Showbiz Commentary: Heidi Oringer

The stars, the fashions, the scaffolding … all managed to stay up (including the audience) and look wonderful during the 73rd Annual Academy Awards.

Miracle upon miracles, not only did the evening run smoothly, but for the first time in years, it actually ran UNDER — ending at the three-hour, 29-minute mark — including credits.

This is an extraordinary feat, being that recent Oscar shows have run close to four hours, and frequently over.

Perhaps it was the 45-second acceptance speech rule that held the broadcast to the clock, perhaps not, as many winners chose to forgo the prize of a high-definition TV for the opportunity to spend more time on stage.

Julia in the Spotlight

Julia Roberts was the winner who spent the most time there and deservedly so, as she was clearly the star of the evening. From her black vintage dress with white satin trim to her chinois tresses to her funny and adorably sincere acceptance of the Best Actress Oscar, she brought Hollywood and the press to their knees.

As giddy as she was on camera, Roberts was equally so backstage, joking about everything from her decision not to become a veterinarian to heeding the strong words of advice from last year's Best Actress winner, Hilary Swank, who gave Roberts a valuable piece of advice: "Breathe, just breathe."

On the flip side of the coin was Russell Crowe, who to the surprise of many, walked away with the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Gladiator, but was not especially well-received.

Clad in a stylishly unusual tuxedo and sporting a British medal (which the actor explained was awarded to his grandfather, a photographer in World War II), Crowe was one of the last to arrive at the gala event. He rushed down the red carpet and seemed less than eager to answer questions from the press backstage.

Although Crowe said he was genuinely stunned he picked up the statuette, it certainly didn't seem to humble him in the least. He wrapped up his interviews with a wisecrack thanking Christ for creating Australia. (Perhaps the kidnapping wouldn't have been such a bad thing …)

Big Diamonds, Little Skin

On the fashion front, styles were elegant, glamorous and far more conservative than in Oscars past. Skin was not in, but big diamonds were. Stunners included Joan Allen in a peach sequined Michael Kors gown designed especially for the actress; Laura Linney, who looked lovely in cherry red; Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks), who was radiant in a white and black beaded Versace; and Marcia Gay Harden, who was snuggly fit into a burgundy satin gown with matching wrap. Harden was already a winner even before receiving the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Pollock.

Many of the ladies wore exceptional jewelry borrowed from favorites like Harry Winston and Fred Leyton. Ellen Burstyn sparkled in a bedazzling multi-carat necklace with matching earrings. Both contained yellow diamonds to match her outfit.

Julie Andrews was another who was weighted down with more stones than a Sopranos casualty and Catherine Zeta-Jones showed off some mighty big rocks, including an enormous topaz dangling from her neck. The one drawback for those decked in diamonds, though, was that along with the jewels came the bodyguards. Anyone who had on more than a few carats got the additional adornment of high security.

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