The bigger than expected $38 million opening of The Weinstein Company's "Inglourious Basterds" has fueled speculation that Quentin Tarantino's latest might be a new player for one of this year's wide open ten Best Picture slots.  Well, with contenders dropping left and right either because (A) new release dates ("Shutter Island") have them in 2010 or (B) scuttlebutt that the films aren't the players the media think they are (nameless for now), the list of potential candidates is growing smaller and smaller by the week.  In fact, even if it were still the traditional five slots people would be whispering about what a weak year it is.  With 10?  Yeesh. 

Now, it's entirely possible "Basterds" could generate enough support within the Academy to crack the top ten, however, there's a long road till January, er, February 2 and Harvey's priority for Oscar is first and foremost Rob Marshall's star-filled "Nine." Luckily, Relativity Media co-financed a majority of movie musical and should support that marketing and awards campaign.  But, its hard to believe the cash-strapped Weinsteins have the dollars to pull off a rumored "Crash" like campaign for "Basterds."

Today, the ever-diligent Tom Oh over at The Envelope did report that insiders told him Weinstein plans on adopting the "Crash" strategy of inundating guild and Academy members with full DVD's of "Basterds" as opposed to the whole painful AMPAS watermarked DVD procedure (although the idea the DVDs were the sole reason "Crash" beat "Brokeback Mountain" is ludicrous.).  This may be part of Harvey's master plan, but let's be honest here, getting the DVD out in November and December has nothing to do with the Oscar race. It has to do with cash flow for the 2009 financial year.

Clearly a hit, "Basterds" has a chance of making over $100 million domestically and is pretty much guaranteed to do so overseas.  Both Weinstein and partner Universal Pictures, who is releasing internationally, have a 50/50 revenue split on the film and, important to consider, both companies have had very disappointing financial returns recently.  Even with the DVD market shrinking as it is, both companies can still increase their 2009 revenue by releasing "Basterds" on DVD and Blu-Ray during the busy Christmas season.  Most home entertainment companies will be praying that in these tough times DVD's and Blu-Rays are seen as affordable gifts for the holidays and for men, "Basterds" ends up being a nice stocking stuffer (really, it's that simple).  The bonus opportunity of sending 120,000 DVDs across Hollywood for Oscar season?  Sure, that's a smart move, but that's still more than $500,000 in expenses.  Let's see if the Weinsteins have that cash come November.  If they end up moving scheduled fall releases "Youth in Revolt" and "The Road," don't count on it.

Campaigning aside, "Basterds" Oscar hopes begin with a supporting actor nomination for the fantastic Christoph Waltz and a screenplay nod for Tarantino (who previously won for "Pulp Fiction.")  The standing of "Basterds" and most wild card candidate's Oscar hopes won't really become clear until November at the earliest.  And as Harvey knows, a lot can change in three months.

For constant updates on awards season, entertainment news and an few NBA rants or two, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory