LOS ANGELES - While 2021 was focused significantly on the COVID-19 pandemic — with its worldwide lockdowns and cinema closures. 2022: not so much.
Sure, many movie-goers still flocked to their streaming services for the latest movies, but the year also appeared to focus on re-opening movie theatres and the return to better feature films.
Whether you were a fan of art-house films and documentaries (hello, "Fire of Love") or major Hollywood blockbusters (hi there, "Top Gun: Maverick"), there was a lot of quality entertainment hitting the screens this year.
Below are FOX Television Stations’ picks for the best movies of 2022.
‘The Fabelmans’: Spielberg’s spellbinding, unsentimental origin story
Spielberg and his co-writer Tony Kushner (who previously scripted "Munich," "Lincoln" and last year’s "West Side Story" remake for the filmmaker) linger in Sammy Fabelman’s (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) childhood as he becomes obsessed with shooting movies. His mercurial pianist mother recognizes this fixation as a calling, while Burt (Paul Dano), his more practical-minded engineer father, sees it as more of a neat hobby. But much of "The Fabelmans" takes place later, in Sammy’s teenage years, after Burt’s career moves them from New Jersey to Arizona (and, later, California).
That ambiguity over the "why" of making movies — even spectacular ones — is part of the movie’s significant metatextual dimension. In a way, it complements the way Spielberg’s films, especially in the second half of his career, have been misinterpreted through the filter of what audiences and critics expect from him — a filter that has sometimes blocked out his complexities and nuances.
‘Nope’: Close encounters of the spurred kind
OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) and Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) in Nope, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. (Credit: Universal Pictures)
"Nope" is "Get Out'' writer-director Jordan Peele’s third and most self-consciously mainstream film. That doesn’t mean that Peele has sacrificed daring for accessibility, however. Although it’s not as cryptic as his sophomore feature, 2019’s "Us," this is a multi-layered movie that — for better or for worse — follows its obsessions wherever they may lead.
FULL REVIEW: ‘Nope’ review: Close encounters of the spurred kind
What it does mean is that "Nope" adds rollicking Western adventure to Peele’s genre palette, making an intriguing case both for original summer blockbusters and for Peele as a filmmaker in the process.
‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’: A megachurch mockumentary masterclass
Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown in "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." (Credit: Steve Swisher / © 2021 Pinky Promise LLC)
The initial pitch for "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." seems simple enough. The film opens as a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary about a Southern Baptist megachurch in Atlanta trying to stage a comeback following allegations of misconduct against its peacocking pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown). Anchored by a hilarious turn from comedienne extraordinaire Regina Hall as his put-upon wife and dutiful "first lady" Trinitie, the movie coasts along on familiar but well-executed jokes about megachurch culture.
While not every tonal shift in "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." works, the pure ambition on display is exhilarating. And writer/director Adamma Ebo found the perfect collaborators in Hall and Brown, two of the most dexterous actors working today. Together Ebo, Brown and Hall make for a heck of a trio, gracefully dancing up and down the entire comedic spectrum, from broad gags to surrealist dark comedy. The Childs may be out of sync as a couple, but this tour de force satire is perfectly in tune.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a gloriously corny nostalgia fest
More than three decades later, the sequel "Top Gun: Maverick" offers a double dose of nostalgia — both for that 1980s original and for the halcyon Americana it evoked in the first place.
It’s a pleasure to report that the film largely works on both accounts, at least if you’re willing to set aside any sort of moral questions about its inherently propagandistic nature. (The bad guys here are once again a nameless, faceless country known only as "the enemy.") Director Joseph Kosinski is so committed to nostalgia that he even opens the film with a beat-for-beat recreation of the original’s opening credits, Kenny Loggins’ "Danger Zone" and all. It’s a move as carefully calibrated as any of the top-line fighter jets Tom Cruise pilots throughout the movie. And there’s a fist-pumping joy to watching an old-fashioned action blockbuster fire on all cylinders, even if its storytelling ambitions aren’t quite stratospheric.
‘The Woman King’: Viola Davis’ crowning achievement
If you too are looking for a touch of corny in your life — in the best, most crowd-rousing way possible — then run don’t walk to "The Woman King," which refreshes the old-fashioned historical epic genre with the same kind of elegant humanity director and writer Gina Prince-Bythewood previously brought to romantic dramas with "Beyond the Lights" and superhero movies with "The Old Guard."
