2006 Movie Awards

Top 10 Box Office Performance

So after looking at a bunch of top 10 films of 2006 lists, and compiling my own, I began to wonder just how popular these movies really were. Film critics are notorious for picking films that the average viewer thinks are boring or pretentious. Indeed, my list features a few such picks, and when I think about it, there are very few movies on the list that I’d give an unqualified recommendation. For instance, some of the movies on my list are very violent or otherwise graphic, and some people just don’t like that sort of thing (understandably, of course). United 93 is a superb film, but not everyone wants to relive 9/11. And so on. As I mentioned before, top 10 lists are extremely personal and usually end up saying more about the person compiling the list than anything else, but I thought it would be interesting to see just how mainstream these lists really are. After all, there is a wealth of box office information available for every movie, and if you want to know how popular something is, economic data seems to be quite useful (though, as we’ll see, perhaps not useful enough).

So I took nine top 10 lists (including my own) and compiled box office data from Box Office Mojo (since they don’t always have budget information, I sometimes referenced IMDB or Wikipedia) and did some crunching (not much, I’m no statistician). I chose the lists of some of my favorite critics (like the Filmspotting guys and the local guy), and then threw in a few others for good measure (I wanted a New York critic, for instance).

The data collected includes domestic gross, budget and the number of theaters (widest release). From that data, I calculated the net gross and dollars per theater (DPT). You’d think this would be pretty conclusive data, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how incomplete a picture this paints. Remember, we’re using this data to evaluate various top 10 lists, so when I chose domestic gross, I inadvertantly skewed the evaluation against lists that featured foreign films (however, I am trying to figure out whose list works best in the U.S. so I think it is a fair metric). So the gross only gives us part of the picture. The budget is an interesting metric, as it provides information about how much money a film’s backers thought it would make and it provides a handy benchmark with which to evaluate (unfortunately, I was not able to find budget figures for a number of the smaller films, further skewing the totals you’ll see). Net Gross is a great metric because it incorporates a couple of different things: it’s not just a measure of how popular a movie is, it’s a measure of how popular a movie is versus how much it cost to make (i.e. how much a film’s producers believed in the film). In the context of a top 10 list, it’s almost like pretending that the list creator was the head of a studio who chose what films to greenlight. It’s not a perfect metric, but it’s pretty good. The number of theaters the film showed in is an interesting metric because it shows how much faith theater chains had in the movie (and in looking at the numbers, it seems that the highest grossing films also had the most theaters). However, this could again be misleading because it’s only the widest release. I doubt there are many films where the number of theaters doesn’t drop considerably after opening weekend. Dollars per theater is perhaps the least interesting metric, but I thought it interesting enough to include.

One other thing to note is that I gathered all of this data earlier this week (Sunday and Monday), and some of the films just recently hit wide distribution (notably Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men, neither of which have recouped costs yet) and will make more money. Some films will be re-released around Oscar season, as the studios seek to cash in on their award winning films.

I’ve posted all of my data on a public Google Spreadsheet (each list is on a separate tab), and I’ve linked each list below to their respective tab with all the data broken out. This table features the totals for the metrics I went over above: Domestic Gross, Budget, Net Gross, Theaters, and Dollars Per Theater (DPT).

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List Gross Budget Net Gross Theaters DPT
(Mark Ciocco)
$484,154,522 $319,850,000 $164,092,855 16,675 $29,034.75
(James Berardinelli)
$586,767,062 $607,000,000 -$20,674,428 16,217 $36,182.22
(Adam Kempenaar)
$210,592,457 $234,850,000 -$27,159,180 8,589 $24,518.86
(Sam Van Hallgren)
$79,756,419 $152,204,055 -$73,445,839 4,467 $17,854.58
Philadelphia Inquirer
(Steven Rea)
$236,690,299 $239,000,000 -$40,474,006 10,239 $23,116.54
The New York Times
(A.O. Scott)
$104,484,584 $92,358,000 $11,238,032 3,641 $28,696.67
Rolling Stone
(Peter Travers)
$419,088,036 $264,400,000 $119,130,515 14,784 $28,347.41
Washington Post
(Stephen Hunter)
$540,183,488 $362,900,000 $169,683,807 15,394 $35,090.52
The Onion AV Club
(Scott Tobias)
$195,779,774 $191,580,000 $1,308,777 6,844 $28,606.05

