By far the most enjoyable anomaly in the Oscars nominations is the one for adapted screenplay for the improvised Borat. Twentieth Century Fox's publicity for the film hailed "a new form of film-making for an age in which reality and entertainment have become increasingly intertwined".

Perhaps here is the future of film-making, a bridge between user-generated content and yesterday's highfalutin formulaic, A-list Hollywood blockbuster. Indeed, everyone is equal in this lower-budget, internationally minded, more democratic form of film-making - as long as they are comic geniuses.

Improvisation has a long and proud record in film comedy but very few talents have the ability to improvise and be funny to Sacha Baron Cohen's standards.

The desire to identify fresh trends in the product that clearly break with the past seems particularly strong at the moment, perhaps because so much of the film world seems to be in a state of flux. But it is mostly ahistorical. Film evolution tends to be a rather more dialectical process of reaction and counter-reaction, undermined by the fact the feature film-making process is far too slow to make instant revolutions possible.

We know that the film world is changing in identifiable ways: transformational technology is making a clear impact; the evolution of the international market is developing in ways that one might clearly mark out as new.

Warner Bros international chief Richard Fox makes some interesting points about the way studios now work with local film-makers (See In Focus, p10), which marks a break from the US-centrism of the past.

What has always been more difficult is to make tidily distinct, lasting breaks from the past in the product.

The growth in local films in their home markets, for example, is more a fact of production levels, distribution and marketing than a change in audience taste. The arrival of the niche-buster is more about the way customers are reached than style, although knowing what a specific set of customers want may well lead to the development of new genres or the reworking of existing ones.

Digital developments are reducing the distance between producer and customer that may reduce failure - but success will still depend on unpredictable talent.

Knowing what the customer wants now is an advantage but the big opportunities come from being ahead of the game, which is why Sundance is so important.

It has become the place where the talent that will make an impact in the global market is anointed (this year's Oscar nominations recognise three of last year's festival hits, Little Miss Sunshine, Half Nelson and An Inconvenient Truth). This year will throw up new directions, people and ideas.

Paramount Vantage's $7.5m deal for the remaining worldwide territories for Garth Jennings' Son Of Rambow, for example, is an exciting sign of a willingness to invest in a film that generates buzz without recourse to megastars.

It's tempting to conclude that the star system is reaching the end of its life cycle with this year's box office seeming to rely on franchises rather than big names, alongside niche films.

It may be the case that one megastar era is closing. How many stars can really open a movie on their own, right now' One can make a strong case that 24-hour intrusive celebrity culture has destroyed the essential mystique of movie stardom. Endless unflattering pictures in check-out magazines means we think we know today's celebrities a little too well. Cellulite may be the kryptonite of cinema's supermen and women.

Certainly over-familiarity may threaten the big money investment in 2006's rising star, Sacha Baron Cohen, whose act depends on anonymity.

But the future of the stars system, like every trend, depends on what the audience wants. A healthy industry is one that gives that audience choice - we win when pluralism in style is matched by efficiency of distribution.