If Quentin Tarentino's ingenious Nazi-killing fantasy comes from behind in the polls and wins the best picture Oscar, the win will be a shocker to the TV audience, but not the Academy.
The more I talk to Academy voters, the more I hear them leaning toward Basterds. Maybe half of the votes have already been cast. Most of the rest will pour into the Academy this week. The timing for the buzz shift toward Basterds could not be better.
If I had a vote to cast, Basterds would get mine. What I love most about Inglourious Basterds is its utter indescribability. Go ahead, try to describe it to people who haven't seen it. It will sound like a silly, incoherent, horribly inaccurate depiction of World War 2. They will not believe any adult would put up money to make or see a movie like that. They will not be able to fathom why Brad Pitt would jump at the chance to star in it. Tarantino took a crazy idea that rattled around in his head for years, turned it into what must have seemed like a pretty crazy screenplay, then turned that into a masterful movie crammed with unbearable tension, twisted humor, true eloquence, and remarkable performances.
For audiences who crave movies that take on important subjects in serious ways, 2009 was a great year, as the list of Best Picture nominees proves. There is no movie on that list that teaches a more powerful lesson about the dark side of the human condition than what Inglourious Basterds delivers in its first scene -- the most compelling explanation and condemnation of anti-Semitism ever written in movie dialogue, all in words any child can understand, using our common collective reactions to squirrels and rats as the teaching tool, and all put in the mouth of the most frightening Nazi officer in film history whose job is to hunt and eliminate Jews.
There is no better scene in this year's movies. Don't be surprised if the Academy decides there is no better movie.