This was quite an interesting exercise, and it would appear from the numbers, that perhaps not all film critics are as out of touch as originally thought. Or are they? Let’s take a closer look.

  • Kaedrin (Mark Ciocco): The most surprising thing about my list is that every single film in my top 10 made a profit. In addition, my high net gross figure (around $164 million, which ended up being second out of the nine lists) isn’t overly dependent on any single film (the biggest profit vehicle on my list was Inside Man, with about $43 millon, or about 1/4 my net gross). The only real wild card here is Lady Vengeance, which only made about $212 thousand. Its budget figure wasn’t available and it was a foreign film that was only released in 15 theaters (I saw it on DVD). Given this data, I think my list is the most well rounded of all the surveyed lists. Not to pat myself on the back here, but my list is among the top 3 lists for all of the metrics (and #1 in theaters). Plus, as you’ll read below, the lists that appear ahead of me have certain outliers that skew the data a bit. However, even with all of that, I might not have the most mainstream list.
  • Reelviews (James Berardinelli): James is probably the world’s greatest amateur critic, and his list is quite good (it shares 4 films with my own list). Indeed, his list leads the Domestic Gross and Budget Categories, as well as Dollars Per Theater. But look at that Net Gross metric! Almost -$21 million dollars. Ouch. What happened? Superman Returns happened. It made a little more than $200 million dollars at the box office, but it cost $270 million to make it. This skews James’ numbers considerably, and he would have been around $50 million in the green if it weren’t for Superman. He also has two films that were released in less than 25 theaters, which skews the numbers a bit as well.
  • Filmspotting (Adam Kempenaar): Of the two critics on the Filmspotting podcast, Adam is by far the one I agree with more often, but his list is among the more unprofitable ones. This is due in great part to his inclusion of Children of Men, which has only recently come out in wide release, and which still has to make almost $50 million before it recoups its cost (I think it will make more money, but not enough to break even). To a lesser extent, his inclusion of two foreign films (Pan’s Labyrinth and Volver) has also skewed the results a bit (both films did well at the foreign box office). Given those disclaimers, Adam’s list isn’t as bad as it seems, but it still not too hot. It is, however, better than his co-host:
  • Filmspotting (Sam Van Hallgren): I think it’s safe to say that Sam takes the award for least mainstream critic. He’s got the worst Domestic Gross and Net Gross of the group, by a significant margin. Like his co-host Adam, this can partly be explained by his inclusion of Children of Men and other small, independent, or foreign films. But it’s a pretty toxic list. Only two films on his list turned a profit, which is a pretty miserable showing. Interestingly enough, I still think Sam is a pretty good critic. You don’t have to agree with a critic to get something useful out of them, and I know what I’m getting with Sam. Plus, it helps that he’s got a good foil in his co-host Adam.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer(Steven Rea): I kinda like my local critic’s list, and it’s definitely worth noting that his pick of the Chinese martial arts epic Curse of the Golden Flower has impacted his list considerably (as a high budget foreign film that did well internationally, but which understandably didn’t do that great domestically). That choice alone (-$40 million) put him in the red. He’s also got Pan’s Labyrinth on his list, which will go on to make more money. Plus, he suffers from a data problem in that I couldn’t find budget figures for The Queen, which has made around $35 million and almost certainly turned a profit. Even with those caveats, he’s still only treading water.
  • The New York Times (A.O. Scott): I wanted to choose a critic from both New York and LA (due to the fact that most LA critics seemed to have a lot of ties, I decided not to include their lists), and A.O. Scott’s list provides a decent example of why. Three of his picks were only shown in 6 theaters or less. This is more or less what you’d expect from a New York critic. They are one of the two cities that gets these small movies, so you’d expect their critics to show their superiority by including these films in their list (I’m sure they’re good films too, but I think this is an interesting dynamic). In any case, it’s worth noting that Mr Scott (heh) actually turned a profit. How could this be? Well, he included Little Miss Sunshine on his list. That movie has a net gross of around $50 million dollars, which gave Mr Scott significant breathing room for his other picks.
  • Rolling Stone (Peter Travers): I’ve always thought of this guy as your typical critic that doesn’t like anything popular, but his list is pretty decent, and he turns out to be among the tops in terms of net gross with $119 million. One caveat here is that he does feature a tie in his list (so he has 11 films), but the tie consists of the two Clint Eastwood war flicks, both of which have lost considerable amounts of money (in other words, this list is actually a little undervalued by my metrics). So how did his list get so high? He also had Little Miss Sunshine on his list, which, as already mentioned, was quite the moneymaker. But even bigger than that, he included Borat in his list. Borat is a low budget movie that made huge amounts of cash, and it’s net gross comes in at almost $110 million! So those two films account for the grand majority of his net gross. However, of all the lists, I think his is probably the most mainstream (while still retaining a critics edge) and gives my list a run for its money.
  • Washington Post (Stephen Hunter): I wanted to choose a critic from WaPo because it’s one of the other “papers of record,” and much to my amazement, his turns out to have the highest net gross! He seems to feature the most obscure picks, with 4 films that I couldn’t even find budget data for (but which seem pretty small anyway). He’s got both Little Miss Sunshine and Borat, which proves to be quite a profitable duo, and he’s also got big moneymakers like The Departed and Casino Royale. It’s an interesting list.
  • The Onion AV Club (Scott Tobias): He scrapes by with around $1 million net gross, though it should be noted that his list features Children of Men (a big loss film) and a couple of movies that I couldn’t find budgets for. It’s an interesting list, but it comes in somewhere around the upper middle of the pack.

