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For Your Consideration: Breaking Down the 2013 Oscar Race, Distributor By Distributor

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 15, 2013 at 12:18PM

It's mid-October and all but a few studios bidding for this year's Oscar glory have laid their cards out for all to see, either in theaters or in festivals ("Saving Mr. Banks," "American Hustle," "The Monuments Men" and -- maybe -- "The Wolf of Wall Street" are more or less the final four potential game changers). So Indiewire has decided to break things down, distributor by distributor. Before the onslaught of For Your Consideration ads and screeners hits (which should happen pretty much any minute now), here's a rundown for 16 studios or specialty distributors, each with at least a minimal shot at a major nomination:
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It's mid-October and all but a few studios bidding for this year's Oscar glory have laid their cards out for all to see, either in theaters or in festivals ("Saving Mr. Banks," "American Hustle," "The Monuments Men" and -- maybe -- "The Wolf of Wall Street" are more or less the final four potential game changers). So Indiewire has decided to break things down, distributor by distributor. Before the onslaught of For Your Consideration ads and screeners hits (which should happen pretty much any minute now), here's a rundown for 16 studios or specialty distributors (in alphabetical order), each with at least a minimal shot at a major nomination:

A24
Track record: This is the upstart indie distributor's first year at bat, so none to speak off...

2013 MVP: James Franco in "Spring Breakers." It's a longshot, but they've already started a clever campaign for his (deserved) supporting actor bid. Which at least gives A24 their first participation in the overall awards conversation.

Other possibilities: An adapted screenplay push for "The Spectacular Now" is warranted, though overall A24 should reserve its awards season hopes for a strong presence at the Independent Spirit Awards.

CBS Films
Track record: Three year old CBS Films has had a few more shots at awards season than A24, but it's never worked out. The closest they ever came was the surprising (and much mocked) presence of "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" at last year's Golden Globes.

2013 MVP: "Inside Llewyn Davis." The Coen brothers are an Oscar staple (three of their last 4 films have got best picture nominations), and given the strong reviews on the festival circuit, "Inside Llewyn Davis" has a very good shot at continuing the trend and giving CBS its first (and likely second, third and fourth) Oscar nomination(s).

Other possibilities: None.

Disney
Track record: Last year their co-production "Lincoln" was a major contender (and two time winner) and they've consistently had a best picture nominee the last few years ("Up," "Toy Story 3," "The Help"). But the Mouse House has never actually won the top prize.

2013 MVP: "Saving Mr. Banks." We still haven't actually seen it (but that will change in the next week), but the Emma Thompson-Tom Hanks biopic about the trouble surrounding one of the company's own greatest success stories, "Mary Poppins," is still sight unseen Disney's best Oscar bet.

Other possibilities: The animated feature should be characteristically filled with Disney contenders ("Frozen," "Monsters University," "The Wind Rises"), while "Iron Man 3" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" could manage a few tech nods. But if anythings getting into the major races, it's "Mr. Banks" (sorry "Fifth Estate").

"Dallas Buyers Club."


Focus Features

Track record: As Focus says goodbye to its remarkable James Schamus era, it leaves behind a legacy that included multiple best picture nominees including "Atonement," "Brokeback Mountain," "The Kids Are All Right," "Lost in Translation," "Milk" and "The Pianist."

2013 MVP: "Dallas Buyers Club." The Schamus-era Oscar swan song should likely come via Jean-Marc Vallée's AIDS drama, which is all but assured a nomination for best actor Matthew McConaughey. Best picture is less certain, but definitely possible.

Other possibilities: "The Place Beyond The Pines" has an outside shot at a screenplay nom.

Fox
Track record: Though its indie-focused sibling Searchlight has had better luck as of late (and should again this year -- see below), big Fox had a best picture nominee (and best director winner) last year with Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." Its last winner in the category was 1971's "The French Connection (though it internationally distributed best picture winners "Braveheart" and "Titanic" back in the 1990s).

2013 MVP: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Though reviews out of the New York Film Festival made it clear it's no "Life of Pi," Ben Stiller's ambitious adventure pic is still Fox's best shot at a best pic nom.

