French Director Michel Hazanavicius’s admitted to being “speechless” after his audacious black-and-white silent film The Artist on Tuesday swept the nominations for this year’s Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards, regarded as a stepping stone to the Oscars.

It was nominated for as many as 12 categories putting it head-to-head against Tomas Alfredson’s British spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy based on John Le Carre’s acclaimed novel of the same name which was nominated in 11 categories.

The categories for which the two films will be competing include Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor.

Meryl Streep confirmed her status as the front-runner for an Oscar with the nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady barely hours after winning the Golden Globe award across the Atlantic.

She is up against Berenice Bejo for The Artist, Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn, Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin and Viola Davis for The Help.

Equally crowded is the race for the Best Actor award with the line-up comprising Jean Dujardin (The Artist), George Clooney (The Descendants), Brad Pitt (Moneyball) , Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Michael Fassbender (Shame).

Martin Scorsese's Hugo got nine nominations including for Best Director. His film, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, was nominated for Best Documentary.

Other nominations include Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) for Original Screenplay; Carey Mulligan (Drive) and Judi Dench (My Week with Marilyn) for Best Supporting Actress; Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady) for the Best Supporting Actor; and Martin Scorsese for the prestigious Academy Fellowship.

Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn has been nominated in the Best Animated film category.

The buzz, however, was all about The Artist.

Jean Dujardin, in the race for the Best Actor, said he was delighted that “so many people are embracing this movie, a black and white silent film, and that it is becoming so universally celebrated.”

“To be recognized in a category with these other actors, whose work I have admired for a long time, is a true honour," while his co-star Berenice Bejo, in the running for the Best Actress award, said: “If I were in London right now, I would dance for you. Thank, you, Bafta members!” She should be there on Februry 2, when the awards will be announced.