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Mila Kunis

OSCARS 2011: The Last Word
A Review of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards

- By Diane Clehane

Will wonders ever cease? After years of a less than stellar red carpet, last night’s Academy Awards finally managed to deliver A-list fashion worthy of the endless coverage it receives. As has been the case for the past several years, there was no clear cut fashion winner but for those who got it right their style savvy choices will undoubtedly deliver the desired PR boost for both the wearer and the designer. It couldn’t come at a better time.

I’ve decided to give out my own awards this year in honor of the occasion. “Most Promising Newcomer Award” goes to Mila Kunis in Elie Saab Haute Couture. (She obviously is taking a page out of Halle Berry’s playbook by dressing like the star she wants to be) Speaking of Berry, she gets my “Most Welcome Return to Glamour Award” for her stunning presence in a frothy, nude Marchesa. I am so glad to see she has abandoned her recent bad award show choices (She showed up at the Globes in her underwear) and last night reminded us of the red carpet mastery that made her a star before she earned kudos as an Oscar winner. Cate Blanchett is my pick for “Fashion Maverick” of the night for her lavender Givenchy Haute Couture gown. Love it or hate it, you noticed it and she’s the only actress who could even try to pull this look off. Having run into the actress at Michael’s restaurant in New York a few weeks ago, I can attest to her brilliance as a fashion chameleon. At the time, she was wearing a non-descript black suit and thick black horn-rimmed glasses. No one noticed her. What a difference a dress makes.

More awards: Michelle Williams get my vote for “Maximizing Minimalism” in her simply chic beaded Chanel. “Best Post-Pregnancy Appearance” goes to Penelope Cruz in a beaded red L’Wren Scott number that showed off a relatable but still beautiful body after baby. Starlet Hailee Steinfeld gets my vote for the “Best Age Appropriate Look” for her sweet and utterly stylish princess-like peach colored Marchesa that she helped design. Miley Cryus could have learned a thing or two from you. My “Hall of Fame Award” goes to Reese Witherspoon who has steadily improved upon her Oscar fashion choices (remember that frumpy frock she wore when she won?). She dazzled last night in her chic, sleek black and white Armani Prive.

As for the losers, Nicole Kidman’s Dior didn’t fit and it looked like priest’s vestments. Marissa Tomei’s dress missed by a mile. Gwyneth Paltrow looked washed out and tired in a metallic Calvin Klein number. The ill-advised jewelry didn’t help any either. Her earrings looked like a bejeweled Bluetooth. The evening’s Worst Dressed Award goes to Sharon Stone who resembled Cruella DeVille with mile high hair, too much eye makeup and a costumey black dress accessorized with feathers. Is this really the same woman who many have credited for bringing glamour back to the red carpet all those years ago? Time has not been kind.

The night’s biggest winner was Anne Hathaway. While Franco barely registered on the small screen (which was no surprise), the actress was utterly charming and proved she was up for the job – and she looked great in pretty much everything she wore. I could have lived without her whooping cries when she introduced her favorite stars but she struck a refreshing mix of enthusiasm and respect throughout the night which actually did work. Hathaway was clearly happy to be there and it showed. The producers obviously saw something in her two years ago when Hugh Jackman plucked her from the audience and she pretty much can summon up chemistry with just about anyone. (She made Franco look better than he actually was) I say pair Hathaway and Jackman as hosts next year. Seriously.

Halle Berry

Reese Witherspoon

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

8:30PM: After a somewhat abrupt start, the customary clip montage that kicks off the show turns clever when Hathaway and Franco are inserted in the package in an amusing send–ups of the nominated films. If they had really entered Alec Baldwin’s brain (a la Inception) perhaps they could have explained why the actor is genetically incapable of staying off screen for more than thirty seconds. Loved Morgan “I have a soothing voice” Freeman.

8:40PM: Things are off to an awkward start when Hathaway and Franco exchange stilted pleasantries with their grandmother (Franco) and mom (Hathaway) who are seated in the audience. Franco’s granny pulls the gag out of the gutter when she delivers one of the best lines of the night -- “I saw Marky Mark!” When Hathaway’s mom admonishes her to ‘stand up straight’ it reverts back to being strangely uncomfortable because it appears she’s only half kidding.

8:45PM: The Academy is pulling out the heavy artillery early. Tom Hanks is the first presenter for Best Art Direction and begins by giving the audience the first of too many ‘Oscar history lessons’ of the evening.

8:51PM: What the hay? Kirk Douglas appears on stage to present the award for Best Supporting Actress. He is absolutely charming as he prolongs the nominees’ agony while flirting with the audience. Winner Melissa Leo, whose chances were apparently not effected by those dopey ‘Consider” ads she ran trolling for votes in the Hollywood trades, ruins one of the most touching segments of the show by dropping the ‘f’ bomb during her acceptance speech. Stay classy, Elvis.

9:02PM: Justin Timberlake tries his best to keep his eyes off Mila Kunis’ breasts.

9:13PM: Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem’s inexplicable twin tux look seems like a hint about who will win the Oscar for Best Adapted screenplay. Yup. Aaron Sorkin, who delivers one of the most eloquent speeches of the night (I wonder who wrote it?) takes the prize. No shout out to Scarsdale High School? My old neighbors will be so disappointed.

9:17 The King’s Speech screenwriter David Seidler gives the night’s second expertly crafted acceptance speech as the “oldest” winner in the Best Original Screenplay category and gives aging boomers all over the world hope by poignantly telling the audience, “My father always told me I’d be a late bloomer” adding that he hopes his record is broken “quickly and often.” Bless you. Extra points for his clever swipe at Leo’s profanity.

