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, Hillary 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.
Let me not forget to pay homage to the well-dressed men. Handsome standouts included Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson, coincidentally wearing matching tuxedos with mandarin pleated shirts, Ed's blue and Samuel's white. Of course they didn't plan this. It was coincidental.
David Carradine was the only gentleman to wear an all-creme tuxedo and Ben Affleck shouted "dapper" in a tux with white shirt and white long tie. And Benicio Del Torro, winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Traffic, finally fixed his unruly hair and looked divine in a standard tuxedo with bow tie.
Björk Lays an Egg
Of course, in addition to the many beautifully dressed folks, there were those who should have been seated together in a scary section. Topping that list was Icelandic singing sensation (if you're from Iceland) Björk, who sported a feathered ensemble made to resemble a swan. This disaster came complete with a long neck that wrapped around Björk's neck, complete with beak that lay gingerly upon her breast.
To add insult to injury, this crazy-looking number was the accent piece over a full body stocking. The pièce de résistance, however, was an oversized egg purse, which was hidden under the dress's ruffles. Björk would pull it out every once and awhile to make it appear that she had just laid the thing.
Unsure if the singer should have been caged or allowed to run free on Wild Kingdom, everyone took a second glance as she walked by to confirm that what they were seeing was for real.
Another poorly chosen outfit was donned by the French actress Juliette Binoche. Normally Binoche looks ravishing in sexy evening wear, but this time we weren't so lucky. Her choice for the Oscars was a black Gautier flapper ensemble, complete with studded boots, a beret, and strands of pearls. Seeing her brought an old song to mind: "Things That Make You Go Hmmm."
Of course, one cannot talk fashion without mentioning Jennifer Lopez. Not to worry, she was there with new boyfriend, dancer Chris Judd. J.Lo went for elegance with a gray Chanel gown. It was satin at the bottom, but, oh yes, don't let us neglect to mention the Tarzan-style top was a much lighter fabric … so light, in fact, it was see-through. For certain, Lopez's choice for Oscar night was far better than her garb from Grammy days gone by, but it is clear her taste is still lacking — most notably, undergarments!
From the show perspective, host Steve Martin was fantastically funny, rolling off quips about Russell Crowe's dating habits, suggesting the Gladiator showed such little discretion that he would chase after Ellen Burstyn if she had 20 more years and 30 more pounds on her. The first-time host also knocked Danny DeVito, who, wearing sunglasses indoors and was the only one visibly snacking during the ceremony. After a commercial break, Martin ventured into the audience to offer DeVito some dip to go with his food.
Martin also made cracks about the nominated films, saying Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had no tigers and no dragons and he guessed that was because they were crouching and hidden. He also got in a Survivor joke, saying, "Stay tuned, at the end of the night we're going to vote someone out of show biz."
Martin wore his new emcee stripes quite well and will most likely be invited back for future Oscar shows should regular Billy Crystal decide to retire his hosting duties for good.
My Red Carpet Spill
Overall, the evening's events were pleasant, well planned and well executed. There was nothing that kept us riveted to our seats, no awe-inspiring moments that will be reminisced on in years to come. There was just some good old-fashioned Hollywood glitz to enjoy.
But, if asked to choose one thing that stood out for me above the rest, I'd have to say it had nothing to do with the Oscar telecast. It was far more personal. Before the show began, during the arrivals portion, Nancy O'Dell of Access Hollywood and I were knocked over the hedges that line the red carpet, by a cameraman who fell off the bleachers, directly into us.
We both recovered as gracefully as one can when unexpectedly getting pushed over greens in formal wear. This may seem a rather selfish and shortsighted instance to choose compared to all the glamour and goings on that were taking place at the Oscars. But unlike many who watch year after year and can't remember who won, who looked good, and who sounded good, I can fondly look back at my grass-stained silk evening suit and say, "Hey, the 73rd Academy Awards — that was the year I fell."
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.