Gallery: AFI Awards celebrate Fabelmans, Avatar, Top Gun, Bear and more

(TOP GUN: MAVERICK’s Miles Teller and THE BEAR’s Jeremy Allen White attend the AFI AWARDS on January 13, 2023. Courtesy of AFI/Michael Kovac.)

Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for those attending the American Film Institute’s (AFI) 2022 AFI AWARDS at an exclusive invite-only luncheon.

At the event, AFI revealed its official rationales (below) for all 21 honorees, providing the cultural and artistic context to mark these outstanding creative endeavors as the year’s notable milestones.

Celebrating film and television arts’ collaborative nature, AFI Awards is the only national program that honors creative teams as a whole, recognizing those in front of and behind the camera. All the honored works advance the art of the moving image, inspire audiences and artists alike and enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form.

At the close of the event, Academy Award winner and AFI Life Achievement honoree Al Pacino received a standing ovation as he was introduced to deliver the annual benediction celebrating the honorees’ outstanding achievements in the art form.

Guests in attendance at the AFI AWARDS luncheon included Pam Abdy, Paulina Alexis, Mohammad Amer, Patricia Arquette, Jerry Bruckheimer, Quinta Brunson, James Cameron, Kerry Condon, Eddy Cue, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Michael De Luca, Paul W. Downs, Ayo Edebiri, Jamie Erlicht, Dan Erickson, Bridget Everett, Lane Factor, Meghann Fahy, Todd Field, Claire Foy, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Jin Ha, Sterlin Harjo, Stephanie Hsu, Bob Iger, Theo James, Daniel Kaluuya, Theresa Kang, Zoe Kazan, Barry Keoghan, Minha Kim, Joseph Kosinski, Tony Kushner, Daniel Kwan, Gabriel LaBelle, Jon Landau, Stephen Lang, Baz Luhrmann, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Leonard Maltin, Martin McDonagh, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Carey Mulligan, Bob Odenkirk, Keke Palmer, Jordan Peele, Sarah Polley, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ke Huy Quan, Seth Rogen, Ted Sarandos, Maria Schrader, Adam Scott, Rhea Seehorn, Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Christopher Storer, Miles Teller, Zack Van Amburg, Dana Walden, Sigourney Weaver, Mike White, Jeremy Allen White, Michelle Williams and Michelle Yeoh.

Check out the gallery below courtesy of the American Film Institute and Photographer Randall Michelson and Michael Kovac:



AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER plunges audiences into another world and soars beyond the edges of imagination. James Cameron’s endlessly inventive vision is fully realized with awe-inspiring images and a pulse-pounding narrative – both which stand firmly upon the foundation of family. Driven by a commitment to advance the art of storytelling, Cameron and his army of artists have created a landmark moment in the history of cinema.

ELVIS is a cinematic supernova of kaleidoscopic brilliance – one ever so fitting the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Baz Luhrmann’s genius for conducting the electric power of music and emotion raise this film above the screams of adoring fans with equal parts plentitude and poetry. A star is born in Austin Butler, whose performance leaps from the screen to embody one of the 20th Century’s most charismatic icons.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is just that – and more. The Daniels’ epic vision leaves no genre behind as audiences are taken on an uncharted journey across parallel universes where rocks consider joy and regret, fingers become hot dogs and an everything bagel plays an essential, if nihilistic, roll. This head-spinning, high concept fantasia finds its human heart in the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, who masters all universes as one of the great artists of our day. 

THE FABELMANS considers the horizon from a place in the past. Steven Spielberg proves his place in the pantheon by inviting us into his home – and his heart – exploring family, forgiveness and the soaring power of storytelling. From a panoramic script co-written with Tony Kushner to perfectly pitched performances from Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch, this complicated family portrait is an undeniable valentine for all who love the movies – and a triumphant remembrance that “movies are dreams you never forget.”

NOPE affirms Jordan Peele’s place as a modern master. From the indelible images of Gordy the chimp to dark clouds on the horizon, this is a dreamscape that embraces the full spectrum of film history while defiantly defying genre. Living amidst big picture filmmaking at its most thematically ambitious, the imperative issues of race, global conservation and commercialization are hiding right before our eyes – until audiences are guided there by a stellar cast including Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun.

SHE SAID speaks truth to power. Based on The New York Times’ explosive exposé of Harvey Weinstein, director Maria Schrader’s dogged pursuit of the narrative beyond the headlines documents the personal lives and professional heroism of the reporters who broke the story – and the women who came forward to tell their stories. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are the dynamic duo for the now generation – embodying the courage, intellect and persistence of an imperative pursuit, but also the many nuances of women’s strength in a system stacked against them. 

TÁR demands the world leap to its feet in rapturous applause – as it invites the question: “maestra” or “monster”? Todd Field’s masterwork explores both answers with an emotional precision that speaks to some of the most challenging topics of our day and does so with a measured tenor that further deepens the drama. Standing tall amidst the maelstrom is Cate Blanchett, whose towering performance is one for the ages – a work of art so immersive that audiences will believe Lydia Tár lives.

