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Kate Winslet wearing YSL

OSCARS 2009: The Last Word
A Review of the 81st Annual Academy Awards

- By Diane Clehane

Let’s get this out of the way right now: it was an awful night for fashion. When A-listers like Penelope Cruz and Reese Witherspoon miss by a mile and Sarah Jessica Parker decides to do her own homage to The Wizard of Oz by dressing like Glinda the Good Witch, it’s a bad night indeed.

Ladies, fire your stylist. Overall, the looks were completely uninspired. Red dresses for the red carpet. We get it. Now, unless you’re Heidi Klum shilling for Diet Coke, hang it up. Ditto the Michelle Obama wannabes. You’re movie stars, for goodness sakes.

Yes, there were a few good dresses: Marissa Tomei (in Versace) looked good; Taraji P. Henson (in Cavalli) looked pretty. But there was no wow moment. None. Believe me, I looked. In case you’re wondering, I’m giving the evening’s Best Dressed Award to Angelina Jolie who, in her black Elie Saab and gorgeous emerald earrings looked the best she has in ages.

The other reason it was a dismal night for fashion was because so many A-listers took producers up on their offer and eschewed the red carpet ducking in the back entrance and therefore depriving designers the moment they wait for all year – having their name uttered on television in front of a billion people when a star is asked ‘What are you wearing?’ Sure, it goosed ratings (Up considerably from last year) but it was a wash out for the fashion industry.

Not that this matters one bit to first time producer Laurence Mark and executive producer Bill Condon. These guys pulled off the most entertaining Oscar broadcast in over a decade. Most of the credit belongs to the incredibly likeable – and gorgeous!! -- Hugh Jackman who should do this gig for the foreseeable future. He pulled off the impossible – looking every inch the movie star and the consummate showman he was completely at ease in front of this toughest of all tough crowds. Everyone loved him. His musical numbers brought the house down. The guy killed.

Here’s a rundown of the evening’s highs and lows:

6:05PM E! kicks off their preshow with the breathless announcement that “big celebrity” Nicole Ritchie is pregnant. Huh?

6:08PM ‘Superstar” Miley Cyrus is the first to arrive on the red carpet and announces to all who would talk to her that she is just “going to hang out” and do some “star stalking.” She tells Ryan Secrest that Angelina Jolie “can adopt me if she wants to.” Nice news, I’m sure, to her stunned mother who is her date for the evening standing next to her.

6:21PM Still no sign of any celebrity besides Virginia Madsen who is sporting the first of too many boring red dresses of the evening.

6:28PM Aha! A real movie star. Sir Anthony Hopkins with a very young looking date. He walks tentatively past the hedge where reporters are trying their best to not look like they’re ignoring him because, inexplicably, they’re still talking to Miley.

6:30PM Best actress nominee Taraji P. Henson, one of the evening’s better dressed actresses, in Cavalli and Fred Leighton (The jeweler was the only fashion winner of the night of you add up mentions they received on television and the number of necks that were sporting some serious gems). If only she hadn’t accidentally shown us her Spanx when she hiked up her dress for Ryan Secrest. Fun fact: Halle Berry gave her a diamond bracelet to congratulate her on her Oscar nod. It sure beats a fruit basket.

6:32PM Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron from High School Musical hold court four feet apart and pretend not to be a couple. Why are these people here?

6:35PM Best Supporting Actor nominee Michael Shannon arrives. No one knows who he is.

6:36PM Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates discuss American Idol with Ryan Secret. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

6:37PM Word spreads among the reporters on the red carpet that the Academy has asked past winners to be on stages with this year’s acting category winners. Now there’s a novel idea. The bad news: what we’ve been hearing is true -- Most of them will not walk the red carpet. Good news for Miley, I’m guessing.

6:46PM Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto arrives in royal blue John Galliano. I don’t love it, but she is lovely.

6:48PM Randolph Duke, working for ABC, makes a good point: “Women are posing and not looking relaxed. Over posing is killing the dresses.” Duly noted.

6:49PM There are one thousand people blocking my view of the red carpet and all of them are in Slumdog Millionaire.

Angelina Jolie in Elie Saab

7:06PM Brangelina where are you?

7:10PM Best actor nominee Richard Jenkins, best known as the father from Six Feet Under arrives. No one really knows what to say to him because only about 11 people (including me) saw The Visitor. It’s on Pay Per View this month and well worth your time.

