IndieWire reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its short list of 15 nominees for the best documentary of 2008. To judge from the ones I’ve seen, this already seems a more worthwhile batch of stuff to check out than whatever crowd-pleasing commercial behemoths will wind up competing for Best Picture. It’s interesting to note that, of the year’s five highest grossing documentaries—in order, Religulous, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Shine a Light, Young @ Heart, and Man on Wire—only the last of them made even this preliminary cut.

The short-listed documentaries are:

At the Death House Door (pictured) by Peter Gilbert and Steve James;

The Betrayal by Ellen Kuras;

Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh by Roberta Grossman;

Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog;

Fuel by Josh Tickell;

The Garden by Scott Hamilton Kennedy;

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts by Scott Hicks;

I.O.U.S.A. by Patrick Creadon;

In a Dream by Jeremiah Zagar;

Made in America by Stacy Peralta;

Man on Wire by James Marsh;

Pray the Devil Back to Hell by Gini Reticker;

Standard Operating Procedure by Errol Morris;

They Killed Sister Dorothy by Daniel Junge; and

Trouble the Water by Carol Deal and Tia Lessin.