Ultimately, 2012 has been a good year at the movies, with many feel-good hits, more sagas than we could poke an action figurine's light-up-sword at, and the usual independent film gems.
It has also been a good year for Australian films. Not least because the quality of comedies here has risen while the offerings from overseas waned.
It was certainly the year of the franchise film, though, including the swiftest reboot imaginable as The Amazing Spider-Man swung back on to our screens, just five years after the last Spider-Man series of films concluded.
The list below is entirely subjective – my favourite films grouped loosely by genre so as to compare apples with apples.
This year, there is no separate category for Australian films or Foreign Language films, as frankly they don't need the leg up, genuinely worthy of mention and more in several other categories.
There is also no documentary category as none stood out to me, as I saw so few, partly at least due to the surprisingly small number of documentaries that received cinema release in 2012. That said, Samsara is mesmerising.
The only rule is that I must have seen it – so The Hobbit is sadly out of contention – and it must have been released in 2012 – which eliminates upcoming films Life of Pi and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
Best action film of the year: Skyfall
Honourable mentions: Looper, The Raid
Though Looper gave us a new take on time travel, and The Raid reminded us that you don't have to be afraid of subtitles if all the dialogue is delivered by a fist, kick or gun, it was the glorious Skyfall that gave us assured action with gravitas. The unexpected and informal conclusion to the Casino Royale trilogy was the perfect 21st-century Bond film and possibly the best Bond yet.
DRAMA / THRILLER
Best serious film of the year: A Separation
Honourable mentions: Shame, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Wish You Were Here, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The year began with three amazing films, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Shame and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, none of which got the Oscars love they deserved, while the Australian filmWish You Were Here proved the team at Blue Tongue films are a force to be reckoned with.
Yet the Iranian film A Separation was possibly the surprise packet of the year. The film, centring partly on divorce in Iranian society, partly on the ramifications in terms of guilt, plus the legal and societal debt, posed by a domestic accident, was a masterpiece of humanity expressed on screen.
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Best light film on a dark topic: The Sapphires
Honourable mentions: Not Suitable For Children, 50/50, Les Misérables.
No longer is cancer the tragedy's topic of choice. Between Ryan Kwanten's testicle in Not Suitable For Childen and Joseph Gordon-Levett's back in 50/50, we now know, thanks to these two glorious films, that cancer cannot only be beaten, but is the only path to true love.
Meanwhile, Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean spends a life on the run from the law without every dropping out of song in the majestic Les Misérables.
Surely The Sapphires' greatest triumph – top of a very long list – was to take two political hot potatoes in the form of the stolen generation and the Vietnam war and not only use them as background to a cracking rock'n'rom-com, but to not once even wink at a worthy statement or poorly disguised message.
This was a delight from start to finish and as such did more for both issues than a hundred powerful speeches ever could.
Comedy film of the year: Mental
Honourable mentions: 21 Jump Street, Ted, The Expendables 2, Any Questions for Ben
21 Jump Street and Ted both make the list as much for so vastly exceeding expectations as for the fact that they are funny.
The Expendables 2 might have had big action, but it was the walking meme Chuck Norris and delightful catch-phrase interplay of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone that made the film sing. And Any Questions for Ben was tragically lost in the shadow of a far inferior film, meaning too few saw this excellent Aussie rom-com.
The stand-out comedy of the year has to be measured on laughs, though, and Mental had guffaws before its opening credits had finished and had induced tears of laughter by the bucketload by film's end. PJ Hogan's quasi-autobiographical tale lived up to its name and so much more, and if it wasn't to everyone's taste then I guess that's comedy for ya.
Animated film of the year: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Honourable mentions: Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph
In another year in which Pixar didn't quite make the grade – although Brave was a massive improvement on Cars 2 – the animated successes were surprises.
Tim Burton's Frankenweenie was shockingly adult in its topic matter and style and proved Burton still has a great sense for an ultra-dark claymation canvas.
Wreck-It Ralph proves to be so much more than simply Toy Story for arcade games with a fun, funny and heart-warming plot.
Yet if anyone had asked in January which list Madagascar 3 was likely to appear on at year's end, the safe bets would all have had it ranked alongside the abysmal Alex Cross and W.E. Instead, the wild abandon and psychotropic style that was injected into this chaotic acid trip of animalia made for screamingly funny action and stunningly surreal visuals. From bears on bicycles in the Vatican to the earworm tune that was Afro-circus, this was a masterpiece of mayhem.