Other possibilities: "The Book Thief" has a shot at a few noms, while "The Croods" and "Epic" could land animated feature nominations. Overall though, this won't be Fox's best year when it comes to Oscar.

Fox Searchlight
Track record: Little Fox has had 9 best picture nominees -- "127 Hours," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Black Swan," "The Descendants," "The Full Monty," "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Sideways" and big winner "Slumdog Millionaire." They've been pretty consistent as of late in having a major player each year ("Beasts" being last year's).

2013 MVP: "12 Years a Slave." Exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point. Steve McQueen's extraordinarily well-received take on slavery is a sure thing for a handful of major nominations and definitely not to be counted out in terms of winning the whole thing.

Other possibilities: Commercial hits "The Way Way Back" and, more likely, "Enough Said" could nab a nom, with the latter a fair bet for a posthumous acting bid for James Gandolfini.

Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in 'Blue is the Warmest Color'


IFC Films/Sundance Selects

Track record: Nominations have generally been rare for IFC, though "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "In The Loop" all nabbed screenplay nominations (while a handful of others factored into the foreign language or doc races).

2013 MVP: "Blue is the Warmest Color." Even though it won't be getting a foreign language nom since it didn't qualify, the Palme d'Or-winning lesbian romance has outside shots at nods for best actress and best adapted screenplay, though we aren't holding our breath.

Other possibilities: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's script for "Frances Ha" is very worthy, but unfortunately the original screenplay category is probably a little too packed.  "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" also seemed like a potential contender at one point, but its post-Sundance buzz seems to have been drowned out.

"Blackfish"


Magnolia

Track record: Magnolia won the best documentary Oscar for "Man on Wire," and has many other nominations in the category ("Enron," "No End In Sight," "Food, Inc," etc).

2013 MVP: "Blackfish." The killer whale doc is Magnolia's best bet at getting another nomination in that category.

Other possibilities: Danish submission "The Hunt" could definitely get a foreign language feature nomination, their second in a row care of Denmark (which was nominated for Magnolia release "A Royal Affair" last year.

"Nebraska"

Paramount
Track record: The studio sat out last year, but had best picture nominations a few years running before that (with "Up In The Air," "True Grit" and "Hugo"). Back in the 1990s, they won the big prize three times in four years thanks to "Forrest Gump," "Braveheart" and "Titanic."

2013 MVP: "Nebraska." Alexander Payne's latest is currently the company's safest bet at a best picture nomination, alongside a few potential acting noms (Bruce Dern, June Squibb).

Other possibilities: If "The Wolf of Wall Street" comes out in time and is as good as its pedigree suggests it could be, it could replace "Nebraska" as the studio's best bet (and give it two nominees in the big category). Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," meanwhile, has very little buzz at this point. But that could change closer to its Christmas release date.

Radius-TWC "20 Feet From Stardom"

RADiUS-TWC
Track record: The Weinstein Company's new division is in its first full year of release, RADiUS-TWC is heading into awards season with its first full slate of contenders.

2013 MVP: "20 Feet From Stardom." The crowdpleasing Sundance doc is a sure thing for a documentary feature (or as close as they come in that unpredictable category).

Other possibilities: RADiUS has quite a few docs that could manage noms alongside "Stardom" in "Inequality For All," "The Unknown Known" and "Cutie and the Boxer." They also have a long shot contender in Kristin Scott Thomas's monstrous turn in "Only God Forgives"

Relativity
Track record: In its three year history, Relativity has managed a single nom (for last year's "Mirror Mirror" and its costume design).

2013 MVP: "Out of the Furnace." Sight unseen, Scott Cooper's follow-up to "Crazy Heart" most definitely seems like Relativity's sole shot at awards glory this year. Its got a great case (Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson), and a director that helped bring Jeff Bridges an Oscar a few years back... Though buzz has been pretty muted so far (it world premieres at AFI next month).

Other possibilities: "Free Birds" is a dark horse in the animated feature race.


No more boats.

Roadside Attractions
Track record: "Winter's Bone" is definitely Roadside's biggest Oscar success story in its six year history, though they also managed to factor in with "Margin Call," "Biutiful," "Albert Nobbs" and "The Cove."

