Summer 2022, headlined by “Top Gun: Maverick,” has come to an end, meaning it’s time to honor the best the season had to offer.
The summer movie season, for me, runs from the start of May until the end of August, so any movie I watched during that time was eligible. “Maverick” as expected, definitely had some success. However, plenty of other films earned awards too.
BEST MOVIE – “Crimes of the Future”
Director David Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future”was by far the most gripping film released this summer. In great science fiction fashion, “Crimes” explores a captivating future for humanity, full of fascinating technology and an intriguing evolutionary path for mankind.
Cronenberg incorporates these elements exceptionally well as the film explores the politics and culture of the future world. Subjects related to art, government climate change and more are all nicely tied in as the picture unfolds. There’s plenty of body horror imagery to enhance the sci-fi aspect, too.
Runner-Up: The Black Phone
BEST COMEDY – “Cha Cha Real Smooth”
“Cha Cha Real Smooth,” which was released primarily on streaming platforms, was one of this summer’s surprises. A film focused on the post-graduation phase of adulthood, “Smooth” was an endearing, heartfelt dramatic comedy.
It’s a feel-good crowd-pleaser that can produce laughs and make a viewer emotional. With strong writing and a standout performance by Dakota Johnson, “Cha Cha Real Smooth” was without a doubt the best comedy this summer.
Runner-Up: I Love My Dad
BEST ACTION – “Top Gun: Maverick”
This summer had two Marvel movies and a “Jurassic” sequel, but they were no match for the “Top Gun” follow-up, both in terms of quality and box-office performance. When it comes to the former, “Maverick” was an absolute blast of a blockbuster.
The film perfectly embraces the nostalgic aspects while also paving the way for the new story and next generation of characters to shine. The film has high caliber acting, a satisfying passing of the torch story and sensational action in the air.
BEST ACTOR – Austin Butler, “Elvis”
Butler captured the look of Elvis, he replicated how the musician spoke, recreated how he moved and even sang some of the songs in the film. But where the performance really shined was in how he humanized the figure.
In Baz Luhrmann’s film, Butler doesn’t just portray the rock star, he plays the man. He does great work in showing many phases of Elvis’ life, including moments where he was barely holding things together and was drenched in sweat because of exhaustion.
Runner-Up: Viggo Mortensen, Crimes of the Future
BEST ACTRESS – Aubrey Plaza, “Emily the Criminal”
Aubrey Plaza was impeccable in “Emily the Criminal,” convincingly portraying a woman who’s desperate, smart and strong. As the film goes on, the audience learns that Emily has an edge, a darker side to her personality pushing her to cross dangerous lines, and Plaza is great at portraying that on screen.
Her work in making this character interesting, complex and sympathetic is definitely praise-worthy.
Runner-Up: Dakota Johnson, “Cha Cha Real Smooth”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Miles Teller, “Top Gun: Maverick”
Teller had some pressure coming into this role, portraying the son of the beloved character Nick “Goose” Bradshaw from the first movie. He had to bring the spirit of Goose to the screen, but not be a carbon copy, and instead be an all new likable side character.
Teller was more than up to the task. His character Bradley, who goes by the nickname Rooster, is a positive, goodhearted pilot who still has some angst over how his father died, and Teller nails it.
Runner-Up: Ethan Hawke, The Black Phone
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Madeleine McGraw, “The Black Phone”
There were some solid supporting performances over the summer but the one that really stood out the most for this category was Madeleine McGraw. While the film’s two main stars, Mason Thames and Ethan Hawke do most of the heavy lifting in the lead roles, McGraw’s character Gwen gives the movie a lot of personality, enhancing the experience.
Much of the movie is focused on the survival of Thames’ character Finney, but there are also several scenes taking place outside the location where he’s being held. A lot of those moments feature McGraw and she excels in every one of them.
Runner-Up: Claudia Sulewski, I Love My Dad
BEST DIRECTOR – David Cronenberg, “Crimes of the Future”
“Crimes of the Future” was a very multi-layered film with a lot going on but with Cronenberg at the helm, everything fit together nicely. The auteur’s movie is filmed, paced and structured beautifully.
The way he balanced the subtextual commentary of the film with the body horror elements and made it all work so well makes him the best director this summer.
Runner-Up: Scott Derrickson, The Black Phone
BEST ACTION SEQUENCE – Final mission, “Top Gun: Maverick”
The mission that would serve as the climax of “Maverick” was being hyped up the entire film. The grand finale lived up to that hype, because all of it was thrilling and keeps one on the edge of their seat.
The pilots are pushing their equipment and themselves to their limit in the final scenes of the “Top Gun” sequel and it’s absolutely thrilling. Watching the jets navigate through mountains, evade surface-to-air missiles and then have to fight off attackers was blockbuster bliss.
Runner-Up: Final fight, Prey
BEST SOUND – “Top Gun: Maverick”
One thing making the action work as well as it does in “Top Gun” was the superb job the sound crew did. In a movie like this, you should feel the raw power of those jet engines when they zoom by, and a viewer sure does in this movie.
Even if you put aside the jets, you can admire the sound work in relation to other elements, such as when the characters are speaking through their masks when they’re flying, and the heavy breathing is captured to impress upon an audience how much pressure the pilots are under.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – “Elvis”
There were some good options this summer, and the runner-up in this category certainly has a case. However, I think the cinematography in “Elvis,” done by director of photography Mandy Walker, was the best of the bunch.
The “Elvis” film had to show the massive performances the singer would do, the glamour of Las Vegas and make it all look legendary. The cinematography definitely succeeds in doing this.
BEST WRITING – “Emily the Criminal
This category was probably the closest one this year, with a lot of good options, but I had to go with “Emily the Criminal.” The writing for this movie is riveting, it has a real bite to it.
There’s intrigue and depth to the picture, and the dialogue is really sharp. The writing of “Emily the Criminal” no doubt made it one of the best films released this summer.
Runner-Up: Cha Cha Real Smooth
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS – “Top Gun: Maverick”
The way this film created the many scenes with advanced aircraft doing incredible feats was downright stunning. To make it happen, the filmmakers used an impressive blend of CGI and practical effects.
That blend gave the film a truly authentic appearance, with actors actually going up in the planes and real aircraft used, while relying on CGI to fill in the rest of the gaps.
Runner-Up: Crimes of the Future
BEST STUNT/CHOREOGRAPHY – “Prey”
The stunt work and fight choreography in “Prey” made for a gritty, intense action flick. While some of the animals in the movie were computer animated, the film still required the cast to give physical performances.
Amber Midthunder, as well as the rest of the cast and crew, pulled off making the film’s battles against the elements and the Predator very convincing.
See the results of previous Summer Movie Awards below.