Inglourious Basterds tops Sag Awards

Oscar hopes are renewed for Tarantino film after coming up empty-handed at last week's Golden Globes gala.

Quentin Tarantino's bloody World War Two revenge drama Inglourious Basterds won the top honour at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards Saturday, a key indicator of possible Oscars contenders. After being overlooked in favor of the science fiction epic Avatar at last week's Golden Globes, Inglourious Basterds's Oscar hopes were revitalized by the recognition by the actors' group for best ensemble acting. The SAG Awards are seen as a bellwether of likely winners at the Academy Awards, which take place this year on March 7.

For the past two years, the winner of the SAG Awards' best ensemble statuette has gone on to win best picture at the Oscars, with Slumdog Millionaire triumphing in 2009 and No Country For Old Men prevailing in 2008. Actor Eli Roth accepted the award Saturday on behalf of the Inglourious Basterds cast, which included Brad Pitt who was nowhere to be seen Saturday. Roth paid tribute to Pulp Fiction director Tarantino in his acceptance speech. "Quentin your belief in us lets us rise to the occasion and brings out the best in all of us. It was an honour to be a part of this," Roth said.

Other films nominated in the category included An Education, The Hurt Locker, Nine, and Precious. Top individual acting honours were won by Hollywood veteran Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock in a repeat of last week's Golden Globe Awards. The wins cement Bridges's and Bullock's status as Oscars front-runners. Bridges, 60, won for his portrayal of a washed up country singer battling to rebuild his career in the drama Crazy Heart.

"This means so much to be acknowledged by my acting family," Bridges said. "It's like a big family, playing an advanced version of pretend. I love being an actor, pretending to be other folks." Bridges beat out competition from George Clooney for Up in the Air, Colin Firth for A Single Man, Morgan Freeman for Invictus and Jeremy Renner for the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker. Bullock triumphed for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, the true story of how the southern housewife took in homeless black teen Michael Oher, who went on to become an American football star.

"If this were only not televised so I could use the appropriate words I'm feeling right now," Bullock, 45, said in her acceptance speech, which included a heartfelt tribute to her husband of five years Jesse James. "You get dressed up in monkey suits and sit at tables with people you don't know," Bullock said. "I love you so much and you're really hot and I want you so much." Other nominees in the category included Helen Mirren for The Last Station," Carey Mulligan for An Education, Gabourey Sidibe for Precious, and Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia.

In the supporting actor categories, Austria's Christoph Waltz followed up his success at the Golden Globes to underscore his status as Oscars favorite. Waltz won for his performance as a deranged Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. Other nominees included Matt Damon for Invictus, Woody Harrelson for The Messenger, Christopher Plummer for The Last Station and Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones. The best supporting actress award was also a repeat of the Golden Globes, with Mo'nique taking home the statuette for her performance as an abusive parent in the gritty drama Precious.

Mo'nique beat out competition from Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick from Up In the Air, Penelope Cruz from Nine, and Diane Kruger from Inglourious Basterds.