With only a week away from announcing the Oscar nominations, and with no apparent need to do so, the Academy has pared down its list of eligible foreign-language films from 61 to nine. This is the first time the Academy has shortlisted the category, but the decision to do so falls in line with a number of other changes pertaining to the category.

Those changes, which I told you about last summer, are a good thing for at least two of the nine films. Water and Black Book each would have been disqualified in previous years, but now their language issues are in full compliance with the rules. Of course, had they not made the cut, there might have been some happier countries in Asia or Australia, the two continents not represented (Antarctica may get some love from Happy Feet's animation nomination). It is too bad that Japan couldn't claim Golden Globe winner Letters From Iwo Jima and also too bad for Oz that Ten Canoes wasn't chosen.