An overcast and slightly chilly day in Los Angeles did nothing to dampen the spirits of Hollywood's elite as they arrived for the 79th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 25. Among the trends seen on the red carpet were various shades of red, blush and rose, feather accents, strapless and one-shouldered gowns, bare necks and long, straight hair.
Accosting the celebrities on the red carpet were Joan Rivers representing the TV Guide Channel competing with E! correspondent Ryan Seacrest. While Rivers wore a garish red fur cape and pariticpated in her annnoying movie spoofs and usual untimely jokes (Winona Ryder stealing anyone?), at least this year she seemed to have watched and enjoyed many of the critically acclaimed films and performances, which genuinely surprised stars like Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Seacrest, on the other hand, found every opportunity to bring the conversation back around to "American Idol.: This at least made sense for Jennifer Hudson when he played pre-recorded good wishes from Simon Cowell for her, but was a real stretch when he reminded Djimon Hounsou that he had appeared in fellow "AI" judge Paula Abdul's music video "Straight Up." In a nice turnabout, Al Gore made his own reference when he pondered who would play himself in a film: "Maybe William Hung."
All shenanigans aside, overall the stars acquitted themselves sartorially. Here's a breakdown of some of the red carpet fashions:
Penelope Cruz ("Volver") wore perhaps the most stunning gown of the evening, a blush/nude strapless Versace gown with a matching full, feathered skirt, accented by an elegant updo. Jennifer Lopez wore a similar shade in a flowing empire waist dress with a diamante neckline. Nicole Kidman wasn't as subtle, opting for a bright scarlet sheath with a halter neck tied with a big floppy bow peeking from behind her neck. Others wearing shades of pink and red were Gwyneth Paltrow in sheer russet and Jessica Biel in hot pink.
Besides Cruz, other actress seen with feather accents were Maggie Gyllenhaal, in a navy gown with feathers at the hem and in her hair and Kirsten Dunst, whose feathers at her hem were somewhat less elegant.
THE COLD SHOULDER
Gyllenhaal also decided to go assymetrical with her one-shouldered gown, as did Cate Blanchett in a glamorous Armani Prive mesh and tulle overlay gown, Kate Winslet and Beyonce Knowles in seafoam, and Nancy Walls (aka Mrs. Steve Carell) in purple.
NECK AND NECK
With the profusion of strapless gowns, necklaces were surprisingly in short supply, continuing a trend seen at the past few major award shows. Instead, the ladies saved their bling for their understated earrings, cuff and bangle bracelets, rings and in the case of Rachel Weisz, an antique bow broach (although she and Naomi Watts also sported necklaces).
PLAYING LONG, FLAT AND LOOSE
The traditional updo had to compete with a few loose waves (Lopez, Naomi Watts) this year and the very modern straight, loose hair favored by some of the most glamorous, including Kidman, Paltrow, Beyonce and Reese Witherspoon.
A MAN'S WORLD
While the male stars were more consistent in classic tuxes or suits, there were a few looks that stood out. Pals Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna both were doing their best to bring back the skinny tie, as did Seacrest and "Little Children's" Jackie Earle Haley. As a complete departure from the traditional black, Spike Lee wore a white suit, black beret and polkadot ascot; Peter O'Toole wore a maroon printed smoking jacket; and Hounsou rocked a chocolate brown tux.
While Cruz, Blanchett and Kidman made the grade with their elegant looks, some actresses did their best but were just off the mark. Cameron Diaz looked a little bit too "tan in a can" in a white, geometrically folded gown, while Dunst's couture gown couldn't make up its mind between the sheer collar and sleeves, dripping beads and feathered hem. While Beyonce looked great in her mint green gown, the enameled, stone accent felt too heavy and overdone for her simple attire, while Biel's pink dress felt too casual.
MISSESCatherine Deneuve, Meryl Streep and Faye Dunaway need to take a page from Helen Mirren's book on how to dress for a woman over 60 (Streep's almost there) without looking dreary and frumpy. Jennifer Hudson's looked great in a chocolate gown, but ruined the whole effect with a silver, "Barbarella"-esque short jacket with a huge collar. Kelly Preston's leopard-print Dolce & Gabbana looked straight out of "The Flinstones" (the bad live-action movie), and Anne Hathway's black and white gown was bulky and unflattering. Probably the most garish, however, was Sally Kirkland's "Yellow Submarine" inspired rainbow-winged black gown designed by a rabbi.