Just in case you were wondering, "The Iron Lady" is a better film -- and a better directed film -- than "Shame." Obviously. "Arthur Christmas" and "War Horse" are better British films than "Weekend," "Kill List" and "Wuthering Heights." Of course. Zoe Wanamaker and Judi Dench gave nomination-worthy performances in "My Week With Marilyn." (Sure, but why not throw in Emma Watson too? They're all better than Vanessa Redgrave in "Coriolanus.")

Hey, how about those awesome visual effects in "Midnight in Paris?" Better, I'm sure you'll agree, than those half-assed efforts in "The Tree of Life" -- which, by the way, has no place in a Best Director conversation that includes such visionary auteurs as Simon Curtis.

These golden truths all come to us courtesy of the BAFTA longlists, an annual preview (or, perhaps more appropriately, warning) of the British Academy's eventual nominations, in which 15 contenders are announced in each category, from which the five nominees will be chosen. Marked with an asterisk are the top choices of the relevant voting branch ("chapter" in BAFTA lingo) in each field -- in a reversal of the Oscar system, the general membership votes on the nominees in each category, while the chapter determines the winner in all categories except Best Film, Foreign Language Film, British Film, Documentary and the acting races.

Year after year, it's an announcement that reveals both the narrowness of the pool of films they consider, and the astonishing blandness of their collective taste -- and this year, they've truly outdone themselves. Leading the longlists with 16 mentions each, and emphatically keeping the home fires burning in the race, are "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "My Week With Marilyn."

The former was always predicted to be a BAFTA favorite, and deservedly so; the latter is more of a groaner, particularly by the time it starts showing up in categories like Cinematography and Sound. Look at the technical categories and note the alarming level of title repetition -- by the time the structurally disastrous "The Iron Lady," with a whopping 14 mentions, makes the cut for Best Film Editing, you know they're not digging too deep.

More significant than the overall tally, however, is the number of chapter selections: "The Artist" unsurprisingly comes out on top there, placing in the chapter's top five in nine of the 13 categories in which it is longlisted. (Among them is Best Actress for Berenice Bejo: if BAFTA deserve credit for anything, it's that they rarely submit to category fraud. Carey Mulligan has also been promoted to lead for "Shame.") Close behind, with eight, are "Tinker, Tailor" and "Hugo" -- you can safely expect these three films to lead the nominations on January 17. 

I sense Tomas Alfredson's espionage thriller remains the French silent film's only real competition for the win: with the film's awards campaign flagging in the US, could this evident local support propel it to an Oscar nomination for Best Picture? It's still possible.

That said, for all their apparent hometown bias, the BAFTAs remain trapped in an identity crisis, clearly illustrated by the sorry list below. Torn between conflicting impulses to honor their own and anticipate the Oscar race, they wind up doing neither job very well: there may be Brits galore on the longlists, but the notion that they're serving UK cinema by showering accolades on anonymous pap like "My Week With Marilyn," while ignoring major talents like Steve McQueen, or indeed Tom Hardy, is patently absurd. Nominations voted on by a group this large are never going to be as rangy and inclusive as they could be; when even the longlists are this behind the beat, however, you have to wonder why they bother. 

The longlists are as follows:

Best Film
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
My Week with Marilyn
Senna
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Outstanding British Film 
Arthur Christmas
Attack the Block
Coriolanus
The Guard
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The Iron Lady
Jane Eyre
My Week with Marilyn
Senna
Shame
Submarine
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tyrannosaur
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Director
The Artist*
The Descendants
Drive*
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo*
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin*

Film Not in the English Language
Abel
As If I Am Not There
The Boy Mir - Ten Years in Afghanistan
Calvet
Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)
Incendies
Little White Lies
Pina
Post Mortem
Potiche
Le Quattro Volte
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Tomboy
The Troll Hunter

Documentary
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Life in a Day
Pina
Project Nim
Senna

Animated Film
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
Arthur Christmas*
Gnomeo and Juliet
Puss in Boots
Rango*

Original Screenplay
50/50
Anonymous
Arthur Christmas
The Artist*
Beginners
Bridesmaids*
The Guard*
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
Midnight in Paris*
Senna
Shame
Super 8
Tyrannosaur
Young Adult*

Adapted Screenplay
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Coriolanus
The Descendants*
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The Help*
Hugo
The Ides of March*
Jane Eyre
Moneyball*
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Leading Actor
Antonio Banderas, The Skin I Live In
Brad Pitt, Moneyball*
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Eddie Redmayne, My Week with Marilyn
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
George Clooney, The Descendants*
Jean Dujardin, The Artist*
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame*
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
Peter Mullan, Tyrannosaur
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March

Leading Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist*
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Emma Stone, The Help
Helen Mirren, The Debt
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Kate Winslet, Carnage
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady*
Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn*
Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin*
Viola Davis, The Help*

Supporting Actor
Alan Rickman, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Albert Brooks, Drive
Ben Kingsley, Hugo
Benedict Cumberbatch, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Christopher Plummer, Beginners*
Colin Firth, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Eddie Marsan, Tyrannosaur*
Ezra Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady
John Hurt, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Jonah Hill, Moneyball*
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn*
Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March*

Supporting Actress
Alexandra Roach, The Iron Lady
Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help*
Carey Mulligan, Drive
Emily Watson, War Horse
Evan Rachel Wood, The Ides of March
Jessica Chastain, The Help*
Judi Dench, My Week with Marilyn*
Kathy Bates, Midnight in Paris
Kathy Burke, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Marion Cotillard, Midnight in Paris
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids*
Octavia Spencer, The Help*
Olivia Colman, The Iron Lady
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Zoe Wanamaker, My Week with Marilyn*

Editing
The Artist*
The Descendants
Drive*
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Hugo*
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
My Week with Marilyn
Senna*
Tinker Tailor Solider Spy*
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Production Design
Anonymous
The Artist*
Coriolanus
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2*
The Help
Hugo*
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
Jane Eyre
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
War Horse*

Cinematography
The Artist*
The Descendants
Drive*
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Hugo*
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Jane Eyre
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
The Tree of Life
War Horse
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Make Up & Hair
Anonymous
The Artist*
Bridesmaids
Coriolanus
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2*
The Help
Hugo*
The Iron Lady*
J. Edgar
Jane Eyre
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn*
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Costume Design
Anonymous*
The Artist*
Coriolanus
A Dangerous Method
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The Help
Hugo*
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
Jane Eyre*
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn*
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Sound
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
The Artist
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2*
Hugo*
The Iron Lady
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
My Week with Marilyn
Senna
Super 8
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
War Horse*
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Special Visual Effects
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
The Artist
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2*
Hugo*
Midnight in Paris
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rise of the Planet of the Apes*
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Super 8
Transformers: Dark of the Moon*
War Horse
X-Men: First Class

Original Music
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
The Artist*
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The Help
Hugo*
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
Jane Eyre
Moneyball
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
War Horse*
We Need to Talk About Kevin