Fittingly, given the tough economic times, it was a great year for feel-good movies. The Artist, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Sapphires, The Sessions and The Intouchables lifted spirits and showed once again the power of well-told, human stories.
It was the year the Twilight saga finished, a foul-mouthed bear named Ted became a cinema hit, John Carter became one of the biggest flops in movie history, Kath and Kim went to Europe, the Bourne franchise was reborn and Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter before he became the subject of an Oscar contender.
A moment with Jessica Mauboy
Murder accused seen stomping on toddler
Retiring the village
In Sickness, in Health ... and in Jail
Behind the walls of Darrell Lea
HGH in the underworld
The Macquarie Marshes
Opera in the bush
A moment with Jessica Mauboy
The Sun Herald's Ed Gibbs sat down with Jessica Mauboy to talk movies and music.
James Bond was well and truly worked over in Skyfall - one of a long list of favourite movie characters having new adventures. They include - take a deep breath - Batman, Alvin and his fellow chipmunks, the American Pie team, the Men in Black, Spider-Man, the Expendables, that Wimpy Kid, Liam Neeson's unlucky Taken hero, Ghost Rider and the critters from Ice Age.
But there were also visionary filmmakers impressing and challenging in The Descendants, Hugo, Shame, Goodbye First Love, Moonrise Kingdom, Looper, Holy Motors, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master and Australia's Lore.
Two more examples arrived on Boxing Day - the star-studded Les Miserables and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
And for some unknown reason, it was the year that young women and gay men flocked to see a Steven Soderbergh movie despite ignoring his other recent releases. There must have been something interesting about Magic Mike.
However, after weighing up many great movies, the Metro M Awards for the most outstanding films of 2012 go to:
Director Sam Mendes brought an epic scale, grit, wit and surprises to the 23rd Bond movie. A quantum of substance ahead of Quantum of Solace, Skyfall did justice to the acting talents of Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Volder-, sorry, Ralph Fiennes. But the standout was Javier Bardem as the most deliciously wicked Bond villain yet. Skyfall had the year's best marketing stunt - the Queen and 007 parachuting into the Olympic opening ceremony in London - and spectacular global returns of more than $900 million. Casino Royale remains the benchmark, but Skyfall returned the series to its ''must-watch'' status.
The story was too good to be invented: an audacious CIA plan to free Americans, trapped during the 1980 Iranian revolution, under cover of a fake science-fiction movie. Directed by Ben Affleck, Argo was a riveting political thriller. It also had one of the year's best lines by Alan Arkin's Hollywood producer: ''If I'm gonna make a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit!'' Well, two if you count ''Argof---yourself!'' Affleck also starred in Argo, but it was his assured direction that most impressed.
BEST COMIC-BOOK MOVIE
The Dark Knight Rises
The Avengers was the year's biggest box-office hit - taking a handsome $53.2 million in Australia. And while it was entertaining, especially when Robert Downey jnr's Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth's Thor were on screen, Joss Whedon's clever movie had that weak Loki storyline and too many visual effects. Much more ambitious was Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. It had its critics - many of whom hated it - but this was epic filmmaking that transcended the comic-book genre. No doubt there will be studio pressure for Catwoman and Robin spinoffs, but as he moves on, Nolan has served superhero movie fans well.
LEAST NECESSARY REMAKE
The Amazing Spider-Man
It was likeable enough and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were an appealing couple. But Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man never transcended the simple question: ''Why?'' Why reboot the series so soon? Why do they think we've forgotten the last one already? Why reinvent his backstory?'' The answer, a studio executive will swiftly respond, is the global box office of more than $700 million. Even if it cost more than $200 million to make, The Amazing Spider-Man was a commercial triumph. Despite that, let's hope they leave Hulk movies alone for a while. And where's that Wonder Woman movie that's been promised for years? What about a Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson? To no one's surprise, there are now plans for The Amazing Spider-Man sequels. A producer has said there will be ''more than one and at the very least three''.
BEST RETURN TO A FRANCHISE
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It took almost a decade and more twists and turns than Bilbo Baggins faced on his journey with a band of dwarfs, but director Peter Jackson finally made it back to Middle-earth. Fans of The Lord of the Rings will relish seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and look forward to the next two instalments as they unfold over the next 19 months.