7:12PM Carrie Bradshaw, how could you? Sarah Jessica Parker arrives looking like the world’s oldest prom queen. Dior Haute Couture looks like it’s from the Hollywood House of Wax. Yikes!!

7:13PM The world has officially stopped spinning on its axis. Robert Downey, Jr. is, so far, one of the evening’s best dressed.

7:14PM Amy Adams wearing a 1950’s colored gemstone and diamond Fred Leighton necklace which I loved and a Carolina Herrera gown I didn’t.

7:15PM Twlight’s Robert Pattinson marvels over the insanity of his presence on the red carpet. I’m more taken by the fact that he really does look like a vampire. Cute, though.

7:20PM An hour and half in and no sign of an A-list movie star. This is worrisome.

7:21PM In the distance Anne Hathaway grips her father’s hand as she prepares to run the gauntlet of press hungry for someone – anyone! – to talk to. Upon close inspection, her shimmering Armani Prive gown is a winner.

7:27PM Beyonce saunters by in the ugliest dress she’s ever worn on the red carpet.

7:28PM Mickey Rourke tells everyone that Jean Paul Gaultier “did him solid” by making his white suit for the night. The Best Actor favorite (at least on the red carpet) accessorizes the look with a locket with a picture of his dearly departed dog, Loki. “The love of my life,” he says.

7:29PM Queen Latifah says she’s singing during the usually silent ‘In Memoriam’ portion of the evening. Uh oh.

7:38PM The Wrestler’s Evan Rachel Wood arrives sporting one of the evening’s big trend a nearly nude, off white colored gown. She is the palest human being I’ve ever seen. I’d like to have the business that removes all these ill-conceived tattoos when these gals start to age.

7:39PM Paydirt! Brangelina emerge from their limo. Angelina looks gorgeous is her black Elie Saab and to die for emerald earrings. The entire red carpet goes on high alert.

7:51PM Best actress favorite Kate Winslet is wearing another Yves Saint Laurent gown. Strangely, she looks as if she’s aged five years since the Globes. Very nervous.

7:58PM Ryan Secrest does his best to bag Brangelina after getting dissed at the Globes. He manages to get a few words and smile out of Brad. Angie isn’t interested in talking.

Taraji P. Henson in Roberto Cavalli and Fred Leighton

8:06PM Tim Gunn -- of all people -- has to physically detain Angelina by grabbing her arm to tell her and Brad in no uncertain terms that they have saved the red carpet! Angie smiles indulgently.

8:09PM Tim chats with Valentino who is quick to point out he’s here as a “spectator” no doubt in an effort to distance himself from the abundant fashion disasters that abound.

8:18PM Miley Cyrus is still lurking about. She needs to take that exploding oyster platter of a dress and go away.

8:20PM Meryl Streep and her daughter Louisa (“My baby”) look like they had the same stylist pick their earth toned dresses. Pretty but nothing special.

8:30PM Showtime! Hugh Jackman pulls off an incredible opening number that gets him a standing ovation from the crowd. Impressive.

8:40PM Hugh works the crowd -- and even ventures over to Brangelina. They smile. He says he’s “contractually obligated” to mention the super couple throughout the broadcast. I’m guessing he’s only half joking.

8:42PM In the most inspired bit of staging I can ever remember since covering the Oscars, the Best Supporting Actress award is preceded by the introduction of past category winners who are revealed to be standing behind oversized panels sporting their images. The always otherworldly Tilda Swinton says they’re “here to welcome a new member to the group.” Very cool.

8:46PM Winner Penelope Cruz joins them on stage. While she charms with her speech, she disappoints by sporting a bridal looking vintage Pierre Balmain. She’s been my best dressed pick for two years running but this year she looks like she stepped off the top of a 1950’s wedding cake. Too bad.

8:54PM Okay, I get Tina Fey is a star but she is now officially obnoxiously over exposed. But kudos for a good dress and an even better body.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Dior Haute Couture

9:03PM Jennifer Aniston takes the stage with Jack Black. Will they pan down to Angelina? Yes, and she’s laughing. I’m thinking it’s not at the lame banter the two uncomfortable looking actors are spouting. Jennifer’s milk maid beach hair and Vegas showgirl dress looks even worse in direct comparison’s to Angie’s movie star cool. Why is it that women who look fabulous every other night of the year are getting it wrong for the Fashion Olympics tonight?

