It was a late summer hit at the box office and now Quentin Tarantino's WWII epic-fantasy Inglourious Basterds is surprisingly surging forward as the Oscar front runner (zooming past favorites Up In The Air and Precious: Based on the novel "Push" By Sapphire).
The Screen Actors Guild just announced their nominations for the upcoming 16th Annual SAG Awards Ceremony and any Oscar pundit would tell you that SAG nominations correlate with actual future Oscar nominations about 90% of the time. The most important category (Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture) has the following films as nominees: An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Nine and Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire.
The problem is, for films like Jason Reitman's Up In The Air (winner of the Best Picture prize from the National Board of Review), not receiving a Best Ensemble SAG nomination is a bad omen for the Best Picture Oscar nod (for example Slumdog Millionaire won in the SAG Ensemble category last year).
For Tarantino this is not a problem at all. Aside from landing the Ensemble nod, his Inglourious Basterds picked up two more nominations. As expected, Cannes Best Actor winner Christoph Waltz earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his portrayal of Col. Hans "The Jew Hunter" Landa. The big upset in the Supporting Actress category came with Diane Kruger's nomination for her portrayal of Bridget von Hammersmark in Basterds (that slot was predicted to go to Julianne Moore for A Single Man).
So do the math: Precious failed to win the slew of Best Picture prizes from major critics groups, Up In The Air misses the crucial SAG Ensemble nod and now Inglourious Basterds is getting nothing but love (e.g. Kruger's nod) from top tier awards associations.
Fifteen years after Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump, Tarantino is actually a very realistic candidate to have directed the year's Best Picture Oscar winner. Unless (as I predict) The Hurt Locker has something to say about that.