Oscars 2015: The Last Word
by Diane Clehane

How Lady Gaga Saved the Oscars

Lady Gaga in Alaia
(All photos: Oscar.com)

By its very nature, the Academy Awards is always a ponderous event with its endless number of categories and winners to be acknowledged but in recent years, the ceremony had been made even worse by ill-suited hosts (Seth MacFarlane, James Franco and Anne Hathaway) and stultifying direction. And let’s face it, the writing is always bad.

When it was announced that perennial award show host Neil Patrick Harris would host this year, I thought: meh. He’s fine for the Emmys and perfect for the Tonys, but this was the Oscars for goodness sakes! The truth is, there is no real mystery or allure left in Hollywood so NPH’s ubiquity and proven track record seemed like a sensible if not inspired choice to assure the producer some guarantee of safety things would go smoothly.

The results were mixed. NPH started out on a high note with a clever, lively opening number and with the exception of a few good jokes (John Travolta is nothing if not a good sport), he couldn’t maintain the momentum and things for him went downhill from there: the unfortunate tighty whiteys, his uncomfortable references to race and an awkward Oprah moment reminiscent of the Letterman fiasco. At three hours and forty minutes the show was about forty minutes too long and the host did indulge in an over-extended and annoying ‘look at me’ gag (the stupid predictions in the lock box). What does it say about the Academy Awards that the show still managed to be one of the more enjoyable broadcasts in recent years?

The emotional unscripted moments — and Lady Gaga’s stellar tribute to the Sound of Music — made up for NPH’s surprisingly uneven performance and the complete lack of suspense over the winners. From Patricia Arquette’s battle cry for women’s equality to the reaction shot of Best Actor nominee David Oyelowo with tears streaming down his face as he watched John Legend and Common performance “Glory” from Best Picture nominee “Selma,” there were plenty of moments worthy of remembering after everyone had left for Vanity Fair’s party.

Reese Witherspoon

When it came to Oscar fashion, it was all there in black and white. There was no ‘wow’ dress this year. I think that ship has sailed. But there were some lovely standouts. Reese Witherspoon may have gone home empty handed but she did nab the evening’s other prize – best dressed honors for her sleek, chic Tom Ford. It reminded me of the stunning all white caped column dress he designed for Gwyneth Paltrow a few Oscars ago. Witherspoon has really come into her own this awards season by consistently wowing on every red carpet. From her glittering Golden Globes column to tonight’s stunner – and she’s done it by looking strong not starved. Bravo. I also adored Cate Blanchett’s unexpected Martin Margiela Couture black velvet column and its subversive simplicity. I also loved the Tiffany statement necklace. It was a meaningful gesture of support for John Galliano who has designed so many of her most memorable Oscar dresses. She cleverly stood out among the sea of pretty but largely forgettable pearlescent dresses. And let’s face it: she’s Cate Blanchett. In my book, she can do no wrong.

Julianne Moore

Other fashion winners were Julianne Moore in custom Chanel, Sienna Miller who looked cool and elegant in Oscar de la Renta, the two ladies in red: Rosamund Pike in Givenchy haute couture (Does she ever smile?) and Dakota Johnson in Saint Laurent (but sorry, didn’t love the pony tail). Only Marion Cotillard could carry off the geisha-like Dior Haute Couture. Fashion darling Lupita Nyong’o who dazzled during her inaugural Oscar season last year, chose a custom Calvin Klein made from 6,000 pearls which looked better on stage then it did on the red carpet. I didn’t love it, but the dress did what it was supposed to do – it got everyone talking.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I hate the way the ‘trend of the moment’ — in this case white and blush colored dresses — saturated or more like washed out – the red carpet. I have to imagine all those actresses who chose them were more than a little disappointed to be lost in a sea of sartorial snowflakes. All except one:

Scarlett Johansson

And now the losers: Scarlett Johansson– what was that? Yes, you have an incredible body and a new baby but the Puff the Magic dragon-inspired dress and matching choker (not to mention that hair) was absolutely hideous. Emma Stone’s Vegas-inspired Elie Saab was so disappointing. I was expecting so much more after her daring Lavin bustled pants at the Golden Globes. And what the hell happened to Nicole Kidman? She inexplicably tied a red grosgrain ribbon around her nondescript Louis Vuitton and opted to carry a mini tool chest instead of an elegant clutch. I guess now that she’s happily married she’s gets less concerned with maintaining her fashion icon status.

