita Nyong’o in custom Calvin Klein by Francisco Costa:
Children, this is not a dress everyone can wear: it is the regalia of angels. The internets were hurled into confusion and consternation last night as to whether it was too good or too much. I am of the “this is ridiculously beautiful” rank and file. She is wearing your grandmother’s (well, not mine: my grandmother lived in a village in Ghana, her meagre riches in colourful Kente and 18k Gold Coast gold) entire pearl collection as a single and singular dress. Lupita looks best in clean lines, I believe, so when I was tipped off that she would be wearing Klein, my breath was abated in anticipation. This dress is minimal in silhouette and opulent in detail, so it’s preaching to this choir. Here, however, is where I feel the look forced the choir to croak in singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo: the earrings (and to a lesser extent, the hair). (Cate’s team would have blown this look out of the stratosphere). Had Nyong’o gone bare-eared, or even with a tiny stud, and kept the hair just a clean crop, she would have opened up pure Pearly Gates. I’d like to personally thank her makeup artist for toning down that porphyrin-coloured eye-shadow he/she often cakes on her lids with Starry Night strokes, but we are not there yet sir/ma’am.
Reese Witherspoon in Tom Ford:
I had predicted that Tom Ford’s one dress of the night would be on Julianne Moore. Alas, I was wrong. I wish I had been right because while this dress is a master class in how to proportion black and white, the heavens did not blaze forth when Witherspoon flashed across my screen. Moore would have done the dress more justice. Maybe it’s the hair? Or maybe she needed makeup with a hair more vitality? Not everything can be explained so I shall just sit this here and be grateful for the valiant effort.
Kerry Washington in Miu Miu:
It’s very pretty. Not so long ago, however, Washington had us spinning like dervishes with her Rolodex of awe-inspiring looks. Having set the bar so high for herself, just pretty doesn’t quite satiate us blood-thirsty, self-proclaimed pundits anymore. Her hair looks miles better than it has done in a long while – fresh and spritely– and her makeup is congruent with the look. No complaints; yet, no aria.
Jennifer Aniston in Versace:
What a killer dress…and so unusual for America’s girl next-door, at that. But why dish out a dress that should be code-named “Vengeance”, if you are not going to serve it cold. Severe hair would have completed this look and frozen it as perhaps her best ever. Tis a shame indeed to dilute this intoxicating potion of a dress with such tepid, watery tresses.
Emma Stone in Elie Saab:
It’s a beautiful dress in its own right, in a rich hue that is unexpected for The Carpet. Yet, it ages her, I suspect, because of the baffling choice of coiffure and the lip colour that stands in such stark and uncomplimentary contrast to the dress. AND, and, and the double silver cuffs are the definition of superfluous. This is very middle of the road style execution from someone who has been bringing it all season.
Jenna Dewan-Tatum in Zuhair Murad:
This look is here purely as a symbol that one can wear Zuhair Murad without looking like a tasteless tart. Just enough skin revealed (side note: not everyone should wear a deep V. Sadly, the deep V discriminates against the buxom. I know, life is not fair. Accept it and move on), just the right smattering of sparkle. The cuff can go; the rest of the ensemble shows that this lady is on the style scene to stay.
Torrents of Torment:
Viola Davis in Zac Posen:
Something is rotten in the state of Camp Davis. Before we rip this Posen dress apart, seam for millionth unnecessary seam, let me start by telling Ms. Viola Davis, only because I love her, that she needs to fire her makeup czar post-haste. I know the unparalleled woe of a dark-skinned woman in a MUA’s chair, believe you me, but if it can be done for Grace Jones, for Lupita, for Alek and Ajak, then there is no excuse for this several-shades-too light foundation issue that is a repeat offense for Camp Davis. I volunteer to send over a bottle of Nars Sheer Glow foundation in “Khartuom”, if I must. The affront to her royaldom that is this entire look is simply inexcusable because Ms. Davis is too striking to be struck against by what I am forced to believe are malignant infiltrators in her style government. Why else would anyone put her in this sorghum-hued monstrosity, throw on a necklace from Claire’s “prom collection” and send her on her merry way? A queenly gown this is not. Heads needs must roll!
Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Rucci
I understand that excess is itself an aesthetic but those intricate earrings have no place next to that floral failure of a sleeve. Actually, the floral appendage has no place next to anything. The $425,000 Anna Hu Fire Pheonix earrings are work of sorcery in their ability to bewitch even the most staunch, card-carrying minimalist. The rest of the look is staggering in its ability to bemuse pretty much anyone.
