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"Basterds" Extends War Movie Oscar Legacy

Quentin Tarantino rewrote the ending of World War II with "Inglourious Basterds," his "Dirty Dozen"-style commando adventure that is nominated for best picture at Sunday's Academy Awards.

Filmmakers have been writing the war itself into Oscar history almost since combat broke out. No other subject has resulted in more key Oscar contenders, with nearly three dozen World War II-themed films nominated for best picture, starting with Charles Chaplin's 1940 Nazi satire "The Great Dictator."

Seven films with the war as a backdrop have won the top prize at the Oscars -- roughly one in 10 of the best-picture winners since 1940.

For Best Picture: "Inglourious Basterds"
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The winners are bookended by two wartime romantic adventures, 1943's "Casablanca" and 1996's "The English Patient."

Also winning best picture were 1946's homecoming drama "The Best Years of Our Lives"; 1953's Pearl Harbor saga "From Here to Eternity"; 1957's prisoner-of-war tale "The Bridge on the River Kwai"; 1970's film biography "Patton"; and 1993's Holocaust epic "Schindler's List."

Sunday's ceremony marks the first time since the heart of the war that 10 films, rather than the usual five, are competing for best picture. That last time came with the triumph of "Casablanca," when two other World War II tales -- "In Which We Serve" and "Watch on the Rhine" -- also were among the 10 nominees.

Other best-picture contenders over the decades have included Holocaust dramas (1959's "The Diary of Anne Frank," 1998's "Life Is Beautiful" and 2002's "The Pianist"); battle epics (1942's "Wake Island," 1962's "The Longest Day" and 1997's "Saving Private Ryan"); naval and aerial stories (1949's "Twelve O'Clock High," 1954's "The Caine Mutiny" and 1955's "Mister Roberts"); crime and justice narratives (1961's "Judgment at Nuremberg," 1984's "A Soldier's Story" and 2008's "The Reader"); and home-front chronicles (1942's "Mrs. Miniver" and 1987's "Hope and Glory").

Before "Inglourious Basterds," the most recent best-picture contender set during the war was 2006's "Letters From Iwo Jima."

While set years after the war, "The Reader" earned Kate Winslet the best-actress Oscar a year ago for her role as a former concentration camp guard on trial. Other acting winners for World War II-themed films include William Holden for 1953's "Stalag 17," Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed for "From Here to Eternity," George C. Scott for "Patton," Juliette Binoche for "The English Patient" and Adrien Brody for "The Pianist."

With eight Oscar nominations, "Inglourious Basterds" runs second to the sci-fi tale "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker," which have nine nominations each.

"Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" are considered the best-picture front-runners, but "Inglourious Basterds" seems certain to win at least one major prize. Dominating at earlier Hollywood honors, Christoph Waltz is heavily favored to earn the supporting-actor Oscar for his "Basterds" role as a chillingly amiable Nazi known as the Third Reich's ace Jew hunter.

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