Last night’s Academy Awards — the 90th such ceremony but the first of the #TimesUp, post-Harvey Weinstein era — had its highs and lows, both off the red carpet and on it. And there’s no getting to the red carpet without dealing with everything else first.
On the bright side, Jordan Peele was nominated for Best Director for his debut movie, Get Out — making him the fifth black director in the history of the awards to be recognized in the category. Similarly, Greta Gerwig was celebrated as the fifth woman ever nominated for Best Director, for her first solo effort, Lady Bird. They and fellow nominees Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) and Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) lost to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water — a movie that I loved, but which left a lot of other movie viewers lukewarm. Peele still made history by becoming the first black writer to win Best Original Screenplay (he was only the fourth black screenwriter nominated).
Actresses Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra — all victims of Weinstein — took the stage together to speak openly about Hollywood’s recent reckoning with sexual abuse. Later, Jodi Foster and Jennifer Lawrence presented the Best Actress award in lieu of last year’s Best Actor winner, Casey Affleck, who was smart enough to bow out of the job after his 2017 Oscar win renewed talk of his 2010 settlements with two female crew members who sued him for sexual harassment. Best Actress winner Frances McDormand then gave a speech that was both exuberant and educational: No one in Hollywood can claim ignorance of inclusion riders now. All good signs.
However, even as the ceremony offered evidence of industry improvements for women, it was honoring men who had been accused of abusing women. Kobe Bryant failed to take a cue from Affleck and showed up to personally claim his Oscar for his animated short, “Dear Basketball.” That revived memories of the graphic details of a 2003 sexual assault accusation against the former basketball player, as well as his blame-the-victim defense. (In 2005, he and the woman settled a civil lawsuit out of court.) Donya Fiorentino, the ex-wife of Gary Oldman — this year’s Best Actor winner for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour — referred indirectly to Bryant when she told TMZ, “Congratulations, Gary and congratulations to the Academy for awarding not one but two abusers with Oscars.” During their 2001 divorce, Fiorentino had accused Oldman of physically abusing her, including choking and beating her with a telephone in front of their two sons. Oldman vehemently denied the charges, accusing Fiorentino of drug abuse. He was awarded custody of the children.(*SEE IMPORTANT NOTE AT END OF POST.)
The most cringe-inducing aspect of the evening was arguably the appearance of television host Ryan Seacrest at his normal red-carpet post for E!, despite increased public interest in the harassment accusations made against him by his former stylist. In a letter released in November, Suzie Hardy said she had endured Seacrest’s inappropriate behavior — which was witnessed by a co-worker — from 2007 to 2013, when she complained to human resources. Two weeks later, she was told her employment was coming to an end. Last month, E! announced that an independent investigation had found “insufficient evidence” to support the claims, which Seacrest had denied. He clearly got his chance to make a case for himself. Fair enough. But why insist upon keeping him on the red carpet as the face of the network? Whatever you think of them, the undeniably talented Oldman starred in a very good movie, while Bryant wrote and narrated his short film. Seacrest was … entirely unnecessary. His E! colleague, Giuliana Rancic, could have done the job. A monkey could have done the job. Instead, E! reportedly requested a 30-second delay-to-air in case one of the celebrities confronted him. Perhaps, at the same time, the possibility of a confrontation was a perverse ratings ploy. Viewers certainly were excited when they thought Taraji P. Henson was giving him a piece of her mind. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but she wasn’t hexing him; she was telling him to keep his chin up.
Holy shit Taraji just put a curse on Ryan Seacrest 😂 pic.twitter.com/GSknn3NozF
— Sara Jean Hughes (@sarajeanhughes) March 5, 2018
After all the tension, only six women took home Oscars last night, compared to 33 men, and two of those went to the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. The last time so few women were honored was in 2012, when four women won, including the actress categories. Show business has a long way to go before women achieve parity, which makes the industry … pretty much like most other industries. Hollywood stars. They’re just like us.
The red-carpet fashion, like the show, seemed unable to settle on a strong, consistent statement. But the good looks were really, really good. All eyes were on Eiza Gonzalez in her highlighter-yellow Ralph Lauren gown.
We all agree that Jane Fonda is #Goals for age 80, right? I did think this Balmain was vintage Thierry Mugler though.
You know I love a good boob or butt bow on a dress. I’m not sure what to name the giant bow on the front of Nicole Kidman’s Armani Privé dress, but she carried it magnificently.
Also looking sharp was Daniel Kaluuya in a velvet Brunello Cucinelli tuxedo jacket.
But my Best Dressed/Wear What You Want award requires more than mere beauty and exquisite taste. The winner of that prestigious award needs to give me a touch of whiplash from looking at it repeatedly.
An honorable mention goes to singer St. Vincent who might have gotten the grand prize on any other night for this wild St. Laurent bodysuit. Great jewelry too.
Another honorable mention goes to Tiffany Haddish, who was a very serious contender for first runner-up. First, she appeared on the red carpet in a traditional Eritrean dress to pay tribute to her father.
Later, when she appeared on stage as a presenter, I literally screamed because Haddish was wearing her famous Alexander McQueen dress — the one she wore to a movie premiere, and then on Saturday Night Live, where she promised to keep wearing it for the rest of her life. Slow fashion always warms my heart and, after Tiffany’s SNL gig, slow fashion got me 15 seconds of fame on an entertainment-news show for my approving tweet to her.
As fabulous and funny as that was, I have to go with my heart and declare singer Andra Day my first runner-up for her voluminous Zac Posen gown and her posin’ on the red carpet. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let this red-carpet picture speak for me.
Oh. Em. Gee. If you look up “extra” in the dictionary, Andra’s Oscar ensemble will be there, and I love every bit of it. I don’t know if Andra was inspired by P. Diddy’s 2017 Met Gala move, and I don’t care. She’s made it her own!
Here’s another photo that shows off the side of her to-die-for faux-ny tail.
Of course, her nails and jewelry are fierce.
The dress was a stunner in the fully upright position too.
By the way, I’ve seen Andra sing live and I highly recommend the experience. Talent and beauty and fashion chutzpah.
With all my zeal for Andra, you might be wondering who could possibly top her and get the official Best Dressed/Wear What You Want award. I’m going to tell you … in this week’s YouTube video. Perverse ratings ploy? Maybe.
*UPDATED MARCH 8, 2018, TO ADD: Gulliver Oldman, one of Gary’s sons, wrote an open letter in strong support of his father, saying, “…I was there at the time of the ‘incident,’ so I’d like to make this radiantly clear: it didn’t happen. Anyone who says it did is lying.” Gulliver wrote, “Custody of children is not given to a wife beater, and under most circumstances, hardly ever a man. My having lived, full time with my father should be in itself, proof enough,” and says he stopped speaking to his mother seven years ago, when he was 13.
Gary Oldman and Fiorentino, who met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in 1996, both accused each other of substance abuse during their divorce. It seems from the 2001 wording that Fiorentino was referring to behavior that occurred before their 1997 marriage. Oldman, more than once, has said he got sober in 1995 and hasn’t used since. In contrast, he said during the divorce, Fiorentino overdosed on drugs in 2001.
This does mean that Oldman was sober during a 2014 interview with Playboy in which he discussed actor Mel Gibson’s 2006 anti-Semitic outburst during a drunk-driving arrest: “Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him …” He then apologized for contributing to “the furtherance of a false stereotype.”