It wasn't a disaster — more of a mishap. But it was almost as if ABC forgot that the Oscars red carpet is the longest-running fashion runway in history. Keyboard critics took to social media to throw a collective hissy fit about the network's coverage, which was the only live broadcast of arrivals during the hour before the show started, due to a newly extended exclusivity deal.
That magic hour is, of course, when the biggest stars in the best gowns typically arrive. But when fashion fans might have been seeing or hearing about Angelina Jolie's stunning black velvet Atelier Versace gown, they were instead treated to an awkward Nick Nolte attempting to answer questions about a pet crow that he may or may not own. It was a missed opportunity — to put it mildly.
PHOTOS: Best and worst dressed, plus accessories
ABC did manage to grab Gwyneth Paltrow, the best-dressed star by a long shot, in an incredibly chic white Tom Ford ivory cap-sleeve evening column and cape.
White was the color of the evening, from Rooney Mara's Givenchy gown with fin-like details at the bust and crisscrossed straps in back, to Cameron Diaz's Gucci gown with beaded Art Deco fringe on the bodice and a matching clutch.
E! commentator Giuliana Rancic's white Tony Ward gown with leafy details at the shoulders was stunning, as was Octavia Spencer's perfectly figure-flattering ivory hand-beaded Tadashi Shoji gown.
There was a welcome sense of whimsy to Emma Stone's red Giambattista Valli gown, tied up with a huge bow at the neck. Also feminine and pretty? Michelle Williams' burnt orange strapless Louis Vuitton silk ribbon peplum gown, which seemed to nod to the 1950s and to Marilyn Monroe, whom she played in "My Week With Marilyn." Natalie Portman's red polka dot vintage 1954 Dior couture gown was festive and fun.
Other stars played it too somber and too serious. Jessica Chastain's ornate, gold-embroidered Alexander McQueen gown seemed to weigh her down. And the mint green, long-sleeved Elie Saab gown Bérénice Bejo chose made her look like a mother of the bride.
As for the men, you couldn't do much better than Christopher Plummer's blue velvet tuxedo. And the real star of the pre-show? Sean "Diddy" Combs' lint roller-wielding personal valet. There's a guy who knows how to make an entrance.
Oscars 2012: On the red carpet, white gowns ruled
Gwyneth Paltrow, Rooney Mara, Octavia Spencer and Giuliana Rancic show off the color in chic and stunning dresses.
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