The 79th Academy Awards

Overview of stage and audience

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All images Copyright © 2007 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and used with permission. Click here to see the complete list of all of the nominees and winners.

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Oscar 2007: The Last Word - by Diane Clehane

Wake me when it’s over. Oh, wait a minute – it is. Boy, is it ever.

It’s official: the “most exciting night in Hollywood” – and “fashion’s biggest night” (I beg you, talking heads please retire these tired, tired phrases now!) has become boring – deadly, mind numbingly boring. This year’s snoozefest clocked in a three hours and forty seven minutes – it only felt much longer. Matt Lauer told the “Today” show audience Monday morning that he “lost interest” in The 79th Annual Academy Awards around 9:45 (Eastern Time) and I suspect he wasn’t alone. When the clock struck midnight in New York (believe me, it felt even later in Los Angeles), only true Oscar diehards (and Martin Scorsese’s family) were still sitting bleary-eyed in front of their televisions to see the strangely anti-climactic moment when the beloved director and his latest picture, “The Departed” got their statuettes. One thing is for sure, a huge number of disappointed fashionistas from New York to Los Angeles checked out right after Ryan Secrest signed off from behind the hedge on E!

Going in the show had an optimistic and fresher vibe than it had in years. Ellen DeGeneres seemed both an inspired and natural choice to host the telecast but ultimately the too long show wound up feeling like a super sized version of her talk show which would have been great had it been on daytime television -- but this is the Oscars people! (Gwyneth seemed less than amused by the vacuuming bit, didn’t she?) The down to earth host got off to a very promising start when she used her signature move of dancing into the audience – gospel singers in tow -- to liven up the jittery and let’s face it, jaded crowd. But ultimately, her small screen shtick was dwarfed by the heft of the Hollywood crowd she worked so hard to charm. There were two guys who left us wanting more: Jerry Seinfeld (loved the movie goer rant!) and Al Gore (Bill must be soooo jealous!)

Penelope Cruz in a sweeping pale blush Versace gown.

As the evening wore on – and on – everything about the kudocast was entirely and inexplicably too long. I cannot believe how much time was given to – and wasted by – gimmicky musical numbers. Is it me or did the “world premiere” of the song Celine Dion sung sound like a lost track from “Titanic?” When the cast of “Dreamgirls” performed as the show closed in on its third hour Beyonce’s overwrought performance seemed to go on forever. I have to admit, though, I did like the earlier bit about comedians getting dissed at the Oscars with Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. I’m sure B-listers all over Hollywood are firing their agents and calling Black’s reps. The star of “Nacho Libre” !?! scored a gig at the Oscars and a cover spot on Vanity Fair in the same month. Impressive. A head scratcher, but impressive none the less.

One memorable bright spot: former Paramount chairman Sherry Lansing receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The studio honcho-turned-philanthropic who quit the business in 2005 to chair her own foundation dedicated to cancer research and education initiatives was the epitome of good, old fashion Hollywood glamour. She looked great and delivered her heartfelt (and perfectly timed) remarks flawlessly. Weeks before the awards, she spoke to me about how moved and excited she was about her Hollywood homecoming and joked that all her friends wanted to know was what was she going to wear for her big night. “I’m a 62 year old woman,” she marveled. “Who cares what I wear?” Shame on you Sherry for holding out on us about your dead-on fashion sense. All is forgiven, though, because dazzled in your flawless black and red dress. And having Tom Cruise as your top secret presenter was the coup of the evening. Well done.

Nicole Kidman wearing Balenciaga.

Laura Ziskin should have drafted Lansing back into service for the night because the producer simply didn’t seem to know when to say when. Exhibit A: the at first interesting but quickly annoying numbers by the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. It was intriguing (but hey, the night was still young then) when they rolled themselves into a perfect Oscar behind the backlit white screen. By the time they morphed a giant gun as the show closed in on its third hour I could think of multiple uses for the giant weapon.

Even the usually entertaining clip montages fell flat. Just asking, but why wasn’t Anna Nicole Smith part of the “In Memoriam” tribute? She did, after all, costar in “Naked Gun 33 1/3” with such esteemed thespians as O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley. Perhaps it was because she played a bomber set to blow up the Academy Awards. Then again, maybe not. I suspect the newly minted patron saint of the tabloids might have been booed due to the considerably long shadow she cast over the pre Oscar festivities. Says one flack: “If I had to see one more story on Anna Nicole and Britney, I was going to scream. During a week where there should have been wall to wall Oscar stories “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood” and “E!,” they were overdosing on those train wrecks. I had clients whose segments were bumped for spots on that stupid judge. And after the head shaving incident, I was just praying Britney would at least live until Monday.” Nice.