BEST AUSTRALIAN FILM AND BEST COMEDY
Not only was The Sapphires the year's most successful Australian film at the box office, it struck such a chord that it sold around the world. Director Wayne Blair's debut film had comedy, heart, romance and soul music, but its core was the story of four young Aboriginal women, growing up in racist times, whose love of music and family bonds take them from a rural mission to a singing tour for Vietnam War troops. After decades of tough films about crises in Aboriginal Australia and shattered black-and-white relations, this heartfelt story was joyful, funny, indigenous storytelling. Deborah Mailman was the heart of The Sapphires, Jessica Mauboy was its star singer and Chris O'Dowd was pitch perfect as the group's dissolute Irish manager. Runner-up: the bold romantic comedy Not Suitable for Children.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
If foreign-language films mattered in Hollywood, A Separation would have been up for best picture at the Oscars this year. It won best foreign-language film but Asghar Farhadi's drama about a couple driven apart was masterful writing, directing and acting by any standards. It was also courageous - in a country that sentences unruly filmmakers to jail terms, Farhadi made a film about taking a child away from Iran because of its political and social problems. Not far behind A Separation were France's wonderfully uplifting The Intouchables and Canada's touching Monsieur Lazhar.
For a black-and-white silent film to attract such international acclaim, it needed a lot going for it. And Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist was not only a touching story about a Hollywood silent star hitting the skids when talking pictures arrived, it was a beautifully acted romance between Jean Dejardin and Berenice Bejo. The dancing worked beautifully, as did the story. Of course, he couldn't make the transition to the talkies - he had a foreign accent! And as Hazanavicius reinvented the silent film, the couple left audiences utterly charmed.
BEST FEEL-GOOD FILM
The Artist and The Intouchables
It was hard to walk out of The Artist and not feel better about the world. The same was true for The Intouchables, a French charmer about a drifter (Omar Sy) who becomes the unlikely carer for a wealthy paralysed man (Francois Cluzet) and which was a box-office smash hit in that country.
BEST OVER-50s FILM
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The influential audience of older moviegoers is rewarding quality releases addressing such issues as ageing, retirement, family responsibilities, succession, regret and dealing with death. Easily the best was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which took a hapless band of British retirees to alien India. Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Billy Nighy shone.
Hugo and Storm Surfers 3D
With a charming fantasy set in Paris, Martin Scorsese's Hugo showed the creative possibilities for 3D in dramatic movies. The Australian documentary Storm Surfers 3D took the format a step further with a surfer holding a camera behind him on a stick as he rode a wave. There were moments that didn't work, when water splashing on the lens shattered the effect, but the 3D format was generally impressive in Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius's likeable documentary that showed champion surfers Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones battling age as much as monster waves.
Documentaries don't come much more confronting or heart-wrenching than Bully, Lee Hirsch's film about children who have been bullied - sometimes to the point of suicide - in American schools. Even if not widely seen in Australia, it has contributed to awareness of the crisis in the US. For music fans, Ian Darling's Paul Kelly: Stories of Me was a revealing and heartfelt celebration of the great Australian singer-songwriter's life and music.
BEST INTELLIGENT DRAMA
The Descendants, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Alexander Payne's The Descendants was a beautifully measured comic drama about family, history and culture in the face of tragedy. After Let the Right One In, Sweden's Tomas Alfredson confirmed his talent with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, an impressively acted and tense spy drama based on John le Carre's novel.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Was it an offbeat eco-movie? A magic realist swamp drama that looked like a documentary? A coming-of-age tale about a sparky girl named Hushpuppy and her bad-tempered father? Defying classification, Beasts of the Southern Wild, set in a Louisiana swamp community called The Bathtub, was the year's most dazzlingly original film. Not everyone went with it but for those who did, it was a treat.
FILM WITH BEST BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE
Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
There were plenty of exceptional performances throughout 2012. Early in the year Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist; later, the little-known Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, both writer-director Kieran Darcy-Smith and his writer-actor wife Felicity Price with Wish You Were Here, director Wayne Blair with The Sapphires, luminous Sarah Snook in Not Suitable for Children and, in movie musical terms, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. Our winner is the unknown Quvenzhane Wallis, a natural actor who was five years old when she made Beasts of the Southern Wild.
THE METRO M AWARD FOR THE BEST FILM OF 2012
More heart than Black Caviar, more soul than James Brown, more feel-good spirit than Carols by Candlelight. The Metro M Award for film of the year goes to The Sapphires. Sales around the world and Australian box-office takings of $14.2 million indicate its success. But the real impact is cultural: confirming that indigenous filmmaking is now one of the strengths of Australian film and television, The Sapphires showed a warm-hearted, uplifting side to indigenous life.
THE METRO M AWARD FOR PEOPLE'S CHOICE FOR FILM OF THE YEAR
This goes to The Dark Knight Rises, the dark Batman sequel from writer-director Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, it received 18 per cent of the vote online. Runners-up were the Bond blockbuster Skyfall (11 per cent) and soulful Aussie drama The Sapphires (11 per cent).
*This does not include films released on Boxing Day.