Time to fire up that recognizable theme music and… oh, wait, this isn’t supposed to be about Felix Unger disdainfully looking at his roommate’s pig sty of an apartment? Okay then, sorry. [sound of record needle scratching] Yeah, this is about last weekend’s big event, the 91st Academy Awards. And, yes, I’m late to the “pile on the Oscars” party. In my defense, I’m still trying to shake off a very long, grueling, and stressful work week, so please give me some slack.
Anyway, it goes without saying that the Academy Awards are the most scrutinized entertainment awards show on the planet. Even just hearing the word “Oscars” makes a human being consider at least one of three Oscar-related questions: How glamorous were the celebrities on the red carpet? Was the ceremony worth watching? And were the actual Oscar recipients deserving?
Of course, the questions to all three of those questions depend on the individual asking them. Since I want to end this post on a high note, let’s go in reverse order beginning with the recipients. For sure, it’s awesome that Spike Lee finally earned a competitive (read: non-honorable mention) Oscar. For sure, it’s awesome that Rami Malek and Lady Gaga are now two trophies away from the career EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) mantle. And definitely for sure, it was pleasing to see a very diverse group of honorees, including those involving women and people of color (including a documentary short about menstruation). But it appears that the Academy voters could’ve picked a better Best Picture recipient than Driving Miss Daisy 2: This Time, the White One Drives (very good line, Amber Ruffin), especially given that that film played loose with its depiction of its lead character.
Then there’s the awards ceremony itself, and it a came after a lead-up period when the Academy clearly kept shooting itself in the foot: First, they chose a host with clear baggage (and LGBT-disparaging tweets). Then they decided to
grovel cater to moviegoers who only go for flicks with big budgets and intellectual property origins. And they decided to not only pare down the Best Original Song presentations, but to also present winners in four low-level but still-deserving-for-recognition-because-it’s-the-art-of-movie-making categories. And all for the sake of keeping the show at a reasonable (for ABC) running time.
Thankfully, the Academy would backtrack: They decided to go without a host, after apparently looking high, low, and in between for a replacement that didn’t carry controversial baggage. They scuttled plans for a “Best Popular Film” award. And they reversed course and presented all of the Best Song performances during the show as well as those below-the-top-line awards. Obviously, that made all the creative types in Movieland happy.
And guess what the end result was? Or rather, end results? The Oscar broadcast had a running time of about 3 hours, 23 minutes. Yeah, it was a little longer than ABC had initially hoped, but it was about half an hour shorter than the 2018 ceremony and considerably shorter than the nearly 4½-hour
Battan death march slog of a ceremony in 2002.
Did not having a host help? Well, that depends on who’s doing the reviewing, although the sight of seeing Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler standing “a little too long” (Tina’s term) at the top of the show (“so the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted”) makes one think that triumvirate would’ve done well in the co-host role (perhaps they’ll get the nod next year). The elimination of just-for-filler viral moments (e.g. Ellen’s selfies) certainly helped, as did the inclusion of musical segments, nominated or otherwise. But for sure, the consensus has been that the Oscars ceremony was a quantum leap better than the last time it went without a host 30 years ago.
But enough about who won what and who said what: Let’s consider who wore what! As mentioned above, the marveling and critiquing of what a celebrity wears on Oscar Night is as big as wondering who’ll win kudos in the various categories. By now, you’ve probably read more than several reviews of the evening’s fashions. But here are a few standouts that surfaced in the front of my mind this past week, beginning with this simple trio:
From left to right, that’s Gabriela Rodriguez, Octavia Spencer, and Regina King. All three kept things rather simple: One solid color. Minimal flourishes, aside from Gabriela’s shoulders. Long and flowing gowns. And the only bit of flash (and sass) is the bit of leg Regina’s showing off. Being so understated creates a bit of elegance all its own.
But the Oscars Red Carpet had its share of bright colors and flourishes. And as shown above by (again, going left to right) Angela Bassett, Hannah Beachler, and Kasey Musgraves, there was a presence of brightly colored flourishes. Angela and Hannah have dramatic shoulder designs and slits up to the calf, while Kasey has a feel of being awash in a pink wave or even a pink Christmas tree (that’s not a criticism). Maybe there’s too much in the way of design flourishes here, but I don’t care. It’s been a long winter, especially here in Wisconsin, so it’s good to see bright colors melt winter’s chill just a bit.
