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The Spoils: An Indie-Film Sweep at the Oscars? It's Closer Than You Think

Photo of Jay A. Fernandez By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire January 10, 2013 at 11:26AM

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.
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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).

READ MORE: 'Lincoln' Leads 2013 Oscar Nominations; Bigelow Snubbed

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.

READ MORE: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the 2013 Oscar Nominations

(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
"Argo"
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- Fox Searchlight
"Django Unchained" -- The Weinstein Co.

"Les Misérables"
"Life of Pi"
"Lincoln"
"Silver Linings Playbook"  -- The Weinstein Co.
"Zero Dark Thirty"

TWC "Django Unchained."
Achievement in directing
"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"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
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.

Adapted screenplay
"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.

Original screenplay
"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

Oscars 2012 (12 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “The Artist” (TWC), “The Tree of Life” (Fox Searchlight), “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight), “Midnight in Paris” (SPC)
Best Actor: “The Artist” (TWC), “A Better Life” (Summit), “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus)
Best Actress: “The Iron Lady” (TWC), “Albert Nobbs” (LD Entertainment/Roadside Attractions), “My Week With Marilyn” (TWC)
Supporting Actor: “Beginners” (Focus), “My Week With Marilyn” (TWC), “Warrior” (Lionsgate)
Supporting Actress:“The Artist” (TWC), “Albert Nobbs” (LD Entertainment/Roadside Attractions)
Best Directing: “The Artist” (TWC), “The Tree of Life” (Fox Searchlight), “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight), “Midnight in Paris” (SPC)
Best Original Screenplay: “Midnight in Paris” (SPC), “The Artist” (TWC), “A Separation” (SPC), “Margin Call” (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus)
Best Cinematography: “The Artist” (TWC), “The Tree of Life” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Art Direction: “The Artist” (TWC), “Midnight in Paris” (SPC)
Best Costume Design: “The Artist” (TWC), “Jane Eyre” (Focus), “W.E.” (TWC)
Best Sound Mixing: NONE
Best Film Editing: “The Artist” (TWC), “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Sound Editing: “Drive” (FilmDistrict)
Best Visual Effects: NONE
Best Makeup: “The Iron Lady” (TWC), “Albert Nobbs” (LD Entertainment/Roadside Attractions)
Best Original Song: NONE
Best Original Score: “The Artist” (TWC), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Focus)
Best Feature Documentary: “Undefeated” (TWC)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “A Separation” (SPC)
Best Animated Feature: “A Cat in Paris” (Gkids), “Chico & Rita” (Gkids)

"Inside Job"
OSCARS 2011 (7 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “The King’s Speech” (TWC)
Best Actor: “The King’s Speech” (TWC)
Best Actress: “Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Directing: “The King’s Speech” (TWC)
Best Original Screenplay: “The King’s Speech” (TWC)
Best Feature Documentary: “Inside Job” (SPC)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “In a Better World” (SPC)

OSCARS 2010 (14 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Actor: “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Supporting Actor: “Inglourious Basterds” (TWC)
Best Supporting Actress: “Precious” (Lionsgate)
Best Directing: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Original Screenplay: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Precious” (Lionsgate)
Best Costume Design: “The Young Victoria” (Apparition)
Best Sound Mixing: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Film Editing: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Sound Editing: “The Hurt Locker” (Summit)
Best Original Song: “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Feature Documentary: “The Cove” (Lionsgate)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “The Secret in Their Eyes” (SPC)

"Slumdog Millionaire"
OSCARS 2009 (15 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Actor: “Milk” (Focus)
Best Actress: “The Reader” (TWC)
Best Supporting Actress: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (TWC)
Best Directing: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Screenplay: “Milk” (Focus)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Cinematography: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Costume Design: “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage)
Best Sound Mixing: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Film Editing: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Song: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Score: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Feature Documentary: “Man on Wire” (Magnolia/Discovery Films)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Departures” (Regent Releasing)

OSCARS 2008 (13 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Actor: “There Will Be Blood” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Actress: “La vie en rose” (Picturehouse)
Best Supporting Actor: “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Directing: “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Original Screenplay: “Juno” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Cinematography: “There Will Be Blood” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage)
Best Makeup: “La vie en rose” (Picturehouse)
Best Original Song: “Once” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Score: “Atonement” (Focus)
Best Feature Documentary: “Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “The Counterfeiters” (SPC)

OSCARS 2007 (11 wins for indies)

Best Actor: “The Last King of Scotland” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Actress: “The Queen” (Miramax)
Best Supporting Actor: “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Screenplay: “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Cinematography: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse)
Best Art Direction: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse)
Best Makeup: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse)
Best Original Song: “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Vantage)
Best Original Score: “Babel” (Paramount Vantage)
Best Feature Documentary: “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Vantage)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “The Lives of Others” (SPC)

OSCARS 2006 (11 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “Crash” (Lionsgate)
Best Actor: “Capote” (SPC)
Best Supporting Actress: “The Constant Gardener” (Focus)
Best Directing: “Brokeback Mountain” (Focus)
Best Original Screenplay: “Crash” (Lionsgate)

"Brokeback Mountain"

Best Adapted Screenplay: “Brokeback Mountain” (Focus)
Best Film Editing: “Crash” (Lionsgate)
Best Original Song: “Hustle & Flow” (Paramount Classics)
Best Original Score: “Brokeback Mountain” (Focus)
Best Feature Documentary: “March of the Penguins” (Warner Independent/National Geographic Films)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Tsotsi” (Miramax)

OSCARS 2005 (6 wins for indies)

Best Original Screenplay: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Focus)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Sideways” (Fox Searchlight)
Best Original Song: “The Motorcycle Diaries” (Focus)
Best Original Score: “Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Best Feature Documentary: “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids” (THINKFilm)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “The Sea Inside” (Fine Line Features)

OSCARS 2004 (5 wins for indies)

Best Actress: “Monster” (Newmarket Films)
Best Supporting Actress: “Cold Mountain” (Miramax)
Best Original Screenplay: “Lost in Translation” (Focus)
Best Feature Documentary: “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” (SPC)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “The Barbarian Invasions” (Miramax)

OSCARS 2003 (14 wins for indies)

Best Picture: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Actor: “The Pianist” (Focus)
Best Supporting Actress: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Directing: “The Pianist” (Focus)
Best Original Screenplay: “Talk to Her” (SPC)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Pianist” (Focus)
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Costume Design: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Sound: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Film Editing: “Chicago” (Miramax)
Best Makeup: “Frida” (Miramax)
Best Original Score: “Frida” (Miramax)
Best Feature Documentary: “Bowling for Columbine” (United Artists)
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Nowhere in Africa” (Zeitgeist Films)

This article is related to: Academy Awards, Awards, The Spoils, Django Unchained, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Amour, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, Anna Karenina