The biggest winner: Lady Gaga who more or less saved the whole shebang with the night’s best performance and was anointed Queen of the Night by none other than Julie Andrews. Extra points for finally giving us a Cher moment in Azzedine Alaia accessorized with, what looked all the world like red Playtex gloves.

Here’s a rundown of the evening’s highlights:

8:30 Neil Patrick Harris clearly has the crowd with him with that clever opening number. Oprah is really rooting for him. And Sharon Stone will be sending him flowers tomorrow. His Billy Crystal 2.0 song and dance was lively and fun. Nice job, Anna Kendrick.

8:30 Lupita Nyong’o presents the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to J.K. Simmons. The first of what would be a long list of predictable winners. He gives charming acceptance speech. Extra points for telling the world to call their parents.

8:46 They’re bringing out the big guns early. Liam Neeson introduces Best Picture nominees The Grand Budapest Hotel and American Sniper.

8:49 Dakota Johnson and her Forevermark diamonds introduces Adam Levine who performs the first Best Song nominee.

8:52 Reaction shot of Lady Gaga in the audience. My ten year old says: “I don’t understand what’s going on with the red gloves.”

8:56 Nominees get a gift bag worth $160,000 — and an armored car when the revolution comes. Good one, NPH.

9:00 Sorry but I’ve got to sign off to watch Downton Abbey. This is the next to last episode of the season and I’m pretty sure I won’t miss too much.

10:00 Man did that hour fly by. Something tells me that’s the last time I’ll say that tonight. I just blew through the hour on my DVR I missed. So I did miss something. Wow. Patricia Arquette. My new hero. I’ll follow you anywhere.

10:08 Is Zoe Saldana the new Halle Berry? Yowza.

10:30 An emotional Meryl Streep presents the In Memoriam segment. So many greats left us in past year.

10:43 My husband thinks Benedict Cumberbatch should have worn an undershirt.

10:47 Who is Terrence Howard auditioning for with that squirm-inducing best picture introduction?

10:49 Jennifer Aniston may not have gotten an Oscar nomination, but she looks none the worse for wear. And that is one smokin’ hot Versace.

11:02 The audience is on its feet for John Legend and Common’s stirring performance of Glory.

11:03 The funniest moment of the night: John Travolta gets to redeem himself by presenting Best Original Song with Idina Menzel (that’s Adele Dazeem to you). NPH also killed it with his Benedict Cumberbatch-Ben Affleck joke.

11:15 An iconic Oscar moment with Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews.  Too bad whoever wrote Andrews’ remarks for her presentation of Best Original Score didn’t know that it was Johnny Mercer not Henry Mancini that wrote “Moon River.” As an aside I can’t help but think all these women with hideous tattoos are really going to regret them ten years from now.

11:33 Some guy just thanked his dog Larry in his Oscar speech.

11:36 Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore delivers what is sure to be one of the most memorable acceptance speeches in Oscar history and sets the Twittersphere on fire. Who else can say they saved a life with an Oscar speech? Brilliant.

11:42     Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrita wins Best Director for Birdman. A charming fellow who, it turns out, should have just stayed on the stage.

11:51 Eddie Redmayne wins Best Actor and wins the hearts of everyone everywhere with his utterly charming acceptance speech.

11:52 All right. All right. Matthew McConaughey presents the Best Actress Oscar to Julianne Moore. All right indeed.

12:00 I’ve lost track of the number of tuxedoes Neil Patrick Harris has worn tonight.

12:03 Sean Penn presents Best Picture. “Who gave this sonofabitch his green card?” Birdman wins proving Hollywood really doesn’t like Clint Eastwood and loves movies about actors.

GRADE: The broadcast: B-     The clothes: B

– Diane Clehane

 is Lookonline.com’s entertainment editor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane 

In the Market Report: Fashion Notes on the Oscars

Lupita Nyong’o Oscars Red Carpet 2015

Long ago, I made peace with the fact that I will invariably be disappointed with the (usually ho hum) parade of fashions at the Academy Awards and nothing will never live up to my expectations. But last night, I actually gasped when I first caught sight of Lupita Nyong’o in her amazing custom made Calvin Klein dress which was comprised of 6,000 pearls. She tops my best dressed list because the creation, all in white, was not only truly spectacular, but it enhanced her beauty (when you saw close-ups of her on stage, it almost looked like she was wearing one big fantastical pearl necklace), and the style (slim and body conscious yet not too much so), completely suited her body and her style. And, it was unusual!

