Silent film The Artist picked up more steam in its race to the Oscars, scoring 12 nominations for the British Academy Film Awards on Tuesday.

The black-and-white French film is the lead nominee for the annual U.K. prize — dubbed the BAFTA Awards, an acronym for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts — though The Artist is neck-and-neck with the moody espionage drama Tinker Tailer Solder Spy, which picked up 11 nominations.

Both films will compete for best film and stars Jean Dujardin and Gary Oldman are in the running for best actor.

The Artist landed atop a number of critics' year-end best film lists and was the top winner at Sunday's Golden Globes gala and the recent Critics' Choice Awards. Though Tinker Tailor was warmly reviewed by critics upon its release, it hasn't received much recognition so far during award season.

Tinker Tailor is a "particularly British cultural phenomenon," producer Tim Bevan said, according to The Associated Press.

"It's great that it's being recognized at the BAFTAs but that it hasn't at the Golden Globes is not surprising."

He also had praise for The Artist, which "seems to be the film with the momentum, and rightly so...It's been an OK year but not a brilliant year for movies, and The Artist defines what cinema should be. It's brave, different, it's got a great shot."

Also competing for the British Academy's best film crown are the Hawaiian family drama The Descendants, the action-packed crime thriller Drive and the civil rights-era tale The Help.

Dujardin and Oldman's best actor rivals include Hollywood heavyweights George Clooney for The Descendants, Brad Pitt for the inspired-by-a-true-story baseball film Moneyball and Michael Fassbender's turn as a sex addict in Shame.

The best actress contest reflects what is fast becoming a familiar list of names: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn, Bérénice Bejo for The Artist, Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin and Viola Davis for The Help.

Two big-budget, high-profile films — Steven Spielberg's First World War epic War Horse and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 — were shut out from the major categories, but earned nominations in craft and technical fields such as production design and sound.

Canadians in the running

Quebec director Denis Villeneuve's searing tale Incendies is nominated in the foreign-language film category. It faces the German 3D dance documentary Pina, the French comedy Potiche, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's arthouse thriller The Skin I Live In and the Iranian movie A Separation, a film festival favourite and the season's frontrunner so far.

Canadian performing legend Christopher Plummer is also a best supporting actor nominee for his turn in Beginners, a father-son drama with comic touches.

Other nominees include:

  • Supporting actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn; Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March.
  • Supporting actress: Carey Mulligan, Drive; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Judi Dench, My Week with Marilyn; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids; Octavia Spencer, The Help.
  • British film: My Week with Marilyn; Senna; Shame; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; We Need to Talk About Kevin.
  • Direction: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive; Martin Scorsese, Hugo; Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk About Kevin.
  • Original screenplay: The Artist; Bridesmaids; The Guard; The Iron Lady; Midnight in Paris.
  • Adapted screenplay: The Descendants; The Help; The Ides of March; Moneyball; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
  • Documentary: George Harrison: Living in the Material World; Project Nim; Senna.
  • Original music: The Artist; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Hugo; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
  • Animated film: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn; Arthur Christmas; Rango.

The British Film Academy Awards, which will be presented at London's Royal Opera House on Feb. 12, have in recent years been another important indicator of potential success at Hollywood's Academy Awards. Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech earned a raft of trophies at the BAFTAs before moving onto top honours at the Oscars.

With files from The Associated Press