The good news is, thanks to the engine of publicity that drives Hollywood into a living parody of itself, everybody dressed up! Some of it was lovely! Some of it, we'll talk about.
Let's get this out of the way:
Look of the night: Lupita Nyong'o, who was completely robbed of her Best Supporting Actress award. Jennifer Lawrence is talented, but there is absolutely no comparison between the two performances. At least Lupita looks flat-out stunning in this. Whoever decided to keep accessories to a minimum made an excellent call (and, as it turns out, was on trend for the night). Hope she wears something just as striking to the Oscars, which she'd better win, because come on.
LOOKIN' GREAT DIVISION
Cate Blanchett, who has secretly been Galadriel for the last nine years and was just quietly waiting to break the news to the sad mortals who will have to look at her for the next few decades before she and her talent pack up and sail into the West. She chose this dress to do it in; it was a good choice.
Julianna Marguiles, who chose this dress to announce that she's secretly the Queen of the Sea, which I respect.
Michelle Dockery, who can wear clothes well but who is often asked to wear some really trying things, in a dress that she clearly loves, and that manages a high-low hem while still looking like a vaguely futuristic court gown, which is sometimes all you can ask of a dress.
Tatiana Maslany, in a simple, slightly Twenties silhouette. Over the course of the evening she changed into a succession of different dresses, entirely altering her personality every time. She was nominated, but not awarded, Best Party Guest at an Awards Show Made For Television.
Kerry Washington, whose quasi-vesty overgown reminds me of a dress an extremely sophisticated envoy to the NCC-1701-D might wear for negotiations with the Federation, but who still manages to look fresh and sleek, because she's Kerry Washington.
Elisabeth Moss. Sometimes when someone can't dress themselves for several years and you are constantly watching them walk down the red carpet in poorly-fitted dresses the color of disappointment and boggling at everyone's inability to assess what she actually looks like outside in the sunshine (hint: usually like a barnacle with consumption), and then she shows up in a Gothy Deco sequin number, it's even better than it would normally be.
And speaking of Goths, the red carpets over the last couple of awards seasons have been home to a welcome resurgence of black and gunmetals, as if in the boutique back rooms of great cities everywhere, teams of stylists have gathered to smoke cloves and drink absinthe poured over stevia and call down the fashionable dark.
Lily Rabe, acing it. This was an awkward red carpet for necklaces, who must have collectively offended the Stylist Guild over the winter for arcane reasons we will never know, but the dresses are sailing themselves this year.
Melissa McCarthy. You could make an argument that her sparkle looks pasted on, and I would hear you on it, but the fit of the dress is impeccable, and "I would like a sequined lightning bolt down my dress, please" is as reasonable a request as I've ever heard.
Angela Bassett, looking stunning, in a dress that evokes a high-fashion shark, and why the hell shouldn't it, just look at her.
Emma Thompson, not technically goth, but definitely the coolest schoolmarm in the Goth Academy. Sometimes she gets drunk with the kids. They love her.
Greta Gerwig's dress is a secret sartorial homage to the charming mess that is Frances Ha.
Lizzy Caplan, dressed like a Deco Giger sketch, except that this dress respects your boundaries.
Mayim Bialik, looking great; love the textured matelasse silk against the net of the sleeves.
Dianne Wiest. I love her so much; I actually crosses state lines to see her in a staged reading of Salome, and it was completely worth it. That said, if you're going to pull a Bette Davis in All About Eve and let your sleeves drop off your shoulders, the sleeves in question need to have more presence than this, and enough give to actually drop – to do this halfway by pulling your straps horizontally creates those odd puckers in your lovely beaded bodice, and you're better than that, Dianne Wiest. Even with your tulle broomtail, you're better than that.
Kate Beckinsale, who emerges a few times a year to look uncannily well-put-together on the red carpet, and then retreats into the special place in my mind where she stopped acting after Emma and Cold Comfort Farm and we all thought she was delightfully good and never had to worry about her again.