Lorelie Linklater in Gabriela Cadena
She is young, so “some chill” is required here. Let us simply hope that she will learn, with age, not to let drag queens apply her makeup for award shows, and not to wear haphazard craft projects on the red carpet.
Nicole Kidman in Louis Vuitton:
Where did it all go wrong and why did they decide an orange belt, of all things, would fix it?
Chrissy Teigen in custom Zuhair Murad:
Mrs. Legend may need to go back to class. The only thing this look has going for it is the icy blue colour, which is admittedly a delightful tone. Other than that, it appears Elie Saab and Donatella were mixed in a petri dish and what grew from the
lack of culture was an abject want of sophistication. Nothing is right here; as a matter of fact, it is all rather gauche. She presents a naked exercise in paradox, an activity which usually titillates me but here leaves me cold: so much dress and yet so little dress. Such an excess of skin is on display here that one almost forgets to mention what a piss-poor choice that colour of lipstick is for the non-dress. Ms. Teigen, you want people to look at you on the red carpet, not at your vagina.
There are a few looks that warrant discussion, but do not merit consideration as wondeful or woeful. For these, I have added this section.
Anna Kendrick in custom Thakoon:
Kendrick evidently wore her Oscar dress to the Golden Globes and her Wet Seal dress to the Oscars. What say ye?
Solange in Christian Siriano:
It’s interesting, I will give her that. One rarely goes wrong with Pantone 485 as a colour choice. Her hair and makeup hit the mark, but is the look Oscar appropriate? Should that matter? I let this subject to you…
Jennifer Lopez in Elie Saab:
While this is certainly one of her more poised looks, with the simple ponytail and soft makeup hitting all the right notes, am I the only who wishes she didn’t compensate for the fact that her legs were finally hidden, by showing us that she has the best double-sided tape game in the business? With all this tulle and bejeweling, a higher neckline would have been a mark of grace, à la Ms. Blanchett at last year’s Oscars in Armani. Do you agree, or is my pudeur on as much display as J Lo’s décolletage?
Felicity Jones in Alexander McQueen:
We get it: she’s a thornless English rose. But must she always look so stiff? The bodice of the dress is a detailed piece of artistry but coupled with Cinderella’s very own skirt and a hairdo of sapped of all life, the entire thing is a bit blah (and in the same token, a bit much) don’t you think?
Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji:
Ever since she paired up with Shoji, I have never seen Octavia Spencer look like anything but a downright movie star! What a beautiful colour on her, this – what shall we call it – seafoam mint. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d actually move this up to the best dressed list because on second thought, there is little to discuss here. She’s a vision.
Julianne Moore in custom Chanel:
What do you wear when you know you will be winning an Oscar? Certainly not a dress that not only adds years, but also inches to your frame… not even if it’s Chanel, darling. What is it about her look that made me feel so personally let down last night? Perhaps it is the drop-waist effect, created by the second row of floral appliqué, that is not flattering to her shape? I need help with this one…
Scarlett Johansson in Versace:
What a figure, what a fantastic shade of emerald and I could not love the subtle contrast and contouring created by the matte triangular inserts any more than I do, but is the necklace eating away at her neck an anatopism? It is a resplendent necklace in isolation, but does it work with the dress’ straps? The hair, I can say sans doute, is not doing its job for me: edgy should always come off as effortless; here it feels forced.
Lady Gaga in custom Azzedine Alaïa
I …wait for it…like it! I mean the gloves are farcical, but this is Gaga here—crown empress of stunts and shows—were we expecting her to wear a Beaton-inspired frock? Do you buy what she’s selling?
AND THE BEST DRESSED PERSON NOT AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS GOES TO:
Diane Kruger in Donna Karan at the Vanity Fair After-Party.
In a dress-suit that is impeccably-tailored, with pliage detailing that would make expert origamists sit up in their seats, and a train added for intrigue, Frau Kruger strikes again with ferocious charm!
That’s all folks! Just like that, Red Carpet Season is over. On the upside, I can cancel my cable subscription again and go back to the insular and quietly-lived life of reading Calvin and Hobbes under my sheets while waiting for Grand Slam tennis season to commence. What are your thoughts on the last night’s hits and misses? I would love to hear your take – but remember, your thoughts are opinions, mine are gospel 🙂