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The 2020 Oscars: Biggest surprises and snubs

The 92nd annual Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone, leaving plenty of headlines in its wake as the show made history several times over. After a super-competitive lead-up to the event throughout the 2019-2020 awards seasons, it was anybody's guess as to which movie might have taken the top prize on Oscars Sunday. Even though writer-director Todd Phillips' Joker led the pack with a whopping 11 Oscar nominations, films like 1917 and Jojo Rabbit picked up huge awards from the Golden Globes, the Director's Guild, and the Writer's Guild — pushing many to believe they might win Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards.

As the ceremony progressed, it was clear that the Academy, which is constantly criticized for being exclusionary and out-of-touch, had a few surprises up its sleeve. Despite disappointments within the nominations — including a complete lack of female directors (in a year characterized by women behind the camera) and actors of color (save for Cynthia Erivo, nominated for Harriet) — the 2020 Oscars ended up honoring international cinema in a huge way, crowning Bong Joon-ho's Parasite as the big winner of the night with four major awards.

The Oscars wouldn't be the Oscars without some frustrating losses and exciting wins, so we're here to break down all the highs and lows of this year's telecast. From Parasite's history-making win to Martin Scorsese's multiple losses, here are the biggest surprises and snubs at the 2020 Oscars.

Parasite reigned supreme at the 2020 Oscars

Going into the 2020 Oscars, fans of Bong Joon-ho's sharp, twisting social critique Parasite were careful not to get their hopes up, especially since Sam Mendes' one-take war epic 1917 seemed poised to take home the evening's top prize after winning Best Motion Picture at the 2020 Golden Globes. Bong's win for Best Original Screenplay — which beat out scripts like Rian Johnson's Knives Out, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, and Mendes' 1917 – came as a welcome surprise, but some fans worried the statue might turn out to be a Get Out-style consolation prize for a film unpopular with Academy voters but a hit with audiences.

As it happened, that wasn't the case. Parasite continued nabbing statues all night long, winning won a total of four awards: Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best International Film, and, incredibly, Best Picture. 

Parasite's unexpected yet welcome sweep wasn't simply gratifying for fans across the world — the film also made Oscar history. Not only is Parasite the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture in the Academy's 91-year history, but it also won South Korea its first Oscar ever and was the first movie to win Best Picture without any acting nominations since 2008's Slumdog Millionaire. Plus, Bong is now tied with Walt Disney himself as the person to win the most Oscars in a single night.

Beyond Parasite, there weren't many surprises during 2020 Oscars — Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Laura Dern, and Brad Pitt all walked away with the awards they were expected to win — but as far as shockers go, this one was well-earned and worth waiting for.

Martin Scorsese and more were passed over at this year's Oscars

Thanks to Parasite's historic sweep of most major categories, several Oscar stalwarts were completely shut out of proceedings — including previous winners Mendes, Tarantino, and Scorsese, though Bong gave Scorsese a touching shout-out during his own acceptance speech for Best Director that led to a standing ovation for Marty. 

Many were especially gunning for Scorsese's epic crime drama The Irishman, which received a limited theatrical run before hitting Netflix as a streaming title, to turn at least a few of its 10 Oscar nominations into wins. Telling the story of real-life mobster Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (played on screen by Robert De Niro), the film was up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Sadly and surprisingly, The Irishman came up totally empty-handed, losing all of the awards for which it was nominated.

As far as Mendes and Tarantino's films are concerned, both 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did score a few Oscars each, but neither the directors nor their films took home either of the two big awards at the 2020 event. Another film believed to be a surefire Oscar winner was Joker, which touted 11 nominations walking into this year's Academy Awards. However, the film only won Best Original Score and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix, and not Best Picture or Best Director like many were hoping it would receive.

Female filmmakers and people of color got snubbed at the 2020 Oscars

However, the biggest exclusion of the night was a complete lack of recognition for women, "genre films," and performers of color. 

Janelle Monae's vibrant opening number at the 2020 Oscars showcased several films that missed out on nominations completely, including Ari Aster's broad-daylight horror Midsommar and Jordan Peele's incisive social thriller Us. And with Cynthia Erivo as the only acting nominee of color, it felt disappointing not to see Jennifer Lopez or Eddie Murphy listed among the nominees for their excellent performances in Dolemite Is My Name and Hustlers, respectively. 

Little Women, a critical darling directed by previous Best Director nominee Greta Gerwig, famously couldn't crack the director race entirely this year — and despite nominations for Gerwig's adapted screenplay and Best Picture, Little Women only went home with a statue for costume design.

Ultimately, when stars like Natalie Portman show up to the ceremony with the names of female directors left out of the race embroidered on their evening wear, it's clear how Hollywood's elite feels about these issues. Parasite's wins are a huge step forward for the Academy, but in terms of inclusion, the organization still has a lot of progress left ahead.