Mila Kunis, who cannot even believe Kate Beckinsale got the jump on her silver-foil game.
Laura Carmichael, wearing a total Edith of a dress, where it's perfectly fitted and a great color on her and hemmed to the right length and doing its very best to be the most amazing red carpet dress ever, but all you can concentrate on is the section of almost magnetic awkwardness. No one will ever love this dress the way this dress wants to be loved. This dress is going to go find a job at the local paper and learn to drive tractors.
Jessica Chastain, who as usual is wearing a pretty cool look that I would much rather see on someone who knows how to inhabit her clothes.
Like Uma Thurman! Look at her. This ensemble is an objectively hideous piece of clothing that makes her look like a low-level bureaucrat unexpectedly summoned to a mid-'90s gala to deliver an address to the Swirly Beads Council, but she does not give a flying fuck, does she? No she does not! She is going to take her raglan sleeveless turtleneck up to that podium and make the villain on the Swirly Bead Council wish he was never born. That's what we need in a red-carpet pro.
Amy Poehler, who started her Gothing the night before.
It's nice that Amy Poehler threw in with the Goths at the last second, but she needn't have. There were options this time around! For instance, there's always a trend color that tends to sneak into every stylist's options and suddenly flood the red carpet. This year, that color is red – kind of an interesting choice, given how easily it can go wrong, but many people took it out for a spin.
CRIMSON AND CLOVER DIVISION
(There's a lot more crimson than clover, but I wasn't going to let that song title go to waste, now was I.)
Helen Mirren, you are kidding me. Stunning.
June Squibb, who did a great job in Nebraska with a script that occasionally failed to use her to best avantage, in a dress that she is definitely using to her best advantage.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in one of those red-carpet standard dresses that I tend to gloss over unfairly, because even a dress that looks this simple has so much hidden architecture underneath that you need a blueprint to get into it.
Reese Witherspoon, in the green version. Note how neither of these dresses is satin, because these women are on the red carpet enough to know that satin is an evil bastard who lies in wait for the barest excuse to betray you with huge, awkward wrinkles, so you have to lie down in the limo on the way over and then perch on the edge of your chair all night. But not these two, satin. You won't be fooling these two.
Olivia Wilde, who will be able to show her baby these pictures next year and say, "Mommy smoked that red carpet in these sequins, except for the part where it looked like my neckline had started to fray, which I'm only now seeing as I show you this, child of mine. Huh. Weird."
Kristen Connolly, whose dress is more an optimistic feint than an actual garment.
Julie Delpy, who proves that small details make a big difference; the pointed bodice draws the eye right up to her earrings, and the golden belt makes me want to believe she's secretly cosplaying She-Ra, which I'm fine with. Have fun, Julie.
Emma Watson. So, in no way does this outfit make sense to me, given that the slit in front gives away the game from straight-on, and makes it look, when viewed from behind, like a fifteen thousand dollar apron over a pair of Gap skimmers. It's especially odd that the proportion makes the pants look strangely fitted, even though it is probably impossible to make anything fit strangely on someone with a body as fashion-suited as Emma Watson, and the sleeves are oddly bunched at the hem as if someone shoved them under right at the last second because somehow having sleeves that hit closer to the elbow would have been what took this look over the edge. On the other hand, I am honestly never ever going to tell someone not to slap a pair of pants on if they'd rather be wearing pants than a dress, and therefore Emma Watson is free to proceed.
Amy Adams, who would like to remind you that her dress doesn't have any engineering underneath it, because she is much sexier than she was in Her, where she had Dowdy Girl buns and glasses and desperately grabbed at scraps of approval from Joaquin Phoenix. (I have a lot of issues with the way Her positioned its various women, and those are no fault of Amy's, who was just fine, but it's no wonder her team wanted to make sure you remembered her sexy part in American Hustle more than the other one.)