2013 MVP:  "All Is Lost." JC Chandor's nearly silent survival tale is assured a best actor nomination for Robert Redford, and could sneak into a few other major races as well.

Other possibilities: Lionsgate co-release "Mud" is a critical and commercial hit that could creep into the race (and deservedly so), while Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" is a good bet for a documentary nomination.


"Captain Phillips"

Sony/Columbia
Track record: "The Social Network," "Moneyball" and "Zero Dark Thirty" have helped give Big Sony three best picture nominations in a row, though they haven't won the big prize since "Gandhi" back in 1982.

2013 MVP: For now, we'll say "Captain Phillips." The Somalian pirates thriller is a hit with critics and now at the box office, and is a very safe bet for best picture, with best director and best actor strong possibilities as well.

Other possibilities: We say for now because David O. Russell's "American Hustle" could definitely be Sony's all-star come December, we just haven't seen it yet. We'd actually be quite surprised if the studio didn't end up with two best picture nominations given George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" is also on the way, and could also be quite the Oscar juggernaut.

Sony Pictures Classics
Track record: "Midnight in Paris" and "Amour" have given SPC two straight best picture nominations and wins for screenplay and foreign language film (the latter category they've now won four years in a row).

2013 MVP: "Blue Jasmine." Woody Allen's latest could make it three in a row for SPC and best picture, and at the very least gives it a best actress nominee (and potential winner) in Cate Blanchett.

Other possibilities: Loads. "Before Midnight" should get a screenplay nom, "The Past" and "Wadjda" have great shots to continue the foreign language film tradition, while "Tim's Vermeer" could factor into the best documentary race.

Imagine/Universal 'Rush'

Universal
Track record: Nominated for "Les Miserables" last year, Universal has otherwise not managed a best picture nomination since 2008's "Frost/Nixon," and hasn't won since their back-to-back Dreamworks collaborations "A Beautiful Mind" and "Gladiator"

2013 MVP: "Rush."  Ron Howard's Formula 1 racing biopic had very strong reviews and respectable awards buzz coming out of Toronto, though its lackluster box office upon release has hurt it since. It still has a good shot at some technical nods, though, and a best supporting actor bid for Daniel Bruhl.

Other possibilities: "Despicable Me 2" could get an animated feature nomination, while Peter Berg's war film "Lone Survivor" -- getting a qualifying release on December 27th -- could surprise.


"Gravity"

Warner Brothers Pictures
Track record: WB led the way last year with "Argo," and have had a best picture nominee every year since 2005.

2013 MVP: "Gravity." That track record will certainly continue with Alfonso Cuarón's hugely successful (both with critics and the box office) film, a shoo-in for best picture, best director, best actress and multiple tech prizes.

Other possibilities: Spike Jonze's "Her" was very well received out the New York Film Festival and has a good shot at some major nominations (the most interesting of which is a supporting actress bid for a voice-only performance by Scarlett Johannson), while "Prisoners" and the second "Hobbit" movie could get a nod or two as well.

"August: Osage County" Available for Pre-Buy in iTunes

The Weinstein Company
Track record: Harvey and company have been on a roll lately, winning two of the last three best picture races and four lead acting trophies in the last three years (for Colin Firth, Jean Dujardin, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, respectively).

2013 MVP: Tough to say, but probably "August: Osage County." It doesn't quite seem like the Weinsteins have the kind of slate they've road to multiple trophies in past years, but John Wells' adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play has an excellent shot at a few acting bids, and a decent one at best picture.

Other possibilities: "Lee Daniels' The Butler" also has a very good shot at a best picture bid, and is assured a nod for Oprah Winfrey's supporting performance. Beyond that, "Philomena," "Fruitvale Station" and "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" could all factor into a few races, with Judi Dench and Octavia Spencer's performances near-sure things for the first two.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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This article is related to: For Your Consideration, Academy Awards, Warner Brothers, Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, IFC Films, Sony Pictures Classics, A24, CBS Films, Roadside Attractions, Awards Season Roundup