Still searching for the next LOST IN TRANSLATION... I've seen a lot of good, just OK, and just plain mediocre films this year, but only BEFORE SUNSET, DOGVILLE, and THE RETURN were exceptional. Here's ten coming out over the next three months that I have high hopes for.

1. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. Can Wes Anderson top RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS? Have you seen the trailer?!

2. GOODBYE DRAGON INN. Tsai Ming-Liang's sixth feature, first shown at Toronto last year, finally makes the rounds. Every film of his has been an advancement on the last, and this nearly dialogue-free, 82 minute meditation on a crumbling moviehouse could be his masterpiece.

3. SIDEWAYS. Exceptional buzz over fourth film from Alexander Payne, who helmed CITIZEN RUTH, ELECTION and ABOUT SCHMIDT. It'll either be a breakthrough or a major disappointment.

4. UNDERTOW. Will the talented David Gordon Green (ALL THE REAL GIRLS, GEORGE WASHINGTON) finally find a sizeable audience with what looks like an early '70s-style New Hollywood thriller?

5. I HEART HUCKABEES. David O. Russell returns five years after THREE KINGS with what looks like either the most inventive or quirkiest offering of the season. Jason Schwartzman leads a massive ensemble that includes Naomi Watts AND Lily Tomlin AND Isabelle Huppert!

6. TARNATION. Much hype about Jonathan Caouette stitching together home movies and other ephemera to construct an psychodrama or autobiography of sorts, all edited on a Mac for $218.

7. BAD EDUCATION. Pedro Almodovar intriguingly switches from melodrama to noir with Gael Garcia Bernal in and out of drag.

8. THE MACHINIST. Christian Bale does a De Niro a la RAGING BULL, only in reverse. Brad Anderson's latest sounds worlds away from NEXT STOP WONDERLAND, but like a logical extension from HAPPY ACCIDENTS and SESSION 9.

9. THE WOODSMAN. A year on, I'll admit Kevin Bacon was better than Tim Robbins in MYSTIC RIVER... he gave the less showy, more nuanced performance for sure. Can't wait to see him as a recovering pedophile.

10. HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS. I've already heard this trounces HERO because it has more of an emotional core to match its surface beauty. Sounds perfect to me.

Also looking forward to seeing VERA DRAKE ('50s abortion melodrama from Mike Leigh), KINSEY (biopic from the director of GODS AND MONSTERS), A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (Jean-Paul Jeunet and Audrey Tautou together again!), PRIMER (PI-like Sundance winner) and TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, because South Park's still funny, dammit.