Though the announcement was kind of buried by the news that J.J. Abrams was going to follow a “Star Trek Into Darkness” with a “Star Wars” into the dark side, movie review website Rotten Tomatoes announced the winners of their annual “Golden Tomato Awards” late yesterday. The site gives awards to the best reviewed wide and limited releases, along with the top titles in a variety of genres, from “Action/Adventure” to “Comic Book” to “Sci-Fi/Fantasy.” There’s a top ten list for the big categories and a top five for the genre categories but only one true winner of the Golden Tomato in each, and here they are for 2012 (with their approval ratings on the site in parenthesis):
2012 Golden Tomato Award Winners
Wide Release: “Argo” (96%)
Limited Release: “This Is Not a Film” (99%)
User Ratings: “The Avengers” (96%)
Action/Adventure: “Skyfall” (92%)
Animation: “The Secret World of Arrietty” (94%)
Comedy: “Bernie” (91%)
Comic Book: “The Avengers” (92%)
Documentary: “The Invisible War” (100%)
Drama: “Coriolanus” (94%)
Foreign: “This Is Not a Film” (99%)
Horror: “The Cabin in the Woods” (92%)
Romance: “Moonrise Kingdom” (94%)
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: “Looper” (93%)
Thriller: “Argo” (96%)
If you look more closely at the results at Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that some movies with higher scores wound up ranking below movies with lower scores; in the Golden Tomato list for the Best Wide Release of 2012, for example, “Skyfall” (92%) inexplicably charts ahead of “Moonrise Kingdom (94%). I contacted Rotten Tomatoes editor-in-chief Matt Atchity to get a better handle on how these awards were determined and he told me that his team makes “some adjustments based on a formula” used to account for “the difference in the number of reviews each film gets.” So “Skyfall” gets a boost, he explained, because it had 70 more reviews than “Moonrise Kingdom.”
That makes sense; I had a similar problem when I tried to do a piece that used Criticwire grades to determine who might win the Academy Awards. You sort of have to compare apples and oranges; two films will have similar ratings but wildly different sample sizes, so how do you adjust? It’s not easy.
In any event, however they were calculated there are some interesting titles amongst those Golden Tomato winners; “Coriolanus,” an adaptation by Ralph Fiennes of a little known Shakespeare play, won Best Drama, while Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” took home Best Comedy ahead of bigger names like “21 Jump Street” and “Seven Psychopaths.” You can draw some conclusions about what kind of year 2012 was for a particular genre based on how high (or how low) the scores were in its respective Top 5. It was a pretty good year for sci-fi and fantasy, for example; the fifth highest rated sci-fi film of 2012 was “Robot and Frank,” and it earned an 85% approval rating from critics. There was a much steeper dropoff in quality in comic book movies, where the Top 5 bottomed out with “Men In Black III” and its lowly 70%.
As for the big winner, “Argo” earned the Golden Tomato for Best Wide Release — an honor that isn’t too surprising, given the sheer number of positive reviews (if not wildly passionate positive reviews) it’s received. It’s no Oscar for Best Director — or a gig directing the next “Star Wars” (which Affleck reportedly wanted) — but hey, a win is a win.