Whew! That took longer than I thought. Which critic is the most mainstream? I think a case could be made for my list, Peter Travers’ list, or Stephen Hunter’s list. I think I’d give it to Peter Travers, with myself in a close second place and Stephen Hunter nipping at our heels.

Statistically, the biggest positive outliers appeared to be Little Miss Sunshine and Borat, and the biggest negative outliers appeared to be Flags of our Fathers and Children of Men (both of which will make more money, as they are currently in theaters).

Obviously, this list is not authoritative, and I’ve already spent too much time harping on the qualitative issues with my metrics, but I found it to be an interesting exercise (if I ever do something similar again, I’m going to need to find a way to automate some of the data gathering, though). Well, this pretty much shuts the door on the 2006 Kaedrin Awards season. I hope you enjoyed it.

Best Films of 2006

Top 10 lists are intensely personal affairs. When it comes to movies (or art in general), you have to walk the narrow line between subjective and objective evaluations, and I inevitably end up with a list that says more about me than the movies I selected. James Berardinelli says it well:

I would be surprised if anyone else (critic or otherwise) has an identical Top 10 list to mine. But therein lies the enjoyment of examining individual Top 10 lists: they provide insight into the mindset of the one who has assembled them. It doesn’t matter whether one agrees with their choices or not; that’s irrelevant. It’s about learning something about a person through the movies they like. I don’t like “group” lists. To me, they are valueless – a generic popularity contest that reveals nothing.

I actually kinda like “group” lists, but I digress. The point is that these are generally movies that I like or otherwise moved me. Context matters. Some films are on the list because I had low expectations that were exceeded beyond imagination, and some are there because I had a great theater-going experience (apparently a rarity in this day and age). As I’ve done in years past, my top 10 is listed in a roughly reverse order, with the best last.