Berenice Bejo. Moments before I began this rundown, I turned in a Philly Weekly review for The Past, which is a beautifully crafted movie about a bunch of flawed-as-hell people just trying to deal and doing iffy jobs of it. It's a film almost as good as this dress is awful.
But she was not alone in the questionable-florals department this year, as many people decided to cover themselves in sweetness, light, and botanicals, with varying degrees of success.
GRANDMOTHER'S PARLOR DIVISON
Tina Fey, in your artist grandmother's favorite botanical wallpaper. (Hey, want to know the kind of thing that secretly totally baffles me about a twenty thousand dollar dress? Check out that seam on the far left of her overskirt where the pattern isn't matched. That'll do it.)
Jenna Dewan, dressed as your grandmother's fanciest imported talcum powder container.
Drew Barrymore, dressed as your grandmother's favorite bouquet of silk flowers if that bouquet was pregnant, who looks so happy and adorable and like herself that I have nothing to say against it.
Anna Gunn, dressed like your grandmother's favorite frosted lipstick that's melted slightly in the heat but still gets it done.
Caitlin Fitzgerald, adorable, whose dress has been instructed to remind you that this grandmothery bedspread is the very same bedspread she sleeps under on Masters of Sex, where she plays a deeply underrated character, on the show Masters of Sex that she's on.
Gabourey Sidibe, finally using that fancy beaded applique your grandmother hung on to for like thirty years because she swore she's use it someday, in a pastel that looks fantastic on her (though I wish this fabric had a little more body or drape; it's weirdly lifeless). Bonus points for the clutch.
Sally Hawkins, who looks like whatever your grandmother's most awkward home décor item is.
Zooey Deschanel and her priceless facial expression, looking as over her whole hyper-twee thing as I am.
And Kaley Cuoco's eye exam of a dress, not assisted by her hair, which looks angry with her, and who got lucky that her dress fit so neatly in the Grandma category because there's only one category left..
And that category is for the end of all hope, and the people where you can't even do the thing.
STOP, PLEASE THINK ABOUT THIS DIVISION
Zoe Saldana, you're kidding me.
Sandra Bullock! [Pun about this dress being out of this world awkward] [you can see how awkward it is from space] [what on earth] [pun about movie stars] [this dress is the hyperoxygenated and therefore extremely flammable space capsule of clothes] [take it off and run].
Paula Patton, who hoped this dress would bring her back on the Fame Scale from 'Invisible' to 'Wait, Paula Who?'. Mission accomplished.
Jennifer Lawrence, whose style team dressed her impeccably for the many international premieres of the Hunger Games movies, but has never been good at putting her in decent stuff on the red carpet, and since her pairing with the totally unsuited Dior, seems unable even to clothe her in garments that don't look like your sister stole your Dork Press-Darling paper doll and force-folded it into her set of Old Hollywood Evening Gowns whose doll she accidentally ate.
And Julia Roberts, who had a good idea somewhere in this dress – there's nothing like the insouciance of a crisp white dress shirt worn by a lady on the red carpet, as Sharon Stone ably proved many years ago (remember how the collar was popped and the sleeves rolled up, like she just dropped by the Oscars on her way to the old-Hollywood archeological dig she was working on? Damn, I do). Maria Tomei did it a few years back, too, with ropes of necklaces as her "What, this old thing?" tipoff. But with a full dress on over that shirt, and awkward tucks under the arms, and a weird droop to the fabric overall, this dress says to me one thing more than any other: "My stylist made me a bet, and I lost."
It's all right; we've all been there, where your stylist is saying "Just TRUST me" in that super intense voice a stylist gets right before they suggest mustard yellow and you're actually Michelle Williams and something magical is about to happen, and then your stylist says, "It's going to be such a Moment, you won't even believe it," and you say, "You know what? I bet I WON'T believe it," and then weeks later the flashbulbs go off and you suddenly, horribly believe it.
Just don't let them do that to you for the Oscars, Julia! You know better by now. We'll see you there.