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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Quentin Tarantino's World War Two movie "Inglourious Basterds" won its biggest award so far on Saturday, taking the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild awards.
Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock were hailed as best movie actor and actress of 2009 on a night where no single movie dominated but which lined the two stars up for likely Oscar glory in March.
"Inglourious Basterds," a violent and darkly comic revenge fantasy, won for best ensemble for a multinational cast that included American Brad Pitt, Germany's Diane Kruger and Austrian Christoph Waltz, who also added the SAG best supporting actor trophy to his slew of awards.
The Tarantino movie had already won a string of film critics' awards but none as prestigious as the award chosen by the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.
The SAG awards are usually seen as a key indicator of success at the Oscars, the movie industry's highest honors.
But "Avatar," which won a Golden Globe and has earned more than $1.6 billion at global box offices, was not in the running at SAG, whose members tend to reward acting talent rather than action adventures.
Bullock, previously best known for romantic comedies, plays a wealthy white mother who takes a downtrodden black high school football player into her home in "The Blind Side."
"If you look at my career, no-one would have predicted this," the actress told reporters, referring to the clutch of awards she has won for her performance.
"I was lucky that I wanted to better my work, and that I was given the opportunity," she said, saying she has now learned to say "no" to mediocre parts. She said her money had been on veteran Meryl Streep for her role as TV chef Julia Child in "Julie and Julia."
Bridges' performance as a drunken country singer in "Crazy Heart" has brought the best accolades of a career that started when he was a baby.
Bridges, 60, who hails from an acting dynasty that includes his father Lloyd Bridges and brother Beau, was given a standing ovation on Saturday.
"I love being an actor, pretending to be in the shoes of other folks," he said, saying the array of stars at the SAG dinner were like "a big family."
"Basterds" beat urban drama "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire," while critically acclaimed independent Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," British film "An Education," and star-studded musical "Nine," all came away empty-handed.
Waltz took his first supporting actor SAG award for playing a manipulative Nazi officer in "Basterds." Comedy actress Mo'Nique took home the supporting actress award for playing against type as an abusive mother in "Precious."
Both Waltz and Mo'Nique came off Golden Globe wins last weekend.
"I have no lucky charm. I am 100 percent superstition-free and I take nothing for granted," Waltz told reporters when asked about his Oscar chances.
SAG also hands out awards for television, with AMC's stylish 1960s series "Mad Men" won for a second year for best ensemble drama cast and the Fox quirky musical comedy "Glee" taking the award for best ensemble comedy cast in its first season.
Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin continued their long streak of wins for best comedy actress and actor for NBC's "30 Rock." Former "ER" star Julianna Margulies won best TV drama actress for "The Good Wife" on CBS, while Michael C. Hall won for his role as a serial killer in Showtime drama "Dexter."
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Walsh