Last night was the SAG Awards, the award where actors pat other actors on the back directly, instead of trusting 72-year-old assistant cinematographers to vote on whoever the people at the La Brea Starbucks seem to be enthusiastic about like the Academy does.
And though voting for the SAGs closed before the Oscar fracas began, which means that last night’s results can’t be read as a direct rebuttal of the lily-white Oscar slate this year, it’s still a fairly pointed list of winners. It helps that the SAGs encompass TV (which has the benefit of more overall diversity than movies), but it’s hard not to notice that several Oscar snubs got on the SAG ballot. Idris Elba had a banner night, winning twice – the first man to do so!
The SAG red carpet is interesting; it’s obviously still being cheated out to the public rather than being presented as a purely industry affair (I cover this carpet in a way I don’t cover, say, the Independent Spirit Awards), but it’s definitely an actor lovefest rather than an arena for memorable fashion on the scale of the Globes or the Oscars. One imagines this is a place for stylists to play around and tick some boxes between the Globes and everybody’s next big stop. For some people, it’s probably just as well they got the practice. Some people, of course, don’t need that prep time, because they have their style locked and loaded.
Like Laverne Cox, who’s got this shit down so hard that nothing going on in the background even registers. She’s in the zone. This is her moment. (Do I like that the Angelina Jolie leg pop is still making the rounds? Dear lord, I don’t. But she has committed, and she is committing, and it’s a lovely dress, so here we are.)
As regular readers will already know, I am always interested in how people’s red-carpet attitudes (in the posing sense, not the “Oh my god, here we go again in a twenty-thousand dollar dress that means I’m not allowed to eat or pee for the next six hours and someone’s following me around at a 50-foot distance to make sure I don’t swallow my borrowed earring from hunger” sense, which I am sure applies to many of these actors). There’s the usual imperatives to look as lithe, and young, and employable as possible—alluring but not obvious, charming but effortless. Every pose has meaning.
Take Sarah Paulson, whose red-carpet attitude in pictures was, 99% of the time, the calculating, steady gaze of someone whose performance in CAROL will only be fully realized in the deleted scenes, and who cannot wait for you to see it, because she takes acting seriously even in a dress that looks like she got sprayed with fabric glue as she raced through the backstage of the Diamond Follies to get here on time.
However, this photo also exists:
Obviously it’s not the night’s only photo of Pedro Pascal (he would never allow that), but this made it to the official photo feeds because it feels like a Get: a moment of Sarah Paulson that’s more authentic than the Sarah Paulson who’s posing. This entire event is a red carpet happening at four in the afternoon in a giant driveway where the most prominent sounds are the hum of giant lights and the buzz of walkie talkies and where that entire secondary aisle exists to funnel assistants and jewelry-bodyguards to the front doors without interrupting everyone’s attitudes, and somehow we’re all still thrilled at a moment of unstudied goofing off between actors. This is an odd business.
Queen Latifah. Red carpet attitude: Casual, perfect gliding along the road of life. This dress is amazing – love the Deco patterning that echoes on the sheer sleeves (it’s still busy enough that the sleeves feel considered and not like an afterthought), love that the neckline and hem give the impression of one clean sweep without looking heavy. Maybe my look of the night.
Sophie Turner. Red carpet attitude: “I’m playing Jean Grey, you know! We could talk about that! Please don’t ask me any Game of Thrones questions, literally everybody knows how shitty Sansa’s storyline was and you all know I have to deliver the party line on shit like that. Look, my dress practically screams ‘Oh, my husband has drowned, you say? How terrible! How simply awful!’ We can talk about that! Look how carefree I am! Jesus Christ, please don’t ask me about Sansa.”
Alicia Vikander. Red carpet attitude: “You know, I feel like I signed up with Louis Vuitton without really thinking through all the implications of the deal red-carpet wise, but we are here now, and I am going to make the best of it. I’m backstroking through the lap pool of awards season all the way to my Oscar. I can wear this blocked sequin sheath. I can wear anything.”
Uzo Aduba, who seems so endlessly gracious like I like to think even the statue behind her is just trying to get her attention so it can compliment her. (She’d be nice about it. “The Wiz WAS kind of great, I agree! I was particularly great, you say? That’s so nice! I made you cry, you say? How kind, I didn’t realize statues had access to TV! I look amazing in this Emerald-City-ready dress? Thanks so much! Have a lovely night!”)
Saoirse Ronan. Red carpet attitude: “Can I believe Room came out the same year I was in Brooklyn and we’ve probably split the vote so much I’ll never get that Oscar? I can’t. But I have time, you know? I have time. This dress is as pale and innocent as the spring of my life. I can wait.”
Christina Ricci. Red carpet attitude: “I cannot believe I got here for Lizzie Borden. This shit is great. I want a dress that looks like a 1930s starlet in a boudoir dance number, and I want eyes like a serial killer who can see into the future. Great, thanks.”
Eva Longoria. Red carpet attitude: “Try the green one, they said. It’s slinky and will make you stand out, they said. It doesn’t matter that you’re short! Don’t worry about the open neckline and low hip detailing making you look like you were actually a tall person who started melting! The cameras won’t be that high up, right? How tall can a photographer be? It’s fine, they said. You’ll love it, they said.”
Brie Larson. Red carpet attitude: “God, I am just nailing this. Young, hip chick on her way to win every award. Are you looking at my chest? Probably. I’m young and hip, I can handle weird cutouts and yarn ties. This is my time. Sure, you’ll worry about whether I can lean safely over the podium, but I’ll be at the podium, won’t I? Nailed it.” (She can, of course, lean safely over the podium. I’m fairly confident she could perform a moderately difficult trampoline routine and she’d be fine. That bodice is taped down by professionals.)