Here’s Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen giving what’s been described as “modern Audrey Hepburn” sass. But it’s not just the dress and leather gloves (*swoon*) that creates that feel. It’s also the 128+ carat(!) Tiffany necklace once actually worn by Audrey Hepburn that tops things off. Oh, and that pose and stare that says “I am so commanding the camera!” Wowzer!
The day after the Oscars, Trevor Noah on The Daily Show talked about going to a post-Oscars party and described Jennifer Lopez’s dress as all mirrors. Trevor wasn’t kidding. I mean, you can actually see yourself in this Tom Ford gown, and I don’t just mean wearing it. Really, if you were to get close up, you’d see a reflection of yourself… and notice that you’ve got some lunch stuck between your teeth. One of Jennifer’s stylists, Rob Zangardi, commented that they worked for nearly two months to find something that Jennifer would wear on Oscar Night. He also said that this dress made her look “like a modern version of the Oscars statuette.” Well, the dress isn’t as gold as Oscar, but one can see what he’s getting at.
And then there was Selma Blair’s Oscar Night ouftit, and not just what she was wearing but a certain accessory she brought with her:
If you haven’t heard her unfortunate news, Selma Blair disclosed last fall that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She trembles, she limps, she has difficulty moving, her vision isn’t as sharp, and she’s been undergoing treatments for the disease. But aside from that cane, you wouldn’t know it from the above Vanity Fair Oscar portrait. Seeing this photo, and reading an interview Vanity Fair published after the Oscars, you sense a bit of grace in Selma and her post-diagnosis attitude. Matter of fact, she appears to see this diagnosis as an opportunity to help disabled people have a step up in not only Hollywood but the fashion industry. Take that new sense of wanting to help otherse, throw in the staredown she gives to the camera (and to MS?) in the photo at this link (seriously, click on that link), and you have the sense that Selma wants to take the lemon of a disease that live gave her and turn it into lemonade for others, all the while wanting to continue as a working actor. A good attitude to have, really.
But perhaps the most daring outfit on Oscar Night? I mean the most, most daring? Look no further than Pose cast member and ABC Red Carpet commentator Billy Porter.
As they say on the radio, No more calls! We have a winner!! Billy rocked the Red Carpet in a black velvet Christian Siriano tuxedo outfit. His outfit was nothing but absolute fierceness: Seriousness above the waist, sure, but enough flourishes to remind the world that he is his own man and creates his own style, cookie-cutter demands of the rest of the world be dammed. “Governor and Governess” is how Out so succinctly described it.
As would be expected in this Era of You Know Who, the pseudo-macho trolls spread their disdain once Billy stepped on that red carpet. This is masculinity? they were asking. How dare he sully such a setting as dignified as the Red Carpet? they added. Oh, and probably more than a few rounds of he’s a heathen for doing this and this is not an example we should present to growing young boys.
Well, Billy Porter will have nothing of that, thank you very much! “People are going to be really uncomfortable with my black ass in a ball gown,” he wrote in this piece for Vogue, “but it’s not anybody’s business but mine.” Think of his outfit as a statement of his own masculinity — a political stand, if you will, that started to percolate when he performed in Kinky Boots and really got into gear on the set of and doing promotional work for Pose, a show known for its trans representation both in front of and behind the cameras.
And what’s the big deal, really? It’s not as if Billy Porter hadn’t made a fashion statement before. He did don this custom cape at the Golden Globes. And he did wear this goldenrod gown to an AFI event. (And both of those were just last January.) So why shouldn’t he wear a gown on the entertainment industry’s biggest night? Women can wear pants every day, and some even did so on the Oscars Red Carpet, so why can’t a man wear a gown and feel comfortable doing so?
So a thousand hallelujahs to Billy Porter for making the Oscar Red Carpet his own. Kudos to him as well for reminding the naysaying trolls of the internet, as well as a still-relatively-hidebound entertainment industry, of the importance of acceptance and individuality, and of the need to challenge the status quo, even if it means wearing a dress when you’re expected to wear a suit and tie.