TOP GUN: MAVERICK soars into the history of American film – proving the undeniable power of storytelling to save the day. An adrenaline-fueled narrative and stunning aerial photography set the stage, but the film’s not-so-secret weapon is the greatest movie star of a generation – Tom Cruise. Director Joseph Kosinski delivers on the promise of the premise, pushing boundaries established by the fist-pumping original and amplifying action and emotion past the danger zone.

THE WOMAN KING rules! All hail Gina Prince-Bythewood, who delivers a rousing epic as empowering as it is enlightening. And all bow to the warrior that is Viola Davis, whose performance is royal, resplendent and ranks among the year’s finest. Here she reigns over a story of the heroic Agojie, commanding audiences to look at history anew in a tale of prodigious bravery embodied by the fearless performances of Thuso Mbedu and Lashana Lynch.

WOMEN TALKING amplifies a primal scream for all bound by silence. Adapting the novel by Miriam Toews, Sarah Polley’s moving tintype on abuse within a contemporary, isolated religious community ignites a conversation of universal relevance – delivered in hushed tones, but steely strength, by the ensemble of Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey and Frances McDormand. With the immediacy of a heart-pounding thriller, the film demands a path to liberation – “Does one do nothing? Stay and fight? Or leave?”


THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN howls with empathy as it severs the traditional customs of friendship. Martin McDonagh’s parable of civil war and mutually assured destruction is brilliantly realized in each inspired word – each bloody act – and each burst of cannons across the sea. This anguished Irish fable is textured by the land itself and brought to life with both humor and horror by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and an extraordinary cast.


ABBOTT ELEMENTARY is a master class in the art of episodic comedy. Staffed with one of television’s most endearing ensembles, Quinta Brunson’s mock-doc models a perfect curriculum – not just for its underfunded Philadelphia public school, but also for how we embrace challenges with optimism, creativity and laughter to inspire a new generation.

THE BEAR fires up the year’s most deliciously nerve-racking dish. Pride and arrogance, class and grief are mixed masterfully in Christopher Storer’s series, building an immersive viewing experience from behind the line of a Chicago sandwich kitchen’s chaos. Jeremy Allen White’s emotionally manic performance leads this high-energy ensemble in a story of family at home and at work. One of the year’s best? Yes, chef!

BETTER CALL SAUL rests its case with one of the art form’s greatest closing arguments – at once a bittersweet finale for its central antihero and an indictment of bad behavior run amuck. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s long-running series created a monument to the dark side of the American Dream, with bravura performances from Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn embodying the hubris, regret and corrupting friction between right and wrong.

HACKS takes the act on tour in a savage second season, finding laughs in the institutionalized injustice of the comedy landscape. Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky’s multi-layered comedy is a takedown as apt as it is entertaining, and Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder continue to bridge a generational divide with both barbs and belly laughs as audiences consider the harrowing challenge of being funny.

MO finds a home among television’s finest in this celebration of a man without a country. Ramy Youssef and Mohammed Amer’s semi-autobiographical story about a Palestinian “refugee free agent” catalyzes an imperative conversation about immigration in America. It does so driven by Amer’s star turn and his bond to family, sense of self and a nuanced hilarity that is all too rare in our land of opportunity. 

PACHINKO ricochets across generations and around the world – bursting beyond the small screen with breathtaking cinematic grandeur. Adapting Min Jin Lee’s acclaimed novel, Soo Hugh’s sweeping series is an epic family journey that invites audiences to consider the deep, living connections between those past and present. Rooted in Korea, its global lens reminds us of the borderless commonality of sacrifices made, choices that change us and the eternal strive toward a better future.

RESERVATION DOGS summons the spirits of storytelling for an even more ingenious second year. Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi expand the emotional horizon for the Indigenous community that remains absent from the art form, and their radiant young stars beautifully embody the conflict of their characters’ birthright with increasingly hilarious schemes and heartfelt heartbreak. With curses broken and traditions upheld, this eye on America is a story for our time.

SEVERANCE earned itself a waffle party, surpassing quota in performance, pacing, direction and design. Dan Erickson’s hypnotically cinematic serial lives on multiple levels, creating an exquisite sense of vertigo between absurdist workplace satire and white-knuckle thriller. Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken and a brilliant ensemble inhabit this dystopian world that looks to the future of the work-life balance with both humor and horror.

SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE sings an anthem to never giving up on yourself. Bridget Everett is the tornado of talent that takes us to Kansas, and at a time in our world when the value of human reconnection is imperative, Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen’s intimate comedy glows with the optimistic light that you can go home again – be the person you see in the mirror – and find your voice, your place and your people.

THE WHITE LOTUS sets sail for Sicily – an island of abundant beauty that erupts with lust and luxury in this second year of Mike White’s brilliantly inverted whodunnit. With tension an unrelenting, driving force, Jennifer Coolidge leads an all-star cast on both sides of a class system – one ignorant to the pitfalls of privilege and the other desperate to find its future. No one emerges from The White Lotus with their illusions intact – ultimately, proving that the best things in life are free.

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