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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Manohla Dargis likes the dresses, too

If Scott Foundas's critique of Crash (see also: this smart response to Roger Ebert's campaign for the film, which rivals David Denby's for intensity, as in this comparison of the film to Dickens) isn't enough to stoke your indignation about the Best Picture Debacle, read Manohla Dargis's Academy Awards Q&A column (the discussion of Crash comes in the third question on the list). In the same column, she answers a reader's question about why she cares about the awards. Her final comment on that answer is parenthetical: she says she also likes the dresses. Shout it out loud, Manohla. I'm so glad someone besides Nancy O'Dell said that. An awards show is an awards show. The Academy Awards are a fantasy of the supposed intersection of glamor and excellence, and the fashion is a nice distraction from the disappointment that excellence and recognition usually don't intersect.

I've been dressing up for the Academy Awards since high school. I remember going to the mall with my friends and picking out the dress I would wear to Oscars when I won Best Adapted Screenplay for my adaptation of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle (music by PJ Harvey). In 1997, I protested Titanic beating L.A. Confidential by taking off my nice sundress and changing into the rattiest thing I could find (not a difficult task, actually). That year, I was also protesting Helen Hunt besting Helena Bonham Carter for best actress. I was young and idealistic then and hadn't realized less-talented American actresses usually beat Brits--HBC, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, and Judi Dench were so obviously superior to Helen Hunt, as were Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave, and especially Miranda Richardson the year that Marisa Tomei won. And I took offense at Ben Affleck's and Matt Damon's win for Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. OK, 1997 was clearly an intersection of bad Academy Awards voting and my own teenage reactionary high-mindedness.

I was annoyed to read the predictable "they only care what the women are wearing, not what they have to say!" commentary the day after the awards (to be fair, I like Salon's Broadsheet most of the time and think that most of the posts are valuable, and, yes, it is about time for such a blog in the semi-mainstream media). Entertainment reporting is frivolous to begin with. Do I care what any actor or actress has to say? Sure, George Clooney's speech about Hollywood's progressive vision was kind of cool, but I'm not sure I believe it (I liked Jon Stewart's response to the Issues Montage at the ceremony: "And none of those issues were ever a problem again!").

I've been a little more digressive than I intended. Without further ado, here are my picks for Academy Awards fashion:

Best Dressed:
Michelle Williams--the tangerine color was inspired, and I loved the necklace.
I prefer the suit and tie (Terrence Howard and [ahem] Peter Sarsgaard) over the tuxedo. Also, it would have been awesome if Larry McMurtry were wearing a bolo tie--then it would have been a real Texas Tuxedo.
Uma Thurman--I liked this dress better in a still photograph than I did during the telecast. Is it that the television isn't as kind to champagne-blush-cream-colored dresses as photographs taken in daylight? I liked Naomi Watts better in a photograph than onstage, too.
Alice Boone--seriously. I looked hot. I wore a red party dress that I found in a thrift store on 96th Street (a woman in the store saw me trying it on over my jeans and said, "Girl, you'd better get that!" I did my own hair and makeup, too.

Worst Dressed:
Ballgowns shouldn't have pockets because they encourage slouching. Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams can lie and say they just wanted to be comfortable, but they were wearing corsetted tops. No one is comfortable in a corset. No one looks good with a stiff torso and slouched shoulders.
Jennifer Lopez and Charlize Theron were both wearing hideous colors of green.

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Anonymous Anonymous on Tue Mar 07, 10:49:00 PM:
re: best dressed
you know how i feel about michelle williams.
normally my vote would be for alice boone.
but again, you know how i feel about my wife.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Mar 08, 11:03:00 AM:
Alice, I loved this post! You know I am fan of the dresses, too.

I thought Jennifer Lopez looked dreadful. Possibly the worst of anyone! I always feel bad for the people who win the more obscure awards and obviously did not have the benefit of a major Hollywood makeup artist and stylist helping them get ready. There were a few people there with bad Long Island prom hair--dead giveaway.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Mar 08, 02:22:00 PM:
re: sarsgaard. i confidently spelled it out as saarsgard to my roommates, so blame me for any misrepresentation of the stellar (unrelated to Stellan) Mr. Sarsgaard.
i liked: jessica alba in still photo (on the television she looked a wee bit skeletal.) michelle williams. queen latifah. dolly parton.
i disliked: nicole kidman (enough with the "alabaster goddess" look. consult with ms. parton on adding personality.) charlize. keira knightley (but not her make-up.)
i'm as yet undecided about: felicity huffman. uma thurman.
Blogger Jeff'y on Thu Mar 09, 10:58:00 AM:
I'm not qualified to comment on women's fashion. In case I had any doubts, last night's Project Runway finale confirmed that I must know nothing--I thought that every single one of the winner's outfits looked like discarded silk curtains repurposed for high fashion. But... both Jennifer Lopez and Charlize Theron were monochromatic (in popular parlance, they were crayons). That can't be good.