Top 10 Movies of 2006

* In roughly reverse order

  • Thank You for Smoking: The bottom two slots in the top 10 were very hard to fill, as there were essentially 4 films (with 4 very different styles) I wanted to include. I went into this film expecting a bland, heavy-handed activism and found myself astounded. This film somehow manages to make a tobacco lobbyist a sympathetic character without excusing the tobacco industry. That said, big tobacco really isn’t the target of the film – it’s more about media spin and the power of argument than anything else. Aaron Eckhart turns in a great performance as said lobbyist, and I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled this off. It’s a humorous film that displays an almost libertarian attitude towards the power of debate. It has its flaws, but it won me over.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Descent: This was the best horror film of the year, and one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences as well. Solid direction and acting, brilliant cinematography, and well executed scare sequences contribute to a tension filled film.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]

  • Clerks II: What can I say, I’m just a sucker for Kevin Smith’s brand of raunchy pop-culture laden humor. As usual, he mixes the comedy into a more conventional dramatic story, and in this case, he’s more than successful. Borat was funny, but Clerks II was both funny and moving.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Casino Royale: I’ve never been all that enamored with James Bond, but this reboot of the franchise was a revelation – quite possibly the most enjoyable movie going experience and pleasant surprise of the year for me. The film has its flaws, but it overcomes them with its action-packed charm.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 3 Kaedrin Movie Awards]

  • Inside Man: I’m not normally a fan of Spike Lee “Joints,” but this film had me on the edge of my seat. It’s a heist film, though it does make use of a historical implausibility and some macguffins. There are hints of Lee’s more typical material, but it’s done with a surprisingly deft touch (none of the heavy-handedness that I expected from him). Not the best heist film of all time, but a solid and surprisingly entertaining film.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Lady Vengeance: The third and final film in Chan-wook Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” this film has a reputation for being the worst of the three films. I, on the other hand, think it might be my favorite, for two reasons. First, it’s story is far more believable than the other two, and second, this film actually ends with a touch of hope. The film is perhaps not as twisted as it’s sister films, but it’s still pretty messed up. The vengeance isn’t as layered as the other films, but that only serves to differentiate the films. I enjoyed it a lot.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Hard Candy: It is perhaps an uncomfortable film to watch (especially for the guys), but it is also quite a good film. It deals with pedophilia and features only two characters and one major setting. Given these traits, it’s amazing that the film manages to retain a lot of tension and challenge viewers with its shifting sympathies. Excellent performances by both leads, though Ellen Page’s performance is particularly noteworthy.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]

  • Brick: Sam Spade goes to high school in this remarkable high-concept mixture of genres. Writer/director Rian Johnson nails the tone of the film, creating a stylized world filed with mixtures of the old and new. Perhaps not for everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]

  • The Departed: Scorcese returns to form with this violent, stylized remake of Infernal Affairs. Excellent directing, acting, music, and an engaging story that retains the original’s feel, while adding some flourishes of it’s own.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • United 93: A movie about 9/11 could have come off as horribly exploitive, but director Paul Greengrass managed to create an amazingly emotional experience without being manipulative. Unquestionably the most emotional experience I had at the movies this year (if not ever), for what I assume are obvious reasons.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Honorable Mention

As I’ve already mentioned above, the first two of the Honorable Mentions listed below could probably be interchangeable with the number 9 or 10 in the top 10. Part of why it was so hard to select was that these four films are just so different from one another. Indeed, the last two has changed back and forth several times (I started this list a while ago).

