Stars hit the Oscar red carpet, despite the rain

Low energy on a wet Oscar red carpet

The sun came out for last year's Oscars red carpet despite a weekend of torrential rain, but this year the tents were up and good thing too. At one point so much water was collecting in sagging tent pockets above that workers on the red carpet were poking these areas with long stick thingies while stars in formalwear stepped around them.

The actual red-carpet procession of fancy-clad Oscar nominees and other assorted famous people (J.Lo! The Rock! Dakota Johnson!) had a bit of a dimmed quality this year anyway. This was not an Oscars slate packed with A-list stars but more a celebration of up-and-comers and long-overdue veterans — which you may think of as a good thing, but I'm just saying the energy on the red carpet was on the low end.

Still, there were many fabulous, talented, celebrating people nonetheless. At one point Oprah was walking right behind Lady Gaga. At another Clint Eastwood and his “American Sniper” star Bradley Cooper were breezing by.

Here's the setup: The attendees enter at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, and the red carpet runs west along Hollywood through a gantlet of microphones and cameras, all while fans in the bleachers cheer and call out the stars' names. Eventually the carpet takes a right turn toward the mall entrance, behind which the Dolby Theatre lurks up some red-carpeted stairs.

“This experience is a trip, isn't it?” asked Diane Warren, original song nominee for “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights.”

“It's more fun being here not as a nominee because the pressure is off,” said last year's supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong'o, striking in a custom-made dress bedecked in pearls.

Laura Poitras, director of the nominated Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour,” noted the strangeness of “being here and dressed up” given the serious issues tackled by her film. “But it's good because more people will know about this story.”

Several nominees represented Chicago in some way.

“Because I'm from Chicago, I definitely related to a lot of the civil rights movement,” said hip-hop musician Common, co-writer of the nominated song “Glory” from “Selma.”

Chicago-to-LA transplant Graham Moore, an adapted screenplay nominee for his script for “The Imitation Game,” attended with his mother, Susan Sher, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama.

“One gets a lot of points taking your mom to the Oscars,” Moore said, Sher beaming beside him. “Now is the moment she knows I have a real job.”

“No more Plan B discussions,” Sher added.

John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, the Chicago-native directors of the Oscar-nominated documentary feature “Finding Vivian Maier,” said their Midwest work ethic helped them get their film made. “We didn't make a film for any type of award,” Maloof said, “but it's nice to see this film be so well-received and for people to appreciate Vivian Maier's work.”

Pawel Pawlikowski, director of the Polish foreign film nominee (and eventual winner) “Ida,” praised Chicago-based Music Box Films for its handling of his movie. “They were technically not a big distributor with many means, but they had a great strategy for the film,” he said. “I take off my hat to them.”

Bruce Dern, another Chicago area native, walked the red carpet with his Oscar-nominated daughter, Laura Dern (best supporting actress, “Wild”). Last year it was the other way around: She accompanied him when he was up for “Nebraska.”

Supporting actor nominee Robert Duvall said he initially turned down “The Judge” because he found the character “too negative.”

Some other nominees decided to bypass various media types, including Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Ethan Hawke, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, who at one point chatted with directors Paul Thomas Anderson (“Inherent Vice”) and Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”) in the middle of the carpet. Then again, Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban changed lanes to say hi to several reporters.

Last year's two female acting winners, Cate Blanchett and Nyong'o, also shared warm greetings as their paths intersected.

One challenging element for some of us scribes was that Academy representatives were snatching nominees from the carpet — including Benedict Cumberbatch and Marion Cotillard — so they could speak with official live interviewer Chris Connelly, and once they were done, they never came back.

But best actor nominee Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) played along, saying he was at the end of a head trip in which his performance is constantly compared to others. “You try not to listen to it, to be honest,” he said.

“Boyhood” director Richard Linklater said he also had enjoyed the attention for his film since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival more than a year ago, but he was ready for all this to be over.

“Glad that we're here,” he said. “Glad that we're near the end.”

mcaro@tribpub.com

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
72°