Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail

We have heard studios and filmmakers whining for years that cinema is in a great decline, box office receipts are down, "they don't make them like they used to" and all original ideas have already been regurgitated. Well, fear not, because I have a feeling that by time this year is out, we will have witnessed some powerful pieces of cinema from some truly talented filmmakers.

Beginning with De Palma's The Black Dahlia and Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men this month, films which promise intelligent, high-brow scripts with strong performances and note-perfect direction, they should start to usher in the fabled "awards season". Following on from these films, we have Babel to look forward to, Innaritu's return to the director's chair since 2003's mesmerising 21 Grams; it may feature Brad Pitt (who is desperately trying to gain some credibility), but reviews have been glowing and I can't wait to see how Guillermo Arriaga weaves a story of death and redemption once again. After seeing The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada in recent days (utterly fantastic, and a superb companion piece to Brokeback Mountain...seriously), I am convinced that this Mexican screenwriter is one of the best talents working today.

At the end of the year, and spilling over into 2007 (damn US-UK delays), we have Marty's hopeful return to form with The Departed after the dismal Aviator. I have a lot more respect for DiCaprio these days, and I have always liked Matt Damon, so I hope these two stars can pull something palpable and electric out of the hat. But, AMPAS, please don't give Marty an Oscar just for the sake of it...wait a few years, let him make his masterpiece (he still has it in him, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas aside). Still talking of DiCaprio, I've heard very good things about Edward Zwick's latest, The Blood Diamond, and I personally am looking forward to some sharp satire with Robin Williams' Man of the Year and Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat: Cultural Learnings to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Let us not forget next year's Oscar frontrunner, Flags of Our Fathers. Directed by a two-time Academy Award winner, penned by an Academy Award winner, a film focusing on war and unity at a time when America is sliced into fragments of confusion and chaos...it might just pull some heartstrings and turn some heads. The trailer looks a little bit too kitschy for my liking - and I think Clint has liberally borrowed from the Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan - but one must not judge a big studio release from an overblown trailer. Right?

But, the film I am positively slavering to see is none other than Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. It might, just might, become this generation's 2001. Here's hoping...

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