Kate Mara. Red carpet attitude: “Goddammit, you are going to take as many pictures of me as of Rooney, I don’t care what I have to do.”
Miranda Otto. Red carpet attitude: “Look at those nerds behind me posing in a straight line. What a pile of dorks. I just tossed back my surf-rumpled hair, found this slightly edgy but still sufficiently toile ballgown, and ran right on over! Why yes, I just landed a lead role on a network show, but that has nothing to do with tonight. Tonight’s just for fun! Carefree, feminine, no-stakes fun. The purse I’m borrowing costs six grand, minimum.”
And Carol Burnett. Red carpet attitude, now and forever: She saw it in the window and she just couldn’t resist it.
The rest of the red carpet was mostly servicable, with only one emerging trend, and some lingering questions.
JADIS, THE WHITE WITCH DIVISION
There were a lot of contenders for the title!
Dascha Polanco probably wins the White Witch division; it’s hard to wear a white dress with silver fringe and not look like you’re on the verge of a figure skating routine about winter, but she handily manages it, and instead she looks like an amazing 1920s White Witch who’s taken over the Narnia nightclub and has to be ousted by a bunch of stenographers. (Laura Prepon is also in this picture.)
Helen Mirren, whose look speaks for itself. Good luck, other White Witch contenders.
Carice van Houten, business casual White Witch. The dress is red-carpet standard; the only thing I am interested in here is the jacket. Was this part of the outfit meant to go the whole way? Rooney Mara’s cape was clearly not intended to go the distance, but Carice van Houten isn’t gunning for an Oscar this year; she gets to cover her shoulders. Did she turn to her assistant, whose empty arms grasped at a coat they’d never hold, and smile with those poison-red lips, and just keep walking, one hand snugly tucked into her pocket for warmth? God, I hope so.
January Jones, who knows the assignment was TECHNICALLY the White Witch but was hoping that, given that in some lights the depth and density of ice can give it the blue cast we see in glaciers, that she could aim for something minty and majestic and be fine. (She is fine.)
And Lily Rabe, taking a bold conceptual stance as Spring Returning to Narnia. It works!
EVERYBODY ELSE DIVISION
Kiernan Shipka. What a great dress – just mannered enough to be interesting, but not trying to vault her into a new age bracket.
Maisie Williams, also very good at that very tricky game.
Rooney Mara. Her red-carpet attitude seems to be “I deeply resent whatever is happening,” which I completely respect. Her actual red-carpet style tends to elude me, as it seems designed to highlight her awkwardness by being either bizarrely ephemeral or really stark. This is no exception, though the dress under it is no improvement on the Victorian Schoolgirl in Mourning cape, so this picture is fine.
Gwendoline Christie. I know she wears her clothes amazingly well – she managed to cosplay a Stormtrooper at the Star Wars premiere and make it look like the most fun you could have in formalwear. This dress, however, is not something you can save by wearing it well. I am resigning myself to the skirt-pleat ridge we’re seeing thse days, and I don’t mind the belt, but that satin is not meant to be darted and pleated and left to drape, and you can tell.
Same with Viola Davis! A great color, some interesting pleating, and a dress that goes to hell literally the first time you sit down. (On the other hand, while I am not sure how I feel about the shape of the Evening Sleeve – it looks as if it’s drooping slightly off her shoulders, which might not have been the plan – this is the sort of evening sleeve you can only get from a material with as much body as this has.)
Vicky Jeudy. We all know there is no bigger advocate for red-carpet pants than yours truly. Jumpsuits are a harder sell. I guess the overriding style rule of the red-carpet jumpsuit is that you have to try to look like the lead singer of the music video, and not one of the backup dancers whose outfit is just designed to provide the visual contrast to the lead singer and not to stand alone. That’s sort of what this feels like. (And I would have loved to see her in white pants, a white tux jacket with black lapels, and a black shirt; I just feel like this jumpsuit robs us of those proportions and doesn’t replace with anything nearly as good.)
Mad Men is over, and Christina Hendricks is determined to get one more giant vintage-silhouette dress out of it before the sun sets on that show. It is a lot of dress. She’s wearing the hell out of it – I don’t know how she’s even handling a dress with so many separately articulated self-supporting elements – but it’s a lot. It is verging on a Carol Burnett curtain-dress dress. The fact that it looks like it’s made out of 1960s gilt upholstery is interesting, but not necessarily a mark in its favor.
Julianne Moore. There are two things going on here. One, a dress I think is kind of terrible. (It definitely doesn’t help that her hair is loose over some straps that probably need to be uninterrupted across the shoulders to look deliberately chunky and insouciant and not just like she sacrificed a strip from the midriff of a strapless dress in a panic to hold up the top.) The other thing is the pose, which is the pose adopted by approximately 70 percent of high school freshman girls attending their first Homecoming and suddenly realizing that formalwear entails some weird level of expectation of sophisticated adulthood that no one has prepared them for.
And last of all, Lori Petty, as close to Tank Girl semiformal as heaven allows. Honestly, I might dig it. The color is charming on her, the proportions work, and you as a viewer are left with no doubt this is something she wanted to wear. I am making a schoolmarm face as the dangling threads on the hem of the pant legs, because I am a jerk, but otherwise, when you look at this outfit all the way down the carpet, you think, “Is that fuckin’ Lori Petty?” And at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask of a red carpet outfit, isn’t it?