9:23PM: Hathaway momentarily dazzles when she launches into an all-too brief tune about Hugh Jackman bailing on singing a duet with her. Somewhere out there Julia Roberts just saw a glimpse of the future and she’s nervous.

9:25PM: Helen Mirren what’s your secret?

9:29PM: Reese Witherspoon, who appears to be channeling Catherine Deneuve in Armani Prive, sashays on stage.

Anne Hathaway

Michelle Williams

9:32PM: Shoo-in Christian Bale accepts his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor by good naturedly referencing his TMZ documented meltdown a few years back telling the audience he’s “not going to drop the f-bomb” because “I’ve done that plenty before.”

9:39PM: ABC’s co-chairman Anne Sweeney appears on stage to interrupt the broadcast with the head-scratching announcement that ABC will be broadcasting the Oscars until 2020. I was so worried about that, weren’t you?

9:42PM Now I know where they borrowed the set from – Wheel of Fortune!

9:45PM Scarlett Johansson, who apparently doesn’t own a brush, somehow manages to remain upright in her tacky Dolce & Gabbana.

9:50PM: What’s with the psychedelic backdrop during the acceptance speeches and why are there no audience reaction shots??

9:59PM: Why are the brilliant costume designers the worst dressed people in Hollywood? Colleen Atwood we mean you.

10:00PM: It took a few hours but when Franco, dressed in drag, delivers the first joke about getting a text message from Charlie Sheen the audience roars.

10:02PM: Barack Obama weighs in via a clip package on his favorite song – It’s As Time Goes By from Casablanca.

10:15PM: No, it’s not Sasha Cohen doing a bit -- it’s Best Live Action Short Winner Luke Matheny who makes the understatement of the evening when he says, “I should have gotten a haircut.” Yes, you should have.

10:19PM: Best Documentary winner Charles H. Ferguson gets my vote for the best political statement by an Oscar winner in a decade when he starts off by telling the audience that none of the financial industry’s fat cats that he takes aim at in his film, Inside Job, have done any jail time for their role in the meltdown of the US economy. “Not a single executive has gone to jail and that’s wrong.” I’ll say.

10:26PM: Billy Crystal gets a standing ovation when he walks on stage. Has the audience really missed the eight-time Oscar host that much? His history lesson about Bob Hope seems like it’s been plucked from another broadcast.

10:28PM: Seriously, why no audience reaction shots?

10:31PM: Jude Law is going bald!

10:40PM: A shrunken Jennifer Hudson in Versace Atelier appears. Weight Watchers’ website crashes.

10:44PM: After being heralded by Hudson as “country music’s newest star” – huh? – Gwyneth Paltrow performs a song from her latest film that nobody saw. Well, at least she can fall back on her role as the perfect yummy mummy doling out boneheaded advice on her irritating website.

Hailee Steinfeld

Natalie Portman

10:52PM: Celine Dion delivers a lovely, melancholy rendition of “Smile” during the In Memoriam segment which is blessedly free of the tasteless ‘applause-o-meter’ of years past.

10:55PM: Did they get Whoopi’s letter? Halle Berry delivers a tribute to Lena Horne in an apparent attempt to counterbalance this year’s absence of African American nominees.

11:01 Anne Hathaway wears her best dress of the night -- a stunningly futuristic Armani Prive in royal blue -- to introduce Hilary Swank apparently in her own homage to Black Swan in a feathered Gucci number) who introduced Kathryn Bigelow (whose dress didn’t fit).

11:02PM: Best Director winner Tom Hooper delivers the best ‘Mom Moment’ of the night when he gives a shout to his mother who introduced him to The Kings Speech after going to a reading of the then unproduced play. “The moral of the story,” said Hooper. “Is listen to your mother.” Lovely.

11:06PM: Last year’s Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges is terrific as he reels off the qualities of this year’s Best Actress nominees. Why did Annette Bening decide to come looking like Mamie Eisenhower?

11:14PM: Winner Natalie Portman (in Rodarte) gives a sweet, teary-eyed acceptance speech which includes a well-deserved shout to Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy. It doesn’t make up for the academy snubbing the sisters in the Best Costume Direction category but hey, it’s something.

11:17PM The only time Anne Hathaway was visibly nervous during the entire broadcast was when she introduced Sandra Bullock by saying it was “a big moment for me.”

11:20PM: A very thin, drawn looking Bullock (in Vera Wang) takes the stage to present the award for Best Actor. Despite what the tabloids will tell you, last year’s Oscar winner seems to be wearing the tumultuous events she’s endured over the past year on her face. If you don’t believe me, google a shot of her from last year’s show. See, I told you.

11:25PM: Winner Colin Firth is, as expected, is utterly charming. “I have the feeling my career has just peaked.” I wouldn’t bet on it. His speech includes another fashion insider shout out to Tom Ford. Interesting.

11:31PM: It’s pretty much a giveaway when the best picture nominee montage is accompanied by music from The King’s Speech. Yup, it wins.

11:41PM: The school kids from Staten Island take the stage to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and are joined by this year’s winners. Melissa Leo seems to be singing the loudest. It almost works.

Show Grade: B Hathaway: B+ Franco: C

- 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 mediabistro.com and the Postcards from Mommywood blog for dianeclehane.com. Email her at DClehane@aol.com

DFR: New York Fashion Report