Loud and dumb flex most box office muscle

You can't be serious. Not if you want to make a lot of money at the box office. The top five money earners this year, worldwide, were The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2.

If you have an unproduced script about muscle-bound blokes in tights, preferably wearing a cape while working for British intelligence and fending off werewolves or vampires, get it out now.

The next five, according to website Box Office Mojo, were The Amazing Spider-Man, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Hunger Games, Men in Black 3 and Brave, a kids' animation set in ancient Scotland.

Almost all these films are part of a series, almost none is a drama in the conventional sense and almost all are aimed at younger audiences. Only two of these films have the experiences of grown-ups as their subject, and one of those is James Bond.

The film that offered the most human drama was the final in the Twilight Saga series - and that is stretching the meaning of human. A lot of young men were very excited by The Dark Knight Rises, the (alleged) final Batman movie. I saw a dimly lit, overly-hyped and overblown comic strip character who had outstayed his welcome.

We may now have seen the end of Harry Potter, Twilight and Batman, but there are plenty more series coming. The Hobbit, which kicks off on Boxing Day, is monumental but stodgy, and less emotionally involving than its predecessors. Gollum steals the show.

I can't say it was a terrible year, or a great one. The trend is towards louder, dumber and stupider, but plus c¸a change.

The good films were very good indeed, none more so than the astonishing Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, my choice for best of the year.

Set on an island off New Orleans, where a six-year-old and her drunken father battle floods, fires and the approaching apocalypse of horned monsters conjured from the kid's imagination, it was wholly original, startlingly imaginative and stunning, like a blow to the head.

If there was a better metaphor for the end of climate safety, and the increasingly frequent impoverishment by storm, I did not see it.

Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, with Brad Pitt as a considerate killer, was another film set in the ruins of New Orleans, and another adventurous outing by the talented expatriate Australian director.

It was a good year for Australian filmmakers, whether at home or away. Wayne Blair's The Sapphires played to happy audiences and Ben Lewin's The Sessions, made in the US, gave John Hawkes and Helen Hunt two of the best roles of the year, as a man in an iron lung sought sexual awakening from a professional sex surrogate. At 67, Melbourne-born Lewin had made the best film of his career.

It's a while since The Descendants, but it sticks in my mind - for George Clooney's haunting performance, and the scene in the hospital at the end of the film.

Among some superb documentaries, Bully, from Lee Hirsch, gave extraordinary insight into the dark forces in American schools, and David Gelb's Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about the world's best 85-year-old sushi chef, was a delight.

I got a huge thrill from the Australian-made Storm Surfers 3D, directed by Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius. Putting mini-3D cameras into the barrel was inspired, but the film also gave us an insightful look at the fears of its protagonists, big-wave surfers and best buddies Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll.

It was a human story, as most of the best films are. No capes, no masks, no vampires, no tights, just the beauty of human endeavour and daring.

Twitter: @ptbyrnes

The story Loud and dumb flex most box office muscle first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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