Oscar 2010: Cesar (French Oscar) Awards

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men” and Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” topped the awards Friday night at the 36th Cesar Awards ceremony, which boasted Jodie Foster as honorary president.

Meanwhile David Fincher’s “Social Network” took the foreign-lingo prize.

A tale of Christian monks who were killed by Algerian fundamentalists amid post-colonial strife, “Men” snatched up film and supporting actor for Michael Lonsdale while Polanski’s thriller “The Ghost Writer” nabbed director and adapted screenplay (shared with co-scribe Robert Harris).

“Of Gods and Men,” produced by Why Not Films (“A Prophet”) bowed at Cannes where it won the Grand Jury Prize. While it failed to make it into the foreign-language Oscar longlist, pic has been a critical and commercial success in Gaul, grossing 24.7 million at the B.O.

“I finished this film while in jail so I would like to thank all the people who helped me and supported me until the very end,” said the Polish-born French helmer who previously won the film and director Cesars twice, in 1980 for “Tess” and in 2002 for “The Pianist.”

“The Ghost Writer” is one of the rare English-language pics eligible for the best pic Cesar as it is French-majority co-production.

While the awards previous edition was heavily dominated by “A Prophet,” which swept nine nods out of 13 nominations, this year’s honors were widely spread.

Political satire “The Names of Love” was the evening’s surprise winner, taking original screenplay for Baya Kasmi et Michel Leclerc, and thesp for 25-year-old thesp Sara Forestier. Forestier plays a politician sleeping her way up until she meets her match. She previously won the Cesar newcomer for “Games of Love and Chance” in 2005.

French journos and critics alike had predicted the actress nod would go to either British thesp Kristin Scott Thomas for her role as an American journo investigating the 1942 roundup and internment of Parisian Jews in “Sarah’s Key’s” or Catherine Deneuve’s perf as an upper class housewife-turned-factory boss in Francois Ozon’s Potiche, a part which many critics hailed as her best part in decades.

“I didn’t prepare anything, I just wore my lucky charm underwear,” joked Forestier, adding she was a virgin and didn’t know anything about politics when she took the part.

With laffers like Francois Ozon’s “Potiche,” social satire “The Names of Love” and Pascal Chaumeil’s “Heartbreaker” nommed for multiple kudos, this year’s Cesar appeared to celebrate audience-friendly pics and comedies, a genre that has often been overlooked by the French Cesar Academy.

Nominated for eigth Cesars, “Gainsbourg” took three nods, including actor for Eric Elmosnino and first film for comicbook artist-turned-helmer Joann Sfar.” Pic was Universal Pictures Intl.’s first co-prod with Gaul. “Gainsbourg” also marked animation vet producer Marc du Pontavice’s first feature film. The fantasy-filled biopic was just nabbed by Music Box Films for U.S. distribution. Sfar is now working on “The Rabbi’s Cat” a 3D-animated feature based on his popular comicbook collection, which will bow in France on June 1.

Sfar beat out strong contenders in the first film category, including Pascal Chaumeil’s romcom “Heartbreaker,” and Geraldine Nakache and Herve Mimran’s “All That Glitters,” both of which were commercial successes, grossing $31 million and $14.25 million admission respectively.

Social dramedy “All That Glitters” snatched up newcomer prize for Leila Bekhti, who played a twentysomething with big dreams. Bekhti will next appear in Radu Mihaileanu’s “The Source,” his followup to “The Concert.”

Venezuelan thesp Edgar Ramirez took the newcomer nod for his perf in Olivier Assayas’ Golden Globe-winning pic “Carlos.”

Produced by Daniel Leconte’s Film en Stock and Canal Plus, Carlos, a hybrid TV series-film made it into Cannes’ official selection.

Meanwhile, other strong contenders Mathieu Amalric’s “On Tour,” a road movie following an American Burlesque troupe, and “Heartbreaker” went home empty-handed. Bertrand Tavernier’s “The Princess of Montpensier” only took costume design out of eight noms.

Dressed in a sparkling pearl-colored dress, Foster opened the ceremony paying homage to Gallic masters in perfect French.

“It’s a big deal for a California girl like me to serve as the Cesar’s honorary president,” Foster said. “It’s as if I had been adopted by the family of French cinema, Claude Chabrol, Jean Renoir, Louis Malle, Philippe de Broca, and many others.”

Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionnist” took the animation nod, inaugurating the Cesar’s newly created toon category. Based on Jacques Tati’s unfinished screenplay’s “The Illusionist” will compete for an Oscar on Sunday.

“The Social Network” beat other Hollywood heavyweights, including Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” and Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” in the foreign film category.

Following Harrison Ford and Dustin Hoffman, Quentin Tarantino was feted by the French Academy of Arts and Sciences with a honorary Cesar. Presented by Diane Kruger, Christopher Waltz, two stars from Tarantino’s latest hit, “Inglorious Basterds,” the homage featured clips from his cult pics, notably “Kill Bill” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Jackie Brown” and “Pulp Fiction.”

“For the big Francophile that I am, this awards means a great deal. France is a country which respects cinema more than any other country,” said Tarantino, who shot scenes of “Inglorious Basterds” in Paris. “I promise you I won’t let this award get to my head,” added added the helmer, who finished his short speech with his famous “Vive le Cinema.”

And the winners are:

FILM

“Of Gods and Men,” Xavier Beauvois

DIRECTOR

Roman Polanski, “The Ghost Writer”

ACTOR

Eric Elmosnino, “Gainsbourg”

ACTRESS

Sara Forestier, “The Names of Love”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Michael Lonsdale, “Of Gods and Men”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Anne Alvaro, “The Clink of Ice”

NEWCOMER, ACTOR

Edgar Ramirez, “Carlos”

NEWCOMER, ACTRESS

Leila Bekhti, “All That Glitters”

EDITING

Herve de Luze, “Ghost Writer”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Caroline charpentier “Of Gods and Men”

FIRST FILM

Joann Sfar, “Gainsbourg”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Baya Kasmi, Michel Leclerc, “The Names of Love”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Robert Harris, Roman Polanski, “The Ghost Writer”

COSTUME DESIGN

Caroline de Vivaise, “The Princess of Montpensier”

SHORT FILM

“Logorama,” François Alaux, Hervé de Crecy, Ludovic Houplain

MUSIC

Alexandre Desplat, “The Ghost Writer”

SET DESIGN

Hugues Tissandier, “Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec”

SOUND

Daniel Sobrino, Jean Goudier, Jean-Baptiste Brunhes, “Gainsbourg”

FOREIGN FILM

“The Social Network,” David Fincher

ANIMATED FILM

“The Illusionist,” Sylvain Chomet

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Oceans,” Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud