As we rang in 2009, the buzz in Hollywood was that 3-D movies would be a game-changer (which was also the buzz back in 1952).

And? Monsters vs. Aliens 3-D neither altered the course of cinema art nor palpably enhanced the movie-going experience. Up was a fantastic film with or without 3-D glasses (though many felt that the specs dulled its vivid colors). But then came Avatar, where James Cameron used the illusion of dimensionality to make palpable the planet Pandora - thereby transforming a marketing gimmick into an artistic tool.

At the movies, 2009 was a very mixed bag, a year in which women hugged chef knives, men hugged men, a celebrated dramatic actress turned to comedy - and vice-versa - and, like last year, a woman directed the best war movie.

It was a year in film when, apart from female foodies, the most popular jobs were mall cop and apocalypse survivor. It was a year of fantasy superheroes, real heroines and of children rescued by Good Samaritans.

It was a red-letter year for animation, and for Drew Barrymore as actress, director and producer, and for George Clooney, who gave the performance of his career. It was a year in which nudity was played to comic rather than erotic effect. And boy, were there ever a lot of fractured narratives.

Femme Foodies Who would win this dice-off? Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia, Anika Noni Rose as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog or Streep as chef Jane Adler in It's Complicated? Judgment call: A tie between Tiana and Julia.

Bromances The year's best romantic comedies were about male friendship, namely The Hangover, Humpday and I Love You, Man. (The year's worst rom-com, Bride Wars, purveyed wedding fetishism. The year's best, (500) Days of Summer, was more melancholy than comic.)

Hurts so Good Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, about an elite squad defusing improvised explosive devices, viscerally shows American entanglement in Iraq. Certainly the best war movie of 2009, a year of oustanding efforts by women directors, such as Agnes Varda's phantasmagorical autobiography, The Beaches of Agnes.

Streep Goes Comic / Bullock Gets Serious Meryl Streep elicits giggles in Julie & Julia and It's Complicated while Sandra Bullock provokes laughs in The Proposal and tears in The Blind Side.

Jobs for Joes Among mall enforcers, we preferred Kevin James' pining Paul Blart: Mall Cop to Seth Rogen's bipolar shopping-center sheriff Ronnie Barnhardt in Observe and Report.

Survivors It was the end of the world as we know it at the movies, some of which had numbers in their titles: District 9; 9; Terminator Salvation; The Road, and 2012. Most credible survivors: Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit-McPhee as father and son in The Road. Least credible: John Cusack and his spawn in 2012, a movie where 9 billion people die but the movie stars - and the dog - live. (On a related note, 2009 marked the end of the newspper biz as we know it in State of Play and The Soloist.)

It Takes a Village Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe in Precious) and Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron in The Blind Side), teenagers respectively abused and abandoned by their families, are rescued and redirected by benevolent strangers.

Animation Nation From the buoyant, computer-generated Up, to the eerie stop-action Coraline and the wily Fabulous Mr. Fox to the hand-drawn Ponyo and The Princess and the Frog, this was a year of animation diversity and excellence. It wouldn't be surprising to see one or two of these titles (most likely Up and Ponyo) competing for an Oscar in the best animated film or best film categories.

The Ubiquitous Ms. Barrymore Drew Barrymore produced (He's Just Not That Into You), made her directorial debut (Whip It) and acted with great distinction ( Everybody's Fine and television's Grey Gardens). What can't she do?

The High-Flying Mr. Clooney He was OK as one of the Men Who Stare at Goats, but George Clooney was transcendent as the "career transition-counselor" facing his own career-transition crisis in Up in the Air, the film that precisely captured a nation's anxiety about change.

Fantasy Superheroes Their hardware overwhelmed the superheroes in The Watchmen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Sherlock Holmes.

Real Heroines Mira Nair's Amelia, Jane Campion's Bright Star, Anne Fontaine's Coco Before Chanel, Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia and Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria chronicled the founding mothers of aviation, fashion, gastronomy and modern monarchy.

(In a related trend, 2009 saw several documentaries about fashion and food: The September Issue; Valentino: The Last Emperor; Food, Inc.; The End of the Line, and The Cove.)

Happy Nude Year Getting nekkid ceased being about sex and started being about laughs in Brüno, The Hangover and The Proposal. A Movie Should Have a Beginning, Middle and End, but Not Necessarily in That Order. It was a year of the nonchronological narrative, with the fragmented storylines of [500] Days of Summer, Il Divo and The Time Travellers Wife.

Ease on Down the Road Farewell to David Carradine, Marilyn Chambers, Farrah Fawcett, John Hughes, Jennifer Jones, Karl Malden, Natasha Richardson, Budd Schulberg and Patrick Swayze.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/