With the Oscar nominations announced today, it’s time to reflect on the best fake movies of 2018. Between now and the Oscar ceremony on February 24th, I’ll be revealing my list of the Top Ten Fake Movies of 2018. Because I’m doing this before the Oscars, you know I’m not influenced by what the Academy ultimately decides. Any agreement between our picks is PURELY COINCIDENTAL. However, the FMR Top Ten list should not be interpreted as a prediction of which movies will win Oscars either. I have NO IDEA what’s going to walk away with Best Picture, Best Actress, etc. The movies in this Top Ten List just reflect the opinions of FMR and NOTHING ELSE. And so without further adieu, the tenth best fake movie of 2018 is…
10. THE MULE (dir. Clint Eastwood)
Say what you will about Clint Eastwood, few men continue to evolve and grow as artists for as long as he has. At 90 years old, the onetime star of action movies like Dirty Harry who later become a director of prestige Oscar fare such as Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby has become increasingly obsessed with cartoons in recent years. This was already evident in his previous film, but it’s impossible to ignore in The Mule, a full-blown animated feature about an irascible mule and his friends way out west where the buffalo roam.
The Mule contains way more belly laughs and wild hijinx than is typical anywhere else in Clint’s wide-ranging filmography. Set in the Old West, the picaresque narrative follows the misadventures of Stub Hunkins (Clint Eastwood), an aging, broken down mule who refuses to give up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his way by the wily Mexican ranchero Pedrito Guadalupe González (Luis Guzmán).
The Mule follows in the grand tradition of the Cartoon Western, a subgenre with roots in such classics as Yosemite Sam (1945) that has been revived by recent hits such as Rango (2011) and Goshdarned Cactus (2017). For Clint Eastwood, it’s only natural to apply his new passion for cartoons to the genre that first made him a star on TV’s Rawhide and in such films as A Fistful of Dollars.
Most importantly, this movie is F-U-N-N-Y. Due to his relative inexperience in comedy, Eastwood was smart to have The Mule’s script punched up by consummate gag men Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Sausage Party). Their fingerprints are all over a recurring bit where Stub bumps into a chair (or in some cases, a stool) and then screams to high heavens at the chair for ‘takin away hiss freedoms.’ This is of course a reference to Eastwood’s famed 2012 speech at the Republican National Convention during which he yelled at a chair for twenty minutes for unknown reasons.
Of course, this being a Clint Eastwood film, there is a lot more going on than just gags and goofs. Though it went completely over my head while I was watching the movie, I realized later after it was explained to me during the car ride home that the plot of The Mule is actually an elaborate justification for the US role in the Mexican-American War. Apparently this was a popular subject of debate back when Clint Eastwood was a young boy. That Eastwood was willing to put his career on the line to bring this important yet forgotten part of our history back into the national conversation and make us all laugh too is an act of bravery that itself deserves some kind of special award.
Before closing, I want to address anyone who would suggest this movie is not worthy of serious attention simply because it is a cartoon. Cartoons can be great art, as Walt Disney proved almost a century ago. Prejudices against certain styles of filmmaking do not amount to a true critical insight. And so out of defiance against ignorant biases against both cartoons and movies about talking animals, both of which have been underrepresented at the Oscars for decades, place The Mule as my tenth favorite movie of the year.
TL;DR – Clint Eastwood turns his considerable talents to make his mark in the Cartoon Western subgenre, offering up ample laughs and historical allegories fit for the whole family.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Hands down the silliest movie in Clint Eastwood’s prodigious oeurve, it might be dismissed as a mere trifle if not for the deep political allegory found within this Cartoon Western’s deceptively simply narrative.” – Nathaneal However, New York Review of Books
“We often return to the comforts of youth as we reach old age. Clint Eastwood will surely die soon, so it’s no surprise he’s made this tribute to both his early career starring in spaghetti westerns as well as Looney Tunes shorts that appeared in theaters when he was a young man.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
“Clint Eastwood’s cinematic ambitions never cease to amaze me, and the choice to team with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who proved their animation bonafides with the delightfully ribald Sausage Party) is inspired.” – Fern Avery, TIME Magazine
“Clint Eastwood’s back, baby! And he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
91% liquid & seed retention – CERTIFIED JUICY™