Movies/ Mouthing Off/ A Miscellany

Movies/ Mouthing Off/ A Miscellany
Movies/ Mouthing Off/ A Miscellany

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Oscars 2014, Part II: Best Supporting Dress

At its best, fashion represents a kind of performance, involving risk, engagement, and a sense of audience. Certain actresses have an uncanny sense of what to wear on the red carpet; others, alas, are still finding their way.

In what category does Jennifer Lawrence belong? Many people find her candor and naturalness charming, and she certainly seems to be the darling of the internet. (The simple white Dior she wore to the Golden Globes launched a thousand memes.) She has certainly achieved ubiquity. And who could argue with her oft-quoted remarks about her right not to be shamed about her curvy body and not wanting to set an anorectic example for the many young fans of The Hunger Games. However, it's hard not to take these feminist lessons with a grain of salt coming from someone who looks like Barbie. Thin, young, and with large breasts? That's the kind of body dysmorphia Hollywood can get behind.
How well what one commentator termed Lawrence's "glamorous Tourette's" weathers will become clear in time.
Don't mind me, I'm just a crabby old witch. But even Weird Sisters sometimes get it right. Mark my words: It's a dangerous game she's playing, and I don't just mean the Buster Keaton tumbling routine. What looks charming at 22 can slide quickly into Sally Kirkland territory


Que sera, sera. But for now,  Lawrence at least evinces that most important of artistic talents: stealing from the right person at the right time. After Lupita Nyong'o stole the show at the Golden Globes in Ralph Lauren red (one fashionista praised her as Red Riding ready to take a bite out of the Wolf), guess who showed up ablaze at the Academy Awards a month later. And a canny move it was: in the sea of serious blue/black power  dresses (See my Oscar Fashion Blog, Part 1)Lawrence, if she didn't take home a statuette, at least  showed spirit.

Would that Mathew McConaughey had taken his cues from Lupita Nyong'o when it came time for his Oscar acceptance speech. Where his disaster of a  speech  probably  undid a lot his hard work rehabilitating his career as a serious actor, Lupita Nyong'o's speech, like the rest of her awards season, was pitch perfect. Her preternatural calm and poise made more sense when I read her biography: raised in Mexico (thus the "Lupita") and  Kenya by Kenyan politicians and intellectuals, Nyong'o always seems to keep her eye on the bigger picture. Her speeches, both before and at the awards, have been lauded for bringing attention back to the plight of the slave woman she played in 12 Years a Slave, and to the young girls of color growing up without role models in the media. But all that high-minded stuff aside, did she bring the fashion to the Academy Awards?

This is a somewhat complex question, believe it or not. Some people felt that her maidenly, robin's egg blue Prada gown did not attain the bold sampling of colors and designers which made her stand out all season. But what these people need to realize is that, like a freshman senator joining an established committee, she has to work within existing power structures. The Best Supporting Actress category, for those in the know, has long been known as The Audrey Hepburn Imitator Award. By that I mean, there is a strong tradition of this award going to a beautiful young starlet who can remind us of that golden moment when Audrey Hepburn arrived in our life, via Roman Holiday

While unsure of the full significance of this particular cultural ritual, the Reenactment of the Audrey, I  do think we should we grateful it does not involve actually seizing of beating heart of the "winner" from her demurely-gowned body, and offering it up to the Gods of Domestic Gross, though it may in fact serve some such symbolic function.


This role is more difficult than it appears. Even Gwyneth Paltrow, who has parlayed her fashion prowess into an alternate career, managed to screw this one up with a hot pink gown both frumpy and overly revealing. Lupita Nyong'o, however, sailed through it crisply and with great delicacy, more than earning her stripes as the new face for Prada, Spring 2014.

Which brings us to the best actress winner: Cate Blanchett. When it comes to Cate the Great, I feel it's not my role to critique but simply to attempt an explication of her unquestionably divine fashion message.
To be honest, the meaning of her nude with reflecting squiggles Armani gown was somewhat lost on me. People calls it "a floral adorned, illusion mock turtleneck," and I'm not sure I have much to add of a technical nature.

Walking into the awards, Blanchett was simultaneously the favorite, and entering under a dark cloud, courtesy of her no-show scandal-prone director, Woody Allen. Fashion ninja extraordinaire, she threw us off with a combination of feigned nudity, misdirection, and sequined mirrors. Walking away with her well-earned Oscar, she left us with one final koan: "There are many talented people in Australia."

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