Kate Blanchard in anthracite one-shouldered Armani Prive.

Okay, so the show was boring. That’s not what most people care about anyway. What about the clothes?

Equally disappointing, I’m afraid. So what happened? Not much. Gone are the days when there was any hope of last minute fashion excitement. “This is big business now for the actresses and the designers,” says one fashion flack. “There is absolutely no chance of a designer going out to Los Angeles, setting up a suite and snagging someone important. These deals are struck far, far in advance now. Everything is signed, sealed and delivered long before ‘Oscar Week.’ It’s a waste of time to go out there if you’re hoping to get anyone. Tara Reid had a dress lined up ahead of time for God’s sake!”

A few weeks ago I spoke with Carole Brodie, former director of Global Communications for Harry Winston, now Chief Luxury Officer for The Robb Report for a piece I wrote for “Variety.” Now that she’s opted out of the Oscar fashion derby, she was downright chatty explaining the cash-for-couture phenomenon. “Celebrity dressing as we knew it doesn’t really exist anyone,” she said. “The red carpet is for sale now. It’s just good business.” Brodie also told me: “Everybody pays for people. And if you don’t pay, you pay.”

There’s nothing new to say about the secret and not-so-secret deals brokered between fashion companies and stars (I’ve been reporting on this trend for years as faithful readers of my Oscar report might recall) except to say that it’s become so pervasive that it’s finally killed off whatever remnants were left of the unexpected fashion hits or misses we could expect to see on the red carpet.

Jessica Biel in Oscar de la Renta

The other reason the red carpet has become so pedestrian is because actresses – and the stylists who are paid to dress them – are too fearful of what being labeled ‘worst dressed’ will do for their brand. Let’s face it, most of fans forget about the films they see by the time they go for their post-movie latte at Starbucks – but those award show photos in People, Us Weekly and InStyle seem to live on forever. Being a ‘style icon’ – a moniker that is awarded to far too many women far too easily for my dollar – is where it’s at these days. All the better to help you land that multi-million dollar fragrance deal or designer ad campaign or give the necessary fashion cred to launch a handbag line, jewelry collection and, oh yeah, publicize a film.

Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Zac Posen.

Most actresses seemed game to try to wring out every last bit of exposure to be gained from walking the red carpet by showing up earlier than usual but ultimately no one delivered anything close to a “Wow!” moment. It’s gotten to the point where anyone covering this arena for the past few years can pretty much predict who will come looking ‘glamorous’ -- not great, not extraordinary -- but ‘done’ as expected. This year the axiom proved true with Cate Blanchett. Her anthracite one-shouldered Armani Prive was beautiful and her Lorraine Schwartz jewels were the perfect accent. Lovely and not surprising in the least. Apt pupil Penelope Cruz has been getting it right for a while now and her sweeping pale blush Versace was the quintessential Oscar dress (although I did think the color and the work on the bodice was strangely reminiscent of what Donatella did for Uma Thurman last year). The one semi-suspenseful moment I did look forward to seeing was what Reese Witherspoon would do in her latest ‘revenge dressing’ appearance (imminent divorce never looked so good on anyone!). She didn’t disappoint in her aubergine Nina Ricci and Van Cleef & Arpels jewels. (You just know Allen Schwartz of ABS is whipping up his $300 prom dress version as I type this report.) Think back to that matronly beaded vintage Christian Dior she wore to accept her Oscar last year. What a difference a year makes!

I can’t make up my mind about Nicole Kidman. As the only actress to wear Balenciaga (just like last year), she stood out in red amid a sea of pale hues but the overall effect on outside the Kodak Theatre was odd. Perhaps it was because she looked like an inverted exclamation point as she made her through the press line with her petite and reportedly pregnant friend Naomi Watts. (Her reps are mum on the subject but the post Oscar Escada press release I received included that bit of news – oops!). In another déjà vu moment, the oversized bow on Kidman’s dress evoked memories of glamazon Charlize Theron’s Dior from last year. I liked Kidman’s look a lot more when she strode out onto the stage with her latest co-star Daniel Craig (one of the evening’s best dressed men second only to the always flawless George Clooney) which I guess, was the point to begin with. I do have a question about her oddly arched eyebrows and expressionless face, though. She usually looks much softer. Perhaps she had to do something about all that worrying hubby Keith Urban must have caused during his stint in rehab.

