The nominations for the 85th annual Academy Awards, announced Thursday morning, present an intriguing possibility: Independent film has a real shot at sweeping the Oscars’ Big Eight: picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, original screenplay and adapted screenplay.
In the Miramax-Weinstein Co. years, indie films have come very close to taking all eight several times — in 2008, 2009 and 2012 indies fell just one short. Momentum has undoubtedly been growing over the last 15-20 years as technology has made independent film much more accessible to a wider audience and the Academy has let in more members that were born after the Korean War (and into the cinematic world of John Cassavetes).
Striking cinema from truly original voices has gained value in American culture, and as dramas in the medium-budget range have been squeezed from the film landscape, many specialty distributors, producers and financiers have flooded down into the lower-budget end, making that part of the industry broader and more robust in supporting filmmakers who take risks. Higher-profile talent, as well, has found independent film both a gratifying escape from the vagaries of the studio world and even a necessary option from a career standpoint.
As a result, there are more high-quality movies with a greater range of budgets and styles and a prevalence of name talent that showcase meaningful, provocative storytelling.
With “Django Unchained” (TWC), “The Master” (TWC), “Silver Linings Playbook” (TWC), “Amour” (SPC) and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight) — which have 23 nominations combined in the top categories — so well represented, year-end recognition could result in a full slate of independent film wins. This would be a remarkable achievement.
(For the tech and other below-the-line categories, things get much iffier for indies, as expected, though “ParaNorman,” “Anna Karenina,” “Django,” “Playbook,” “Hitchcock” and the foreign-language category could bolster the final count.)
In recent years, the most combined wins for the indie world is the 15 it picked up in 2009 when “Slumdog Millionaire,” the film that was almost never released, took home eight statuettes. But 2013 could surpass that, with a first-ever sweep at the top and an overall triumph that sends an essential message from the Academy: We reward originality.
Below are the Big Eight category nominations (with indies in bold italics). Click through to the next page to see how indie films have fared in the last ten years.
Best motion picture of the year
"Amour" -- Sony Pictures Classics
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- Fox Searchlight
"Django Unchained" -- The Weinstein Co.
"Life of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook" -- The Weinstein Co.
"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Amour," Michael Haneke -- Sony Pictures Classics
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Benh Zeitlin -- Fox Searchlight
"Life of Pi," Ang Lee
"Lincoln," Steven Spielberg
"Silver Linings Playbook," David O. Russell -- The Weinstein Co.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook" -- The Weinstein Co.
Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"
Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master" -- The Weinstein Co.
Denzel Washington in "Flight"
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in "Argo"
Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook" -- The Weinstein Co.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master" -- The Weinstein Co.
Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained" -- The Weinstein Co.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook" -- The Weinstein Co.
Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour" -- Sony Pictures Classics
Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- Fox Searchlight
Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"
Amy Adams in "The Master" -- The Weinstein Co.
Sally Field in "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables"
Helen Hunt in "The Sessions" -- Fox Searchlight
Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook" -- The Weinstein Co.
"Argo," Screenplay by Chris Terrio
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin -- Fox Searchlight
"Life of Pi," Screenplay by David Magee
"Lincoln," Screenplay by Tony Kushner
"Silver Linings Playbook," Screenplay by David O. Russell -- The Weinstein Co.
"Amour," Written by Michael Haneke -- Sony Pictures Classics
"Django Unchained," Written by Quentin Tarantino -- The Weinstein Co.
"Flight," Written by John Gatins
"Moonrise Kingdom," Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola -- Focus Features
"Zero Dark Thirty," Written by Mark Boal