You can hear the Oscar gurgles percolating as studios have been showing films in hushed theaters looking for feedback and shuffling their schedules to find the right release dates for this and that. Soon the fall festival season will reveal what's what and it'll be a race to the finish among the players.

Fox Searchlight made a move today that I've frankly been expecting, pushing Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" (note: the number 12, not "Twelve") from a dangerous late-December slot to an October 18 platforming release. The studio also has Sundance crowd-pleaser "The Way, Way Back" in play this year, but this adaptation of the Solomon Northup memoir would seemingly be the perennial awards studio's best bet for awards.

I've heard the film is "devastating" and doesn't shy away in its depiction of slavery. It should make an intriguing counterpoint to last year's "Django Unchained." In addition to Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead actor race and Michael Fassbender in supporting, another performance to watch out for is newcomer Lupita Nyong'o.

This clears out December for Searchlight, so assuming they'd like to pad out their slate with any number of still unacquired that may play the all fests, they have the real estate. Films still looking for a home include Anton Corbijn's "A Most Wanted Man" with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonathan Teplitzky's "The Railway Man" with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman and Susanne Bier's "Serena" with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.