  • Pan’s Labyrinth: This could easily have been 9 or 10 on my list. Guillermo del Toro’s visually stunning tale of a young girl who seeks to escape her unpleasant reality with a fantasy world which ends up being… not much of an escape. It’s a great film, if a little bit of a downer. It actually ends on a note that is simultaneously tragic and triumphant, which is strange but impressive. Ultimately, I decided against it because it just didn’t surprise and excite me the way the other films on the list did.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Matador: Pierce Brosnan plays against character (the anti-Bond) in this quirky film about a hit man (Brosnan) and his unlikely friendship with everyman/businessman Greg Kinnear. Dark humor, a sharp script and a progression that seems strange at first, but makes more sense as the film goes on. Again, this is interchangeable with the 9 or 10 picks above, and it’s probably more of a crowd-pleaser than you’d expect.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Proposition: An Australian take on the western, this is a brutal film that is quite original, but also lacking something. Showcasing the grimy desolation of the untamed outback, this film also features one of the best opening scenes of the year (a disorienting gunfight that thrusts you into the story). Ultimately, it doesn’t work as well as it might seem, but it’s an interesting film.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Apocalypto: Mel Gibson’s offscreen shenanigans aside, this is actually a decent action/suspense film with one of the better chase sequences of the year. I didn’t think I’d be all that enthralled with the setting of the film, but Gibson managed to keep things interesting enough. A well made film that was nowhere near the disaster I thought it would be (seriously, who watched that trailer and thought it would be good?)

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Fountain: Darren Aronofsky’s trippy exploration of love and mortality is best described by the phrase “Interesting Failure.” It is undoubtedly the most gorgeous movie of the year, and all of the technical aspects of the film (direction, acting, cinematography, etc…) are outstanding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t add up to a whole lot, though there are deeper themes at work in the story that I admit I haven’t taken the time to parse (repeated viewings may fix that).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]

  • Mission Impossible III: Tom Cruise’s offscreen shenanigans aside (do we see a trend here?), MI III was actually one of the more enjoyable popcorn flicks of last summer. I think a large portion of the credit goes to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s small role as the villain. It’s probably the most enjoyable in the series, though I still don’t mind the first film.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Illusionist: One of two good turn-of-the-century magician films, this movie was enjoyable. Writer/director Neil Burger makes some interesting stylistic choices and manages to coax a good performance out of Jessica Biel of all people. Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti are also excellent, of course.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Prestige: The other (and seemingly more popular) turn-of-the-century magician film features an excellent cast and an intriguing story (even though I think they cheated a bit). Director Christopher Nolan is not as stylish as Burger, but he has crafted a good film.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Slither: Underrated and fun film in the cheesy horror/sci-fi/comedy tradition of Tremors. It’s not the best of its kind, but it was quite enjoyable and well done.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Worth Commenting

These are all decent films, but for some reason, I don’t find them as engaging as everyone else.

  • Children of Men: If there is a film that has less faith in humanity, I can’t think of one. This is one of the most depressing films of the year, and a few minutes of what I thought was “pretend hope” towards the end of the movie wasn’t enough to redeem it in my eyes. It’s well made, and there are some harrowing action sequences and long shots that are quite impressive, but it’s fundamentally pessimistic – a trait I just can’t stand in a movie.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Little Miss Sunshine: A fine film, but I must admit being a little baffled by the popular response to this movie. It’s not your typical Hollywood fare, which might be part of it, but it is emphatically your typical independent movie fare. I liked it, but didn’t love it.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • V for Vendetta: A decent film that I found to be very sloppy and not all that engaging. The story seemed muddled and unecessarily repetitive and manipulative, and the action sequences were edited to death. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t that great either.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Should have seen:

Allrighty then! That about wraps it up for the 2006 movie awards, and it’s about time. That said, I do have another idea for a post related to my top 10. Don’t worry, it’s not all about the movies (it’s more of a meta-top-10 type post, whatever that means).

In any case, comments are welcome. Feel free to express your outrage or approval in the comments.