Lady Gaga in Alaia

Another unusual choice was Lady Gaga’s dramatically shaped custom made Azzedine Alaia (the dress took two months to make). She is really toning down her fashion choices as of late, and seemingly gone are the over the top hijinks that defined her on and off stage appearances. Of course, that being said, she did add monster red gloves (the kind better suited for doing the dishes than appearing on the red carpet at the Academy Awards). But regardless, nobody can deny her amazing talent. That woman can sing (and she can apparently sing anything).

Dakota Johnson

I also thought Dakota Johnson, in sleek, custom made red Saint Laurent, looked fantastic. With its bejeweled one shoulder, it was decorative in the most modern way. Rosamund Pike was another star to opt for red, and her fitted, strapless custom made Givenchy Haute Couture gown was undeniably a vast improvement over her last few red carpet appearances. (FYI, I’m getting a little tired of all those overly cumbersome ball gowns, such as the one worn by Jennifer Lopez, who admitted it was so heavy; she would be changing to a “party dress” afterwards. And yes, it was so unwieldy; she actually tripped when she left the stage. And while I’m at it, I’m also getting a little tired of seeing the boobs!)

Scarlett Johansson

Speaking of sleek, I almost gasped again, when I saw Scarlett Johansson. The beautiful star, known for her voluptuous curves, recently had a baby, and she has never looked so svelte (quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure it was her when I first saw her on the red carpet). Her body hugging green Atelier Versace not only perfectly accentuated her new body, it was accessorized with that fantastic face framing green bib necklace, which really made a statement when she appeared on stage. Another star who opted for a statement making necklace was Cate Blanchett. Her turquoise beaded necklace provided a perfect counterpoint to her simple yet dramatic black Maison Martin Margiela gown, which was covered up in front, but featured the surprise of a bare back (this has long been a Blanchett trademark.

By the way, I never understand why more stars (or rather, their stylists) don’t opt for face framing, statement necklaces, instead of going bare on top, or borrowing millions of dollars of teeny tiny diamonds that are almost invisible to the naked eye (and almost impossible to see on television). While I thought Julianne Moore looked beautiful in her embroidered white and black Chanel Haute Couture strapless gown, it did look a bit mother-of-the-bride and I somehow wish she had something a bit more face framing.

Meryl Streep

While Meryl Streep did not go home with a statue, she won my award as one of the evenings’ ‘most improved’. Meryl sometimes does not get it right at these award shows, but she really hit the nail on the head in her tailored Lanvin ensemble (a feminine take on a menswear staple), which completely suited her. Speaking of menswear, the 80 year old Shirley MacLaine, looked damned good, in her black sequined pantsuit, and 69 year old Milena Canonero, who won for costume design for Budapest Hotel, wins my award as chicest and most individual, in her black satin trench coat, black sequined pants, white shirt, black and red Roger Vivier pumps with crystal buckle, and black beaded choker, embellished with white lips.

Shirley MacLaine & Milena Canonero rocking black sequined pants

And now, for the disappointments. Emma Stone looked uncharacteristically matronly in her gold Elie Saab (I agree with The New York Times’s Alexandra Jacobs, who said she looked like the “mother of the bride”). Marion Cotillard’s white Dior Haute Couture was a bit sacky and did absolutely nothing for her. Sienna Miller’s (lackluster) long black Oscar de la Renta, is unlikely to do much to bolster the label, now under the direction of Peter Copping. Naomi Watts’s cut out, beaded Armani Prive, looked sort of poor and was not a great choice (and she is too skinny to have that much skin showing).

Barbie and Gwyneth Paltrow

And finally, perhaps one of the most surprising trends on the red carpet, was the sighting of pale pink (although, pink and red have always been considered a fashionable, if not surprising color combo). Giving credence to the trend, was Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who arrived in a pale pink gown and shrug, Karolina Kurkova, who wore a pale pink strapless gown, and Gwyneth Paltrow, (who wore a pale pink Oscar de la Renta when she received her Oscar many years ago). Her one shouldered baby pink Ralph & Russo gown, which featured a ginormous rose on one shoulder, drew a few comparisons to Barbie. Oh, baby!

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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