Frock Horror at the Oscars 2023

Let’s face it, we were all tuning in praying for another fight on the Oscars stage to distract us from the annual monotony of worth and woke speeches.

But the fashion horrors – and so much else – made up much of our disappointment.

As did the leading ladies, who paraded cheeks so mysteriously prominent, they looked as if Novak Djokovic had served a double fault into them.

Seriously, they were so pronounced, they looked in danger of swallowing their heads whole – yes, I’m talking to Melissa McCarthy, Sigourney Weaver, Cate Blanchett and others here. If they rise any higher, girls, they’re going to be sitting atop your heads like a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

Of course, that’s if you could actually see them. Dozens couldn’t because they were sitting behind Nigerian singer Temilade Openiyi. Nominated for Best Original Song, Lift Me Up, from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she had clearly been eaten by a giant meringue. Struggling to get a view of the stage each side of the humungus monstrosity, the poor showbiz types behind went home with whiplash after three hours of chiffon torture.

Before the ceremony, both ABC (who broadcast the event) and ‘E’ brought us the usual round of interviews and information about who designed what. On ‘E’, the four most dreaded words had to be ‘Over to you, Laverne.’

Laverne Cox was presenting from the red carpet, which this year was Champagne colored, apparently to provide a contrast to the red drapes. Utterly pointless. The carpet was at best beige, at worst, urine yellow, and lacked the dramatic impact of red, which also shows up the frocks and tuxes much more effectively. I’ve seen more attractive funeral homes.

Laverne gushed over everyone. Well, it was more of an adjectival spewing up. They were all ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, as were their outfits. There were notable exceptions. Mindy Caling looked stunning in a Vera Wang white dress, which was swapped for the black version when she presented an award. Cate Blanchett looked more suited to the ‘E’ pre-ceremony brunch, where guests appeared to have raided Target for their outfits.

Florence Pugh looked as if she’d forgotten to take her black swimsuit off before having a run-in with a duvet. And the last time I saw a gold foil outfit like Sigourney Weaver’s, it was wrapped around my turkey at Thanksgiving.

Sandra Oh was in orange, described by ‘E’ as ‘the least worn color on the carpet.’ Yep. There’s a reason for that. It’s the color you share with your toilet bowl after a heavy night on the town.

Then there was Eva Longoria, there to present an award, and whose breasts had decided to part company. They had been looking precariously balanced when she arrived at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles and barely held together by her Zuhair Murad dress, which she had to adjust before posing for photos.

When she took to the stage, the left breast stayed in place, while the right was heading so far downwards, it looked as if it might need visa to get back into the country. It’s a thin line between a plunge and a lemming style descent.

Rudeness was not confined to the outfits. Take Hugh Grant – and model Ashley Graham was probably wishing someone would. Trying to extract the tiniest nugget of information from him, it was a tougher job than raising the Titanic.

Easily winning the award for worst red-carpet interviewee, he was a font of dullness. All we got was that his tailor made his suit, and he didn’t much enjoy the ‘three seconds’ he was in Knives Out. He topped it off with a roll of the eyes at the end that was just plain offensive. He doubtless thought he was being funny. He wasn’t. He looked and behaved like a prat. If you don’t want to play ball, stay out of the stadium.

Inside the auditorium, host Jimmy Kimmel started well, with some good quips to selected members of the audience.

Seth Rogan was sitting behind Stephen Spielberg, a pairing that Kimmel called ‘The Joe and Hunter Biden of Hollywood.’ Rogan, of course, never stops banging on about how much weed he smokes. The fact that he never shuts up on the subject should serve as a warning about a drug that clearly has the ability to turn you into a crashing bore. Yeah, we know you smoke weed, mate. Get over it.  You’re hardly Pablo Escobar.

The most excruciating segment was Kimmel’s pretend questions to other audience members.

Listing Malala Yousafzai’s achievements – at 26, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever – he added a note of frivolity by asking her whether she thought Harry Styles had spat on Chris Pine (at the Venice Film Festival).

Goodness knows why people are up in arms about it, as it was clearly a staged section, as was her response – ‘I only talk about peace.’ It was so obviously pre-written in order to give Kimmel the opportunity to praise her response and quip that: ‘The winner is Malala La Land.’

Possibly less staged was the Cocaine Bear pawing Malala following an equally unfunny appearance on stage. The camera just caught her putting her hand to her chest when the bear moved off and she looked visibly disturbed. This is a woman who survived being shot in the face by the Taliban, so that’ll give you an idea of how hideous the bear was.

There were the inevitable tears through speeches, most notably from Ke Huy Quan, who won Best Supporting Actor for Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Movingly, he spoke of his ‘journey’ – it’s an unwritten rule in Hollywood that everyone must endure the J word – arriving on a boat and spending a year in a refugee camp. ‘This is the American Dream,’ he said and, speaking to anyone watching, ‘Please keep your dreams alive.’

The movie cleaned up, with Daniel Kwan rather sweetly mentioning his low self-esteem issues when accepting the award for Original Screenplay. Clearly, he’d had the good fortune to bump into a therapist in the rest room, because by the time he picked up the gong for Best Director, his confidence had soared. ‘Thank you to everyone who has unlocked my genius,’ he said. Please give me the number of that therapist.

Brendan Fraser picked up Actor in a Leading Role for The Whale, and was so emotional, you couldn’t help feeling paramedics were unpacking their equipment. Having a whale of a time he was not.

Thankfully, there was nothing for Cate Blanchett who played Woman Waving Stick in the Air in the movie Tár. She’s a great performer, but in that movie she looked like Animal conducting the Muppet Philharmonic. Instead, Actress in a Leading Role went to a feathered-up Michelle Yeoh, for whom Dior had kindly raided the local pelican sanctuary.

Songs from the nominated movies were the highlight of a pretty dull night, and Best Original Song was won by Kaala Bhairava from Naatu Naatu. To me, it was such a racket, I thought Cate Blanchett and her stick had been all over it.

So, another year over in Tinseltown, or Tarnishtown as it should more aptly be called in the post-Harvey Weinstein era.

On a night when so many different brightly colored frocks dominated the proceedings, it was a veritable vision of Picasso on acid. And as an aid to sleep, better than Temazepam.

It went off without incident, prompting Kimmel as he left the stage to add the number 001 on a board announcing: ‘Number of Oscars Telecasts Without Incident.’

Unfortunately, for ABC, that may have been the problem. Three hours of back-slapping is no substitute for a slap in the face.

Where’s Will Smith when you need him?