The feel-good movie of the year: The Intouchables
Honourable mentions: Hysteria, The Muppets, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Artist,Hugo
Whether it was the economy, the global political landscape or the potential for Armageddon in a little under a fortnight, something inspired world cinema to deliver the feel-good films this year.
There was the oddly amusing period farce recounting the invention of the vibrator in Hysteria, the septuagenarian shenanigans of the Brits in India in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the silent film delight (with added dog) of The Artist, the film aficionado's fairytale Hugo and the return of The Muppets and their trademark all-singing, all-dancing, star-studded mayhem.
It was a French tale of a street kid and a quadriplegic, ageing millionaire that had us laughing, crying and bopping along to Earth, Wind and Fire. Possibly the hardest film in the world to sell based on its premise, one only needed to show a non-believer the faces of those who had just seen the film to rank them among the willing converts. It was, quite simply, an absolute joy.
Independent film of the year: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Honourable mentions: Perks of Being a Wallflower, Robot & Frank, Tomboy, Ruby Sparks,Moonrise Kingdom
Every year there is a long list of little gems that deserve so much more exposure. Sure, the deliciously quirky Moonrise Kingdom had a good profile as Wes Anderson continued to entice every star in Hollywood into making his quirky, not-so-little films, and Emma Watson leant the shockingly smart '90s high school flick Perks of Being a Wallflower a modicum of publicity, but delights such as Robot & Frank and Ruby Sparks, with their robot cat burglars and narratively perfect girlfriends respectively, were too short-lived, and points go to anyone who even spotted the terrific French Tomboy at a cinema.
Beasts of the Southern Wild should have been smaller than any of them. It was made as such. But this perfect first feature from Benh Zeitlin that tells the tale of Hushpuppy and her magical world proved to be everything Where the Wild Things Are should have been, and by the time Oprah was singing its praises, more than a few people had discovered the extraordinary gem.
Best movie based on a true story: Argo
Honourable mentions: Margin Call, Bernie
Three disparate stories, three outstanding movies. Bernie's vision is of an extraordinarily transformed Jack Black as the murdering undertaker nonetheless beloved by his town.Margin Call captures 24 hours at the starting line of the global financial disaster, in which every bad-guy actor in Hollywood got a role.
Ben Affleck's Argo tells the story of Americans smuggled out of Iran as a faux sci-fi film crew. The latter, by rights, should have been self-congratulatory, patronising of Iran and implausible. Instead it was captivating, tense, at times hysterical and announced the true arrival of Affleck as one of the great directors of his generation. Argo is as excellent as the fictional Argo sci-fi movie within it would have been awful.
DARK AND MENACING
The dark movie of the year: Seven Psychopaths
Honourable mentions: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Cabin in the Woods, Holy Motors
As if the ying to the feel-good frenzy's yang, 2012 gave us some sumptuous darker films. The truly bizarre tale of one night in a limousine in Paris wilfully dared its audience to have any idea what it was about, yet was somehow all the more engaging for it.
Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods wasn't quite horror, sci-fi or fantasy, and almost wasn't a cinema release, but was utterly extraordinary. Meanwhile, Martha Marcy May Marlene proved not only that there's an Olsen sister who can really act, but that John Hawkes makes the most terrifying unplugged guitar soloist in the world.
This was the year, however, that Martin McDonaugh proved that there is now someone who does Tarantino films even better than Quentin Tarantino. Seven Psychopaths was wickedly funny, staggeringly sharp and utterly twisted, yet sailed along for the most part seemingly unaware of its own immense vitality – though surely the list of star names appearing (and delivering delightfully) in it should have tipped someone off. It is also original, staggeringly so at times, and has Tom Waits with a white rabbit. Seriously, what more could you possibly want?
The Saga film of the year: The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers (tied)
Honourable mention: The Hunger Games, The Bourne Legacy
Though The Hunger Games was surprisingly good, both as a literary adaptation and as a stand-alone film, and The Bourne Legacy was clever in the way in which it tangentialised the Bourne franchise, the two films that will define 2012 in years to come were the comic or graphic novel adaptations.
These are the two films that 2012 will be remembered for, and to make a distinction between them is unnecessary as they stand well together (and I make up the rules).
There you have it, a great year for sagas and feel-goods, Aussies and indies. What were your favourite films of 2012, and which of the above have I got wrong?