It may be the first French frontrunner in the history of the Academy Awards, but on home turf, "The Artist" had to settle for third place in the César Award nominations. Michel Hazanavicius's awards-guzzler landed a robust 10 nominations in the so-called French Oscars, but the top tally went to another Cannes prizewinner, actress-turned-filmmaker Maïwenn's sprawling law-enforcement drama "Polisse," with 13. "The Minister," a complex political drama that won acclaim in Un Certain Regard at Cannes but doesn't seem to have much travel potential, took 11 nods.

Of course, it's not an entirely fair fight. With its vast ensemble cast, Maïwenn's film was always going to have a numerical advantage: seven of its nominations are in the acting categories. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see "Polisse" trip up the "Artist" juggernaut at home: more envious César voters may feel inclined to take the international phenomenon down a peg or two, and they'd in turn feel noble rewarding the tough topicality of "Polisse," a study of personal and professional tensions in the Paris police department's Child Protection Unit. 

I saw and reviewed the film at Cannes, finding it by turn riveting and overcooked, like an entire season of an unruly procedural TV drama -- "Hill Street Bleu," I cracked -- crammed into one feature. (If Maïwenn's name sounds familiar, you may remember her as the former wife and protégée of Luc Besson, or as the blue-tentacled opera diva in "The Fifth Element.")

I was actually rather surprised the French didn't select "Polisse" as their Oscar submission, though the one they did -- "Declaration of War," an autobiographical cancer drama from another actress-director, Valérie Donzelli -- is also nominated for Best Film. As is another Cannes hit rejected by the Academy's foreign-language branch, Aki Kaurismäki's French-Finnish co-production "Le Havre." Morocco's Oscar entry "Omar Killed Me," which bested them all by cracking the Academy's shortlist, is also nominated for acting and writing -- a handy illustration of just how bogus the Academy's notion of a film's national identity is.   

"The Artist" isn't the only English-language film nominated in a major category: longstanding César favorite (and last year's Best Director winner) Roman Polanski is nominated with Yasmina Reza for the screenplay of "Carnage." (Polanski, meanwhile, will present one of the film's stars, Kate Winslet, with an honorary César at the ceremony. Because, well, why not?)  And as always, the Best Foreign Film lineup is an amusingly eclectic one: where else would you find "Drive" and "Black Swan" pitted against "Incendies?"

The awards will be presented in Paris on February 24, giving the "Artist" team just enough time to fly back over for the Oscars. Full list of nominees below.

Best Film
"The Artist"
"Declaration of War"
"Le Havre" 
"The Minister"
"Pater"
"Polisse"
"Untouchable"

Best Foreign Film
"Black Swan"
"Drive"
"Incendies"
"The Kid with a Bike"
"The King's Speech"
"Melancholia"
"A Separation"

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Valérie Donzelli, "Declaration of War"
Aki Kaurismäki, "Le Havre" 
Pierre Schoeller, "The Minister" 
Alain Cavalier, "Pater"
Maïwenn, "Polisse"
Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, "Untouchable"

Best Actor
Sami Bouajila, "Omar Killed Me"
François Cluzet, "Untouchable"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Olivier Gourmet, "The Minister "
Denis Podalydès, "The Conquest"
Omar Sy, "Untouchable"
Philippe Torreton, "Guilty"

Best Actress
Ariane Ascaride, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
Bérénice Bejo, "The Artist"
Leïla Bekhti, "The Source"
Valérie Donzelli, "Declaration of War"
Marina Foïs, "Polisse"
Marie Gillain, "All Our Desires"
Karin Viard, "Polisse"

Best Supporting Actor
Michel Blanc, "The Minister"
Nicolas Duvauchelle, "Polisse"
Joeystarr, "Polisse"
Bernard Le Coq, "The Conquest"
Frédéric Pierrot, "Polisse"

Best Supporting Actress 
Zabou Breitman, "The Minister"  
Anne Le Ny, "Untouchable"
Noémie Lvovsky, "House of Pleasures"
Carmen Maura, "The Women of the Sixth Floor"
Karole Rocher, "Polisse"

Best Original Screenplay
"The Artist"
"Declaration of War"
"The Minister"   
"Polisse"
"Untouchable"

Best Adapted Screenplay
"Carnage"
"La délicatesse" 
"Guilty"
"Omar Killed Me"
"Pater" 

Most Promising Actor
Nicolas Bridet, "Tu seras mon fils"
Grégory Gadebois, "Angèle and Tony"
Guillaume Gouix, "Jimmy Rivière"
Pierre Niney, "J’aime regarder les filles"
Dimitri Storoge, "A Gang Story"

Most Promising Actress
Naidra Ayadi, "Polisse"
Adèle Haenel, "House of Pleasures"
Clotilde Hesme, "Angèle and Tony"
Céline Sallette, "House of Pleasures"
Christa Théret, "La brindille"

Best Cinematography
"The Artist"
"House of Pleasures"
"The Minister"    
"Polisse"
"Untouchable"

Best Art Direction
"The Artist"
"House of Pleasures"
"Le Havre"
"The Minister"    
"The Women of the Sixth Floor"

Best Costume Design
"The Artist"
"House of Pleasures"
"My Little Princess"
"The Source"
"The Women of the Sixth Floor"

Best Film Editing
"The Artist"
"Declaration of War"
"The Minister"   
"Polisse"
"Untouchable"

Best Original Score

"The Artist"
"Beloved"
"House of Pleasures"
"The Minister"   
"A Monster in Paris"

Best Sound
"Declaration of War"
"House of Pleasures"
"The Minister"    
"Polisse"
"Untouchable"

Best First Film
"Angèle and Tony"
"La délicatesse"
"My Little Princess"    
"17 Girls"
"When Pigs Have Wings"

Best Animated Film
"The Circus"
"A Monster in Paris"
"A Mouse's Tale"
"The Rabbi's Cat"
"Le tableau"

Best Documentary
"Le bal des menteurs"
"Crazy Horse"
"Ici on noie les Algériens"
"Larzac"
"Michel Petrucciani" 

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter. 

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