Jennifer Hudson wearing Oscar de la Renta..

Beyonce’s Armani flock of seagulls dress.

I would be remiss if I didn’t salute the efforts of some of the up and comers who showed up first and smartly worked the red carpet to assure they’d make it into the first batch of Oscar stories on the Internet. Early bird Maggie Gyllenhaal seemed to really be enjoying her post pregnancy moment in her Proenza Schouler. She’s never looked better. When I asked the actress if she’s seen the designers’ line at Target she said, “No. But I would totally be into buying it. I love their sensibility.” We agree.

And kudos to Jessica Biel. The young actress is taking a page from Halle Berry’s book by choosing memorable red carpet looks that are helping to create a movie star persona while waiting for her to catch up to the buzz she’s building. Her Oscar de la Renta made her stand out from the fashion pack and showed off her sexy aura without overkill. She’s definitely someone to watch.

And now the on to the fashion mistakes – and there were plenty of them. Can we please retire Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘fashion icon’ title? The woman hasn’t shown up in anything dazzling at any event for as long as I can remember. I hated the color of her Zac Posen dress. It did nothing for her. Jennifer Lopez seemed to be channeling Jacqueline Susann with her frumpy bob and her Marchesa gown. I’ve seen her around Los Angeles looking slimmer than ever – why she chose the too billowing shape weighted down with its built-in necklace is beyond me. Cameron Diaz was simply a fright. The surfer girl’s white, wrinkled origami bed sheet was a far cry from the Valentino she chose for the Globes. And, please if you’re intent on staying brunette (not a good idea) trying brushing your hair before you leave the house.

We have a tie for this year’s worst dressed -- Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson. Both “Dreamgirls” made ill-fated choices when they could have easily dazzled. Beyonce’s Armani flock of seagulls dress made the newly svelte star look broad in the beam and the color didn’t work. (Who sent that memo out about wearing mint, anyway?) For all the time Jennifer Hudson spent during this awards season with Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley (who, by the way, shouldn’t quit his day job for television) she seemed to have learned little about how to dress to impress on the biggest night of her life. The newly minted Oscar winner really got it wrong by pairing a metallic bolero jacket she must have borrowed from Saturday Night Live’s archive (Is it me or did it look just like the costumes the Coneheads once wore?) with a less than stellar Oscar de la Renta dress. She looked much better in the press room once she changed into her Roberto Cavalli. “I’m really feeling this dress,” she said as she sailed out into the night with her Oscar in hand.

A word about the jewelry – or lack thereof. There wasn’t much to see and the ‘statement’ pieces worn by a few stars were more of a distraction than an enhancement. Rachel Weisz’s Cartier pendant, Helen Mirren’s 62 carat white diamond brooch worn on the back !? of her gown (Sitting through the three hour plus show with that digging into her must have been fun) and Meryl Streep’s art deco necklaces from Fred Leighton all looked, at best, unnecessary and in Streep’s case just wrong. What would Miranda say?

What’s fascinating to me is that it has long been whispered that the pay-for-play deals are most prevalent among jewelers. What exactly are they paying for? Unless you’re Chopard, not much. Much has been written about actresses allegedly being paid by the house to wear their jewels. Reps for the house have always denied it, but rival bling brokers can’t help but keep the allegations out there. “It’s the worst kept secret of the awards,” sniped one. A post Oscar press release headlined “Chopard Reigns Over the Red Carpet” trumpeted their victories having dressed Mirren, Kate Winslet, Cruz, Watts, Queen Latifah and Anika Noni Rose for the ceremony and a mix of others including Elton John and Victoria Beckham for the parties. Consider this observation from jewelry war vet Brodie: “There was a year when we dressed four out of five of the best actress nominees. That won’t ever happen again unless someone decides to sponsor these women.” Hmmmm.

So, as the fashion flock heads back to New York and the stars book their long overdue vacations to recover from award season overload, another Oscar season fades from memory even before the breathless post mortems fill the small screen. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to this week’s tabloid coverage: “The Gowns! The Glamour! The Jewels!”

Next year the Academy will celebrate their 80th anniversary – I can hardly wait.


- Diane Clehane is Lookonline’s entertainment editor. She is the author of two New York Times best sellers and is currently at work on a memoir. Email her at

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