France put its deux centimes into the Oscar race on Saturday at the Cesars, the French equivalent of the Academy Awards, where the biggest winner was the Oscar-nominated French-Canadian film ''The Barbarian Invasions.'' Quebecois writer-director Denys Arcand's sequel to his ''Big Chill''-esque 1986 feature, ''The Decline of the American Empire,'' ''Invasions'' won Best French Language Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay honors. The movie is up for Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay Oscars on Feb. 29.
Other notable winners included six-time Oscar nominee ''Mystic River,'' named Best Foreign Film. ''The Triplets of Belleville,'' up for Best Animated Feature and Best Song Oscars, won a Best Original Score Cesar. Omar Sharif won Best Actor for his much-lauded comeback role as an Arab shopkeeper in ''Monsieur Ibrahim.'' Julie Depardieu won Best Female Newcomer (though she's been in 15 films) and Best Supporting Actress for her role in ''La Petite Lili,'' and was upstaged during her acceptance speech by her famous father, Gerard.
Along with this past weekend's Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America awards, the Cesars may be the last set of prizes that could influence the Oscars. Academy voters must submit their ballots by 5 p.m. Tuesday.