Indeed, making something familiar feel fresh again is one of Prince-Bythewood’s special gifts as a filmmaker. And in "The Woman King" she delivers an action drama that somehow feels both nostalgic and revolutionary all at once.
‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ showcases the power of Michelle Yeoh
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" encompasses concepts as vast as the entire multiverse and as intimate as a middle-aged woman (Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn Wang) reconnecting with her fractured family — even if she has to do so by tapping into every possible version of herself from the vast web of universes that connect us to every decision we never made.
It’s a film as dizzying in its ambition as it is hilarious, with filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert leveraging all the high-tilt chaos they perfected in music videos like DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s "Turn Down for What?" to launch audiences into a world where anything is possible — and just might happen right in front of you.
‘The Worst Person in the World’ might be the best movie of the year
Renate Reinsve appears in The Worst Person in the World by Joachim Trier, an official selection of the Spotlight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Credit: Sundance Institute | photo by Kasper Tuxen)
Do we ever stop coming of age? That’s the question that implicitly sits at the heart of director Joachim Trier’s exceptional romantic dramedy, "The Worst Person in the World" — Norway’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards and an early contender for best film of the year.
Without ever slipping into sentimentalism, "The Worst Person in the World" understands the warts-and-all beauty of what it means to truly live a life to the fullest, stumbling, striving and messing up along the way.
‘Fire of Love’: An explosively great documentary is one of the year's best films
A still from Fire of Love by Sara Dosa, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or
Pick just one of the major elements of this remarkable film — the mind-boggling footage from French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, Miranda July’s appealingly curious narration, direction that’s equal parts playful and mournful, masterful editing, a real humdinger of a love triangle — and that one element would be enough to make "Fire of Love" well worth approximately 100 or so minutes of your time. (93 minutes to watch, plus at least 10 to recover.) But director Sara Dosa allows all those fascinating pieces to roil together before, yes, erupting into a singular experience.
For a film that begins by telling us its heroes are long since dead, "Fire of Love" strikes an unexpectedly exuberant tone. That stems from its unusual subjects, a daring married couple who spent two decades traveling the world, capturing stunning images of volcanic eruptions. Dosa and team capitalize on the playful stylishness of the Kraffts’ footage, turning to the French New Wave as inspiration. It’s a choice that allows the audience to experience both the awe and joy felt by its subjects as they dance on the edge of destruction, lava spewing liquidly, even puckishly, just beyond their silhouettes. What footage do scientists capture when each day on the job is also a dream vacation? What’s a day at the beach like when the sea is made of fire?
‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ is pure magic
The kid-friendly A24 movie ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On' (Credit: A24)
Tone is one of the hardest things to nail in a film and one of the trickiest things to describe in a review, but it’s where "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On" shines brightest. This kid-friendly A24 movie is somehow whimsical, bittersweet, life-affirming and a little bit heartbreaking all at once. And that makes it the perfect movie for the moment, when the world is looking for art that not just uplifts its audience with joy but also understands the pain of loss too.
It’s a delightful surprise to find all that emotional complexity rolled up in such an unassuming little package via the story of a one-inch tall talking shell with big shoes and bigger dreams. But if there’s one thing this lovingly crafted mockumentary drills home, it’s that it’s best not to underestimate Marcel. Perhaps that’s why the film that bears his name is one of the best of the year — a modern comedy that feels equally like a timeless fairy tale.
‘Fire Island’: You’ll ardently admire and love this queer Jane Austen adaptation
Set in the iconic Pines, Andrew Ahn’s "Fire Island" is an unapologetic, modern-day rom-com showcasing a diverse, multicultural examination of queerness and romance. (Credit: Jeong Park/Searchlight)
The most surprising thing about Hulu’s empathetic and sharply funny film "Fire Island" is how faithful it is to Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," tracing the contours of the beloved novel’s plot and (perhaps more importantly) brilliantly updating its ideas about class, agency, financial anxiety, difficult familial bonds, the institution of marriage and more. And like Austen, screenwriter/star Joel Kim Booster and director Andrew Ahn casually break the unspoken rules that dictate who gets to lead a love story and what they're allowed to want from it.
It’s also the funniest Austen adaptation since "Clueless," and that’s no small feat.
Allison Shoemaker and FOX Television Stations' writers contributed to this story.