Since the official Oscar livestream is unavailable outside of the US, I spent the evening flicking back and forth between the PopSugar and OTRC streams; although the latter lost points for its surreally panicked voiceovers of "Ok, are we doing this bit now? No that's wrong. Umm..." and the host who clung onto his powder compact and blusher brush for grim death, fervently grinding face powder into his shiny forehead with ever more regularity.
I was expecting an Oscar red carpet that would be of a more muted hue than usual. With the US economy sinking ever deeper into recession and with a corresponding anger and resentment towards the super-rich, I was anticipating a palette of muted plums, pinks and gunmetal greys, with a more understated level of bling than in previous years. I wasn't entirely correct, but my instinct that this would be a less colourful affair than previous years was borne out by the lack of bright hues, though there were a couple of notable reds and a couple of greens; although these were muted dark forest shades rather than emeralds. Classic blacks and whites were popular choices along with metallics and sequins, particularly in gold. There wasn't much jewellery that caught my eye, and I'm normally drawn in like a tractor beam and hypnotised by anything above a couple of carats. Overall, the fashion choices were safe and even a little conservative.
Makeup was classic with few surprises. I love dark nail polishes so I was happy to see Kirsten Wiig with a midnight-blue manicure in a universally flattering oval nail shape. For the most part hair seemed to be soft and natural-looking with soft waves a far more popular choice than updos. Out of all the beauty trends that could influence this season, I can see the simple twist worn by Stacy Kiebler as having the most mileage among the public.
After the jump, an image-heavy rundown of the bests, the worsts, and the could-do-betters.
The "Standout" dresses
|Pixie-perfect in red|
Michelle Williams' watermelon-red Louis Vuitton gown elicited my first breathless "ohhhh" of the night, the swags of fabric and the peplum lending both pillowy softness and quirky glamour. I loved the little golden bow on the hip.
Michelle has such pretty, elfin features and a youthful pixie crop underscored her wonderfully young and fresh look. I'm not entirely sure about the wisdom of bringing a pink handbag, but nevertheless this outfit is one of my top-ranked of the night.
This lady is actually responsible for one of my favourite Oscar looks of all time; the vibrant daffodil-yellow Vera Wang of 2006. What made this earlier look so special was the bright scarlet lip - it's my opinion that too many stars avoid bold makeup on the red carpet, but this choice of colour really made her stand out.
|"Lights, camera, HOBBLE!"|
George Clooney's partner Stacy Keibler shimmered in a sculpted gold Marchesa gown with intricate draping folds over one hip, giving her the air of a living golden statue. Even if she couldn’t actually walk. Maybe a pair of those trainers with wheels in the soles would have been a plan.
I loved Rose Byrne's edgy, modern look of shimmering black teamed with a blunt cut hairdo. Designed by Vivienne Westwood, it was an innovative alternative to the flounces and chiffon of the classic ball gown. I particularly like the low back, which stopped it from looking too much like a suit of armour or a costume from Underworld.
2012 has been a great year for plus size stars like Olivia Spencer. I'm sadly realistic that there's little to no chance of designers tapping into the plus-size market, as wonderful as that would be to see. Even for one night it's lovely to see ladies like Olivia here and the hilarious, gorgeous Melissa McCarthy in such elegant creations, though Melissa's dusky rose Marina Rinaldi dress was a little voluminous.
Olivia's dress is sumptuous, the sunburst beading flowing over and flattering her curves. It’s by Tadashi Shoji, a designer with whom I'm not familiar but I will be looking out for more of his work in future red carpets.
My one sticking point is the sleeves - generally speaking cap sleeves are unflattering on larger arms, so perhaps either slightly longer and sleeker or a fuller sleeve to give more of an angel-wing effect, along with a deeper neckline to break up the bust area would have been an idea. Regardless, she looks wonderful.
