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Commentary: Oscar fashion

BY HANNAH KRAMER | MARCH 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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Couture gowns by Valentino, Escada, and Balmain, the dazzle of diamonds on Nicole Kidman’s neck, George Clooney in a tux.

Whether playing fashion police along with the commentators on “E!” or simply watching glamorous people waltz down the red carpet, more viewers are being drawn to the media coverage of awards shows than the show itself.

In 2009, 36.3 million viewers watched the Academy Awards, according to Nielsen Media Research.

There has been a decrease over the past decade in the number of viewers of the presentation, maybe because audiences have access to watch a pre-show or sneak a peek on the Internet without tuning into the whole broadcast for a celebrity sighting.

The Oscars, hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin on March 7, have a reputation of prestige in the awards genre.

Oh yeah, the statues, those trophies that honor the most coveted recognition of filmmaking and acting. The glitz and glamour seems to have blinded viewers from the focus of the program.

Two hours of pre-shows on “E!” regarding who will appear with whom, what everyone is wearing, and which celebrity will interrupt another’s acceptance speech will take place before the presentation. This time slot is more than half as long as the three-hour main show.

During these pre-shows, the first question out of reporters’ mouths in entertainment coverage isn’t, “How do you feel about the honor you are nominated to receive?” but “Who are you wearing?”

While Oscar night is an outlet for celebrities to look like a million bucks, literally, and pay tribute to their industry, the allocation of attention for the art being honored has shifted.

Before the rise in entertainment media, trends were different. The first Academy Awards presentation in 1929 was an intimate gathering of A-listers who enjoyed a meal and showed support for each others’ achievements. Over the years, the award show became the most highly esteemed of its kind, for its recognition of excellence in motion-picture production.

The Academy dedicates attention to writing, editing, costume design, cinematography, music, and art. This shows appreciation for many facets of the industry. A range in types of films considered for awards include full-length, short, documentaries, foreign, and animated. These details show the effort made by those within the industry to maintain integrity. Those outside the circle are changing the perceived purpose of the presentation.

With recognition that fashion is an art in itself, it is not the reason for the ceremony. It would be different if an Oscar was given to Oscar de la Renta for the gowns he designed that made the “best dressed” list. However, that is not the case.

The media’s influence on our culture should be used to fuel appreciation of talent. A shift from the façade of an actor to the work he or she does is possible, but it requires putting down the gossip magazine and participating in honoring the film culture.


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