Can I get a what the hell? The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has taken the list of films eligible for the Best Foreign Language category and whittled it down to nine entries. It is from those nine that the five actual Oscars nominees will be chosen. And those nine films do NOT include France's Persepolis or Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days -- despite those films being among the best-reviewed movies of 2007, foreign or American.

Persepolis won major prizes at a half-dozen film festivals before being released in the U.S. on Christmas Day. It appeared on more than a dozen critics' top 10 lists. It was nominated for the foreign-language category at the Golden Globes. Yet the Academy's committee felt it wasn't good enough to make the shortlist.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (pictured; as you can see, they can't believe it, either) won more than a dozen awards at film festivals and made at least 15 critics' top 10 lists (including 1st place on A.O. Scott's list in the New York Times). Several critics' groups named it the best foreign film of the year, and it, too, earned a Golden Globe nod. And again, the Academy thinks there are at least nine foreign films better than it.

Well, let me just say, these nine shortlist films must be some pretty damn good foreign flicks to be better than Persepolis and 4 Months. This must be the most astonishing year for foreign cinema in recent history, if Persepolis and 4 Months can be as great as they are and STILL have nine films better than them.

Anyway, here are the nine that did make the cut, alphabetically by country:

The Counterfeiters
, Stefan Ruzowitzky, Austria
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, Cao Hamburger, Brazil
Days of Darkness, Denys Arcand, Canada
Beaufort, Joseph Cedar, Israel
The Unknown Woman, Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy
Mongol, Sergei Bodrov, Kazakhstan
Katyn, Andrzej Wajda, Poland
12, Nikita Mikhalkov, Russia
The Trap, Srdan Golubovic, Serbia

The headline at Movie City News points out that five of the nine are by directors who have previously won an Oscar. Perhaps that played a part in the committee's choices? Perhaps the committee also figured Persepolis would get a nomination in the animated category and wanted to spread the wealth. Who knows? The ways of the Academy are mysterious.