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<STRONG>HOLLYWOOD —</STRONG> After six weeks of parties, award shows and hoopla, the actual Academy Awards almost seemed an anticlimax. <BR><BR>The stars toed the line on Sunday, with barely an inch of wiggle room. Skintight, razor-sharp...



HOLLYWOOD — After six weeks of parties, award shows and hoopla, the actual Academy Awards almost seemed an anticlimax.

The stars toed the line on Sunday, with barely an inch of wiggle room. Skintight, razor-sharp strapless sheaths in every color of the rainbow dominated the red carpet. But when everyone starts looking the same, it borders on becoming the dreaded s-word: Safe.

Of course, there were a few standouts, such as Cate Blanchett”s head-to-toe crystal column from Armani Privé, which she described as “gladiatorial goddess. It”s so heavy, it”s giving me a workout”; Maggie Gyllenhaal”s asymmetric satin swath over one shoulder from Proenza Schouler; Kate Winslet”s mint green number from Valentino and Helen Mirren in Christian Lacroix Couture.

Beyoncé had so many stones sewn to the front of her Armani Privé gown that she broke her bling habit and forsook jewelry altogether. “Well, I am a bit out of my element with all these movie stars. It”s intimidating,” she said.

Those brave enough to take risks drew both cheers and jeers: Kirsten Dunst”s “Peter Pan”-meets-“Alice in Wonderland” Chanel Couture, Cameron Diaz sticking to her Golden Globes color scheme in all-white Valentino, and Jennifer Hudson in Oscar de la Renta with a silver python bolero. But Hudson was happy, no matter what anyone else thought. “I”m here and I”m rockin” it,” she said.

If only there was more chutzpah like Hudson”s. Even fashion-lover Nicole Kidman failed to appear excited about her dramatic red Balenciaga gown. “I don”t know,” she sighed when asked why she chose the dress. “I”m not very good about describing these things. I just like it.”

The cold, cloudy weather didn”t help lift the mood, which seemed as flat as many of the stars” hair. When Reese Witherspoon arrived, the crowd cheered wildly. Witherspoon was of the actresses who combined the evening”s two trends in her Nina Ricci gown by Olivier Theskyens — slim on top with a spiral ruffle, hers reminiscent of a purple calla lily on the bottom.

Perhaps the Oscars are all in a day”s work now, but at least Gyllenhaal was savoring the moment. “I”m just excited to be here. It”s all so much fun — if you can remember to take deep breaths.”

For complete Oscar coverage see WWD Fashion on Site.

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