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Joker smiles with acting and musical wins at Oscars: The night's biggest highlights

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Feb 10, 2020, 8:06 PM EST (Updated)

Out of 11 Oscar nominations, Joker came away from the 92nd Academy Awards Sunday night with two victories, for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Original Score (Hildur Guðnadóttir).

Closing out an impressive awards-season run, Phoenix is the second actor after The Dark Knight's Heath Ledger to score an Academy Award for playing Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime on the big screen.

Coming off a string of awards-season wins herself, Guðnadóttir was only the eighth female composer in history to be nominated in the Original Score category. Beating out her fellow nominees (all of them men), she is also the first woman in 23 years to bag the accolade.

Aside from those two major successes, the DC origin flick from director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Phillips and Scott Silver), Best Make-Up and Hairstyling (Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou), Best Cinematography (Lawrence Sher), Best Editing (Jeff Groth), Best Sound Mixing (Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, and Tod Maitland), Best Sound Editing (Alan Robert Murray), and Best Costume Design (Mark Bridges).

Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Coming into the awards as the leading contender with 11 nominations, Joker (the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever) was further proof that comic book movies can proudly count themselves as "traditional cinema." Just like Black Panther last year, it has helped open the floodgates, and perhaps superheroes (and supervillains) may one day take home the gold for Best Director and Best Picture.

Overall, though, it wasn't exactly a peak night for the world of genre.

Despite closing out an epic 42-year-old saga, Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker failed to win any Oscars — it was up for Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Editing (Matthew Wood and David Acord), and Best Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy).

James Gray's Ad Astra was yet another genre disappointment, as it did not win Best Sound Mixing, the only award it was up for. Although the Apocalypse Now-inspired sci-fi odyssey was very well received upon release, it barely picked up any awards season momentum beyond a pair of VFX honors from the San Diego Film Critics Society and the Seattle Film Critics Society.

Contenders for Best Visual Effects, meanwhile, included genre-film blockbusters Avengers: Endgame and Jon Favreau's Lion King remake, but Disney could not live up to Sam Mendes' one-shot war epic, 1917. However, James Corden and Rebel Wilson helped soften the blow a little by showing up to introduce the award in full Cats costumes — effectively lampooning Tom Hooper's big-budget and VFX-heavy musical misfire.

Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"As cast members of the motion picture Cats ...," began Wilson, who played the character of Jennyanydots the Gumbie Cat in the feature based on the stage play by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

"Nobody more than us understands the importance ...," added Corden, who co-starred as Bustopher Jones.

"... of good visual effects," the two said together.

Rian Johnson (Knives Out) was up for Best Original Screenplay, and although he didn't bag the trophy (it went to Han Jin-won and Bong Joon-ho for Parasite), the filmmaker did manage to sneak some Star Wars: The Last Jedi swag into the ceremony in the form of a Porg-shaped cufflink on his tuxedo shirt. The director's fellow TLJ alums — Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico) and Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo) — both took the stage throughout the evening. Tran made a suggestive Matrix-themed joke about Keanu Reeves (ya gotta!), while Dern (Marriage Story) won Best Supporting Actress. Dern's win was Netflix's first-ever Oscar victory for acting.

As always, the movie-inspired commercials didn't disappoint. Google got in on the proceedings with a spot about how its Maps app can help you find famous film locations in the real world. From Doc Brown's house in Back to the Future, to the Hawaiian island on which Spielberg shot the first Jurassic Park, the world of cinema is out there ... just waiting to be explored. 

ABC promoted The Bachelor with one of the strangest spots of the night. Taking its cue from 1990's Ghost, the commercial saw Peter "Pilot Pete" Weber using a pottery wheel (à la Demi Moore's Molly), while his shirtless torso is caressed by a bunch of disembodied hands as The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" plays in the background.

Whoopi Goldberg, who played medium Oda Mae Brown in the original film, shows up at the very end to tell Pete: "You in danger, boy."

Quibi's promotional spots—which involved zombies, astronauts, Indiana Jones-style adventurers, and more—are really hoping that the word "Quibi" becomes a general term used to describe a period of time that spans 10 minutes or less. The short-form streaming service from DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg launches April 6.

Tom Hanks (who played Fred Rogers in last year's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) took the stage at one point to announce that the Academy's long-awaited and long-delayed movie museum in Los Angeles would finally open its doors on Dec. 14 of this year. Hanks lost out on the Best Supporting Actor prize to Brad Pitt for his turn as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.

In fact, Quentin Tarantino's alt-history fairy tale about the end of Golden Age Hollywood and the infamous Manson Family murders in 1969 left the Oscars with a total of two statues, the other being for the detailed production design by Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh. The movie, which co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie, was up for a total of nine prizes, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Taika Waititi will head into the production of Thor: Love and Thunder as an Academy Award winner, having secured his first-ever Oscar: Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit.

The director's anti-hate satire (in which he plays an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler) was also up for Best Picture, Costume Design (Mayes C. Rubeo), Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson), and Best Editing (Tom Eagles).

Credit: Sony Pictures / Searchlight Pictures

Pixar's Toy Story 4 won Best Animated Feature (the second installment in the series to do so), but it did not win Best Original Song for "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away" by the movie's composer, Randy Newman. Newman previously nabbed Original Song Oscars for "You've Got a Friend in Me" (1995's Toy Story) and "We Belong Together" (2010's Toy Story 3).

Frozen II's "Into the Unknown" — by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez — was up for the prize as well. The legendary musical team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin came away victorious for their work on Rocketman's "I'm (Gonna) Love Me Again."

Director Steven Spielberg introduced the "In Memoriam" portion of the ceremony, which paid homage to such Hollywood legends as Rip TornKirk DouglasPeter MayhewGene Warren Jr., Rutger Hauer, and more. The slideshow was accompanied by a beautiful cover of The Beatles' "Yesterday" sung by Billie Eilish. 

Nevertheless, fans did notice that Luke Perry, Tim ConwayCameron Boyce, and Sid Haig were all mysteriously left out of the tribute.

Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The song-based statues (including the one that went to Guðnadóttir) were introduced by three badass sci-fi actors: Sigourney Weaver (Ripley in Alien), Brie Larson (Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel), and Gal Gadot (Diana Prince in Wonder Woman).

Parasite, from director/co-writer Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja), came away with the top prize of the evening — the first international film in history to win Best Picture. In addition, the pitch-black dramedy about class inequality came away triumphant in the categories of Best International Feature, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

For the full list of this year's winners, click here.


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