2006 Kaedrin Movie Awards

I watched a lot of movies in 2006, both in the theater and at home. I’ve always watched a lot of movies, but I usually find myself catching up with present-year movies. I haven’t seen many of the Oscar hunting movies that come out in limited release towards the end of the year. This is because, well, they’re in limited release and not playing near me. Even still, I think I can come up with something interesting. To start, I’m going to announce some award nominations with slightly different categories than the traditional award shows (i.e. fun awards, more like MTV than the Oscars). I figure that I’ll comment on the traditional awards (best actor/actress, screenplays, etc…) when the Oscar liveblogging comes around. I may actually get a top 10 movies of 2006 list out there relatively soon as well.

To start things off, I’m going to list out some categories and nominees. The rules for this are that it has to be a 2006 movie and I have to have seen the movie (and while I have seen a lot of movies, I don’t pretend to have seen a comprehensive selection – don’t let that stop you from suggesting something though). Also, I suppose I should mention the requisite disclaimer that these sorts of lists are inherently subjective and personal. Part of the reason I’m doing this is just to give some love to films that I like, but which aren’t necessarily great or are otherwise flawed (as such, the categories may seem a bit eclectic). Some of these movies will end up on my top 10, but the grand majority of them will not.

Best Villain/Badass

For this category, I’m choosing individuals and not a group of people (or creatures, so no Snakes on a Plane).

Winner Announced!

Best Hero/Badass

On the flip side, again limited to individuals and not groups. This actually turns out to be a pretty tough category this year. I feel like I have to be missing something (feel free to suggest alternatives in the comments), but here goes:

Winner Announced!

Best Comedic Performance

Comedies aren’t given a lot of respect, even when they make us laugh really hard. In terms of comedic performance, I didn’t love all of the below movies, but I liked these performances:

Winner Announced!

Breakthrough Performance

This is more of a personal breakthrough than a mainstream breakthrough (indeed, some of these people may have already had their mainstream breakthrough). My main criteria here is when I watch a movie, then immediately look up one of the actors/actresses to find out who they are and what else they’ve done. Sometimes, they’re someone I recognized but never thought much of, sometimes not.

Winner Announced!

Most Visually Stunning

Sometimes even bad movies can be absolutely gorgeous.

Winner Announced!

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

Genre films get no love, but there really weren’t all that many good options that I had seen, so I had to combine these two categories.

Winner Announced!

Best Sequel

Everyone likes to revisit characters from movies they love. In theory, at least. Most sequels are terrible, but these stood out this year.

Winner Announced!

Biggest Disappointment

I wasn’t sure if I should include a “negative” category, but I think this one works (for this year, at least). There are two components to consider here. First, the overall quality of the movie. Second, my expecations for the movie. In some cases my expectations were low and the film was bad. In others my expectations were high and the film was mediocre. And so on.

Winner Announced!

Best Action Sequences

Since no single action sequence really, really stoodout from the crowd for me, I’m taking into account all the action sequences in the movies listed.

Winner Announced!

Best Plot Twist/Surprise

Because of the spoiler potential, you’ll need to swipe this category to see the nominees. I’m limiting the info displayed to simply the movie name, which should keep the spoilers to a minimum, but sometimes even knowing that there’s a twist can affect your enjoyment, so read on at your own risk.

  • The Departed
  • The Illusionist
  • Inside Man
  • Lucky Number Slevin
  • The Prestige
  • X-Men: The Last Stand

Winner Announced!

Anyone have any suggestions (for either category or nominations)? Comments, complaints and suggestions are welcome, as always.

It looks like Casino Royale, Mission Impossible III, and Clerks II are leading the nominations, with 4 each. The Descent racks up an impressive 3 nominations, while a whole slew of others pick up a respectible 2 (this is not counting the disappointment category). I’m going to give these nominations a week or so to stew in my head. I’ll probably also add some nominations as the week goes on and I remember something that I stupidly forgot (or something I just saw, like perhaps Children of Men – again, feel free to help me out in the comments). I figure I’ll announce the winners next week, perhaps with only one or two categories a day.