Mila Jojovich was one of the loveliest stars of the red carpet in this lovely one-shouldered Elie Saab gown. Stark white and intricately beaded, the sculpted drape married vintage design and modern detailing in exactly the way that Penelope Cruz' giant pastel Grace Kelly homage didn't. Teamed with a slash of blood red lipstick and a retro-wave of the hair, this was among the first gown of the night down the carpet, and remained one of the best.
Honourable mentions go to Tina Fey's simple 60s-style black taffeta with retro peplum and the lovely diamond cuff worn by Viola Davies, its waisted shape looking to me like it was inspired by African art.
The "I'm in two minds" dresses
|Umm. Yes? No?|
I think I like Emma Stone's outfit. I think I like it a lot. But the bow. Oh, the bow. It's certainly a bit fussy and huge and it's dividing the commentators, but I think the sleekness of her hair and the light-as-air chiffon of the dress material saves it. I also love red gowns, especially in this cool-toned shade. This dress is by Giambattista Galli, another designer whose catwalk collections I'm going to be watching out for.
|Modest and demure as ever, J-Lo|
Jennifer Lopez' Oscar gowns are always a highlight of the red carpet for me, so I got excited at the the first glimpse of this Grecian-inspired dress. Last night J-Lo was statuesque and diva-ishly elegant as ever but I can't help thinking we've seen it all before. (not a comment on her frequently-exposed cleavage, I assure you).
The hair drawn into a high bun is a look we’ve seen on J-Lo many times, but it works so well, highlighting that flawless golden skin. The low back and angular translucent pleats draw the eye in a long luxuriant gaze over her figure with its famed and unapologetic curves. So why is she in my Two Minds list? It's the sleeves. Long sleeves are a rarity in evening wear, and I liked seeing them here, but I'm not at all sure about the cut-outs.
|The Girl with the Impressive Hair Lacquer|
Also, I do wish J-Lo would be a tad more innovative in her makeup on occasion. The honey coloured glossy lip and smoky neutral eye is her go-to look and looks great against the drama of the gown, but I'd like to see her wearing colour a little more.
|Thermal tights not pictured|
Angular, highly structured and stark white, Rooney Mara's Givenchy gown required a certain attitude to carry off. The glacial, enigmatic Mara certainly has the poise for it.
Inclusion in this section is down to that strange curled ponytail of hair, as beautifully glossy as it is. Nobody as thin as this woman needs to look to sumo wrestlers for style ideas.
Just escaping from this category is the delectable Angelina Jolie, swoon-worthy as always but a mite predictable in black velvet Versace Atelier. She looked incredible, but wouldn’t some red carpet variety be a nice thing? Also, Angie, put that leg back in before it catches cold.
The "Not so good" dresses
|Playing it too safe?|
|Her heart will go onnnnn.|
Jane Seymour's overly sparkly metallic creation made her look as if she would be more at home singing power ballads on a low-budget cruise ship.
Gwyneth Paltrow chose a strange all-white outfit complete with floor length cloak that made her look like she took a wrong turn on the way to the audition for "Game of Thrones"
|"Winter is coming." |
Natalie Portman was another star who selected a red gown, this one a vintage Dior from 1954. The velvet polka dots on the gauzy background just isn’t working for me. The whole dress is stiff and unflattering. The bandeau neckline and close fitting bodice is pure 1950s, but the skirt needs either far more width and movement or far less material. Wouldn’t she have looked stunning in a modern recreation/ reinterpretation using this fabric in as a sleek column gown?
The "Go back to the wardrobe and think about what you've done" dresses
|Please let me stop now.|
|No, it's no good, I'm out of captions.|
Spare a thought for Melissa Leo's enterprising seamstress, who ran out of black sequins three quarters of the way through, and decided to finish with gold instead.
Virginia Madsen. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.
Finally, because every Oscar ceremony has one - The Crazy Person
Sacha Baron Cohen - Oh, stop it.
|I suspect this stunt cost the entire marketing budget for the film he's "promoting"|