9:16PM I still hate Sarah Jessica Parker’s dress. And I don’t get the belt.

9:22PM Rumbles through the press room – will this clock in at five hours?

9:31PM Natalie Portman looks lovely in lavender and plays the perfect straight woman to Ben Stiller’s parody of Joaquin Phoenix’s still talked about appearance on David Letterman. Let’s hope the two don’t meet up at Vanity Fair later.

9:44PM Who is Seth Rogen sleeping with to get so much air time on this broadcast??

9:53PM Hugh Jackman is back. The whole place sits up a little straighter. He launches into the second musical number with Beyonce, who thank God, has ditched her bull fighter dress and looks killer in a red bodysuit. You heard it here first: those two should do a Broadway musical together – with Baz Luhrmann directing. (He staged this showstopper)

9:55PM Who would have thought the musical numbers would be the best part of the Oscars? Shocking, but true.

Marisa Tomei in Versace

10:04PM Past Best Supporting Actor winners gather on stage. For some reason, there’s a bit of a Star Trek ‘Beam Me Up,Scotty’ vibe to the whole thing but on balance, I like seeing the old guard mix with the winners. A really inspired idea. This broadcast is the best it’s been in years.

10:05PM Heath Ledger’s family comes to the stage and accepts his award for his role in Dark Knight. All the other nominees look as if they knew this was coming. Close ups of the audience reveal that Adrien Brody, Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt and yes, Angelina are tearing up.

10:33PM A shot of John Mayer with girl friend Jennifer Aniston makes him look bored enough to want to sneak outside and dish about his date with the guys from TMZ. Still can’t get over how disheveled she looks.

10:46PM Jerry Lewis wins the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Mercifully, he gives a short, sweet speech.

10:53PM Zac Efron and Alicia Keyes (another pretty lavender dress) who looks like J.Lo circa 2005 present Best Original Song.

Miley Cyrus in Zuhair Murad

11:00PM Why don’t they just give the rest of the envelopes to the guys from Slumdog Millionaire so everyone can go to Vanity Fair already?

11:10PM Queen Latifah has changed into another hideous dress and is singing ‘I’ll be Seeing You” while images of those who died flash around her. A bit too sentimental, but I’ll give them an ‘A’ for effort.

11:19PM Reese Witherspoon looking dismal. What happened to all those fabulous Nina Ricci dresses? I guess her contract was up. There’s some whispers asking could Reese be trying to hide a bump courtesy of beau Jake Gyllenhaal? I think it’s just a bad dress. Remember that hideous prom queen look she sported when she won? Now that she’s given up revenge dressing, her inner frump has returned.

11:27PM Finally, some real glamour. The past best actress winners including the beautiful Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry all but suck the air out of the room standing together. A great moment.

11:33PM Kate Winslet gives charming – and only slightly tearful (She’d been dissed in the British papers for being too weepy at other award shows!!) acceptance speech. I keep thinking she should have switched dresses and worn what she did for the Globes tonight.

11:36PM By the way, where’s George Clooney tonight?

11:37PM Fingers crossed Mickey Rourke wins Best Actor just to hear his acceptance speech.

11:42PM Nope. It’s Sean Penn who doesn’t thank his wife Robin Wright.

11:54PM Slumdog takes best picture. And miraculously, the whole shebang is over by midnight.

12:13PM Backstage, Kate Winslet graciously endures stupid questions from the press room. The foreign press is the worst. Then, Ted Casablanca from E! (where else?) asks her who she’d like to see naked on screen since she’s just announced she’d no longer be taking off her clothes. She tries to be game, but can’t think of anyone. “Do I have to answer this one?” she pleads. The press room rep says ‘Would you like to come back to this one?’ Ted cries, ‘No!’ so Kate soldiers on before finally saying, ‘Susan Sarandon.’ She suffers a few more inanities. Then, Oscar aloft she departs for the night taking her rightful place in Oscar history.

- Diane Clehane is Lookonline’s Entertainment Editor. She is the author of several New York Times best sellers and is currently at work on a novel. She writes the popular ‘Lunch’ column for . Email her at

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