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To believe the buzz, you’d tune into the Oscars expecting political speeches, hand-painted signs and outrageous outfits, all bent toward a scathingly liberal agenda, derailing and coopting a live television event. Yet they appeared far, far tamer. It’s as if a majority of nominees and guests walked through some kind of political detector and made a promise to be neutral for the sake of unity. In fact, it’s as if this decision was made months ago, when they were picking out their clothes — which by and large looked remarkably similar and remained politically benign.
So Neutral, They're Almost Invisible
With all their freedom of range within fashion, the women were classy as ever but did not make many bold statements. From Naomie Harris to Emma Stone, white, silver and gold ruled the night one dress after another. Nicole Kidman practically blended into her dress, as if trying to say, "I'm not really here!" One exception was Janelle Monáe, who has been known to wear men’s wear on occasion. Her majestic “take me seriously” hip-flared dress and headpiece were reminiscent of PBS dramas about British royalty. That’s the kind of outfit people have to navigate around. Neither the look nor Monáe — who stars in both “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” — can be ignored.
Safety In Uniformity
Poor men, though, they have nothing but the same thing to wear year after year. Andrew Garfield and Lucas Hedges stuck with traditional black tie. Team “Moonlight” mixed it up with neckties over bowties. Ezra Edelman and Mahershala Ali donned black from head to toe. When guys did venture out, nearly all went for blue (almost imperceptible from black on most screens): Matt Damon, Damien Chazelle, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Strahan, to name a few. It doesn’t take much to differ in this crowd. Ryan Gosling stood out with a subtle purple frill on his white tux shirt. And the unkempt beard of Casey Affleck yelled louder than his whispy voice ever has.
Symbols — Political And Otherwise
The expected political symbols were few and far between. But Ruth Negga took a risk, both in stunning Valentino red and with a blue ribbon in support of the ACLU. Lin-Manuel Miranda also wore a blue ribbon on the red carpet but took his off to perform “How Far I’ll Go,” a best song nominee from “Moana.” Best Costume winner Colleen Atwood and Sting wore blue ampersands in support of GLAAD. Viggo Mortensen wore a supposedly apolitical black crow on his lapel.
Isabelle Huppert says she’s “not a fashion person” but has been turning heads all awards season. Though Sunday night's floor-length metallic gown felt more of common cloth — so many others dressed in that palette — her darkly painted nails revealed her saucy edge. Then there was that butterfly gown she wore at Cannes. In real life she’s a grandma. En France? No big deal. But in the United States — desperate as we are to know we can grow old and remain beautiful — she’s become the inspiration du moment. As Kimmel pointed out at one point: "We don't discriminate based on where people are from in Hollywood. We discriminate based on age and weight." No doubt our American attentions will turn elsewhere in a jiff but for now, her glamour defies ageism.
In Hollywood that’s as valuable as Oscar gold.
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