The former scored the Best Picture Oscar late last month while the latter proved director/star Clint Eastwood still packs a box office punch.
So what’s the problem?
Both films featured men with racially outdated views. “The Mule” stars Eastwood as an elderly man, Earl Stone, who uses the wrong names for various groups.
In short, he’s far from woke.
The racism is far more ingrained, and dehumanizing, in “Green Book.” Tony “The Lip,” played by Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen, is so disgusted by the black men working at his house he wouldn’t even use the same glasses they drank from during a break.
Instead, he drops the glasses in the trash.
Both Earl and Tony evolve beyond their outdated views. Earl strikes to push past his innate flaws. Tony’s transformation, by comparison, is sobering. He eventually embraces the black musician, played by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, as a cherished friend after driving him through the deeply racist south.
And, we assume, softens his bigoted thinking.
“The true center of the movie is how this [racism] trauma makes his white friend … a better person,” the Washington Post “explainer” video above spells out. Why, it’s as if movies about racists learning to push past their hate are no longer welcome in select circles.
Those conciliatory stories drew raves … and more than a few brickbats. Consider “The Mule” review over at BirthMoviesDeath.com:
If you don’t think it’s right for Earl to be empathetic not in spite of, but because of his attitudinal bigotry, then Clint Eastwood would love to spend these two hours telling you to go f*** yourself.
Well f*** you too, Clint.
The premise behind the attacks doesn’t wash. These films show racists seeing the light. Therefore, select critics cry, racism is over! Congratulations, America! That tone is clear to see from Seth Meyers’ “Green Book” style spoof.
That puts “The Best of Enemies” in an awkward position, to put it mildly.
The film follows Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) forced to plot with black activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) on the fate of black children left without a functional school. The two start out as adversaries -- no shock there given C.P.’s Klan bona fides.
What happens next is more than shocking. It’s incredible. And it all happened back in 1971.
The film’s trailer alone drew the “Green Book”/”Mule” critics. Once again, critics decry a film for announcing racism is over. Never mind that they’re judging the film based solely on a trailer suggesting nothing of the kind.
Imagine how woke film critics, and they are legion, will treat “The Best of Enemies” once it hits theaters nationwide April 5. One suspects the real Ann Atwater, who passed in 2016, wouldn’t approve. She became friends with Ellis after their contentious first meeting.
She later gave the eulogy at his funeral. Let that sink in.
That kind of forgiveness is real, wonderful and uncommon. We should cheer it whenever it appears in our increasingly uncivil culture.
It’s a shame some don’t see it that way.