MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. In a few minutes, we will speak with an artist who just won one of the American art world's biggest prizes. It was endowed by the famous sisters of silent movie fame. It comes with $300,000 attached. It was just awarded to Anna Deavere Smith, and we will speak with her in just a few minutes.
But, first, speaking of prizes in film, the Academy Awards were Sunday night and if you watched - or, rather, heard - them, then you know that they were all about music. Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Hudson, the cast of Les Mis, Adele - all performed. Adele won Best Song for "Skyfall," but it was another Bond theme song that may have shined brightest.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOLDFINGER")
SHIRLEY BASSEY: (Singing) Goldfinger. He's a man, a man with the Midas touch.
MARTIN: That was Dame Shirley Bassey performing "Goldfinger." Joining us now to talk more about Oscar gold, both for the performances and the fashion, we hope, is Alynda Wheat. She's the movie critic for People magazine.
Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.
ALYNDA WHEAT: It's good to be here, Michel.
MARTIN: So "Argo" took home Best Picture. That might not have been a huge surprise to people, but maybe I'm just out of the loop here, but first lady Michelle Obama announcing the selection from the White House.
WHEAT: That was a huge surprise to everyone, I think.
MARTIN: I was going to ask about that. That's a first. Correct?
WHEAT: That is absolutely a first. A big surprise coming at the end of the night of - end of a long night, I might add, which might not have thrilled a lot of people because she added a few extra minutes to what had already been kind of a tiring evening. But, you know, thrilling to see her. She looked amazing in her Naeem Khan gown, and she did a great job.
MARTIN: So let's talk about somebody that everybody doesn't necessarily think did a great job. Host...
WHEAT: Let me guess.
MARTIN: That's host Seth MacFarlane, known for his off-color humor and he certainly lived up to that reputation and I'll just play one clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS SHOW)
SETH MACFARLANE: Daniel Day-Lewis, not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940s "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." This is true. I would - yeah. I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth.
WHEAT: That was the biggest groaner of the night, I've got to say.
MARTIN: Well, was that - overall, what are the reviews? I've kind of been reading the papers and some people thought he did OK.
WHEAT: You know, it's really been a mixed response to Seth MacFarlane, and you have to understand this was an almost impossible gig for him to begin with. I mean, this is the man behind "Family Guy" and "American Dad," those shows on Fox and, you know, those are known for their very crass sense of humor.
But the Oscars obviously is the most classy venue on television. It was a difficult marriage to imagine to begin with. So he was going to, you know, lose no matter which way he went. If he was too classy, he would alienate his fan base. If he did his usual frat boy antics, he would alienate pretty much everyone else. So he decided to play it up the middle, you know, opening the show by acknowledging the people who were going to hate him, having those fake news headlines from - well, essentially, today, saying what a terrible job he did. Which, you know, smartly enough, you know, it gave him the freedom to actually do some pretty crass things and then say, yeah, we shouldn't do that.
MARTIN: OK. OK. Do you mind? How did you feel? Do you mind if I ask? How do you feel about it?
WHEAT: You know, I like Seth MacFarlane generally. I think he does go too far. There were a lot of misogynistic jokes last night that I didn't appreciate. There was that John Wilkes Booth joke that - yes - 150 years later, it's still too soon.
But, you know, he had some good moments. As silly and probably inappropriate as it was, the song about seeing all the actresses breasts was hilarious. Not something you typically see in an Oscar telecast, nor were the sock puppets reacting "Flight," although I thought those were delightful, too, but I thought he was really at his best when he tried to up his game. For instance, singing, "The Way You Look Tonight" with Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron doing a lovely ballroom routine.
You know, he gave as well as he could. Will he be back next year? Probably not.
MARTIN: Yeah. Kind of interesting that this is the same crowd who thought Chris Rock was too edgy. Really?
MARTIN: Our guest is Alynda Wheat. She's movie critic for People magazine. We're talking about - what else - the Oscars. So let's talk about - what else - the fashion. Let's talk about what we really want to talk about. Were there any kind of themes, if I can call it that?
WHEAT: Oh, absolutely. You know, Jennifer Lawrence's nod to Princess Grace notwithstanding, the biggest theme of the night were those wonderful metallic gowns. I mean, everybody from Jessica Chastain, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman - Halle Berry looked amazing in hers. Michelle Obama, as we've mentioned, was also in metallic.
To me, the winner of the night, though, strangely enough was Stacey Keibler, the actress who is George Clooney's girlfriend who, like Michelle Obama, was also rocking a Naeem Khan gown. Beautiful number with a halter top and sort of an art deco-inspired design on the front, gorgeous lace in the back. I mean, she looked amazing and that thing poured over her like water.
MARTIN: And the fact that Jennifer Lawrence tripped over that really huge dress - is that going to follow her? I mean, she seemed to handle it very well, but is that the kind of thing that's going to follow her years from now? Will we still be talking about this, or is just a moment?
WHEAT: You know, if we are still talking about it, it will only be because, you know, in a reference to the fact that she's so relatable, so likeable, so very human. You know, she's one of the least stage managed people in Hollywood. So for her to actually trip on that giant ball gown, which was beautiful, but impossible to walk in, you know, it just makes her much more relatable. We can all say, oh, I wouldn't have made it up those stairs.
MARTIN: And, speaking of relatable, you know that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but what about big ups for nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis for her puppy dog purse? It went rather well with her Armani dress, wouldn't you say?
WHEAT: Absolutely. The tiara that matched her own, just delightful. You know, she's been carrying those puppy purses all through award season. They've been her signature look and she really had a great time with it last night.
MARTIN: She was rocking the puppy dog purse, her signature look. Who knew that a nine-year-old had a signature look?
Anyway, any fashion faux pas for you?
WHEAT: You know, there weren't many. There weren't a whole lot of people who truly missed the boat. I have to say Brandi...
MARTIN: Speaking of boat...
WHEAT: ...Glanville from the "Real Housewives."
MARTIN: Oh, speaking of boats, here's the "Jaws" theme. That means I have to wrap. Anyway, Alynda Wheat, People magazine movie critic from our bureau in Culver City, thank you.
WHEAT: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.