How Tusk Saved My Life and Got Me Sober: The Top 10 Most Entertaining Films of 2014

| January 6, 2015

by Zach Eastman

I made a top ten list the other day, thinking I had the right choices… then I had a double take. Heres why:

This year has been, say the least, a very rocky wild adventure . Last year I stepped back from a Top Films list along with filmmaking due to many personal reasons. It’s been the most lonely year imaginable where I came close many times to losing my sanity.

“He who becomes a beast, gets rid of the pain of being a man”

Dr. Johnson could not have been more on point.

In 2012, a certain event unfolded around me, and I repressed a lot of inner pain surrounding it by filling myself with multiple projects, screenings of Twombley at Starz and, podcasts, and a short film called The Boy Who Stares.

I also couldn’t put down the bottle or the joint. Much of what got me out of my inner funk following July 20th , 2012 was a reliance on alcohol and weed (and please don’t think of this a condemnation of either, many can indeed enjoy these in a responsible manner, just not myself). In 2013, a move to California, my dream for so long, was dismantled by daily drinking of handles of vodka. I moved back to Colorado, thinking that the problem had to be location, location, location.

The problem followed me back home, where nothing changed for 7 months until finally I said enough is enough. I decided to check myself into rehab. 35 days later I relapsed. Then I did another 30 days without rehab… Then I relapsed again , I drank up to 2 pints of whiskey on November 10th and as I stumbled off the train way and wondered how in the world this was ever possible. How did I ever deserve not only the success I gained in my beloved business, but also how I was able to wreck it simultaneously . That’s when I remembered a quote from Hemingway by way of Michael Parks in Tusk: “Always do sober what you do drunk, it will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

I had seen the movie 8 times in the theater and was attracted to it for reasons I hadn’t figured out until it hit me like a ton of bricks, I was putting myself in my own walrus suit that I was creating.

Call it that or common sense, but I knew in that moment that nothing I do in film can be accomplished without a clear mind.

On November 17th, I checked myself into rehab. I now have 48 days sober and now reside in a sober living community in Pompano, FL.

And with a sober mind I can resume doing what I love do outside of filmmaking; seeing movies and giving my two cents

10. Gone Girl
Fincher is one of those filmmakers that knows how to weave gold from a simple ball of yarn. I went in knowing nothing of the source material, only just that Fincher was at the helm… And the voyage was well worth the admission price. The unraveling of a seemingly perfect marriage works well with the audience never quite knowing where they will go next. Props to Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, who play the couple at hand.

9. Birdman
See kids, before Christian Bale Batman, the almighty king of the cape and cowl was Michael Keaton, and the stigmatization of his 2nd most popular character is the energy that charges Birdman. What’s more amazing than Keaton’s performance (which is Oscar worthy) is the cinematography which is brilliantly choreographed to give off the illusion of the film being shot in one take (Lubezki needs an Oscar in his hands for this ). And that amazing score, just buy the soundtrack, listen and try and tell me it ain’t worth the 14.99.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvels track record is so impressive they were able to make one of its most obscure properties and churn out gold. Chris Pratt makes for a loveable hero as Star Lord and Groot is very “I Am Groot.” The breakout in this flick for me was Dave Bautistas memorable turn as Drax The Destroyer, who’s bite is bigger than his bark as he tries to unravel meanings of words such as metaphor. All that baked with a charming soundtrack creates a fantastic Marvel feast.

7. Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher is a film on par with films like There Will Be Blood. It’s haunting pace and presence shows the neutral grey ground that its characters walk on, who all seem to be aware that there is a problem but refuse to address it out of fear and desperation with an insane Jon Dumont (Steve Carell) playing with his wrestling toys in the sandbox of upper east coast millionaire set. This film is owned by Carrell, who not only defies convention, but also deserves an Oscar on his mantle before the nominations are even announced.

6. Life of Crime
Dan Schecter is a director I have gotten to know over the past year, and from our talks It is very clear that he knows his Elmore Leonard. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he would be a natural to tackle the Jackie Brown prequel with suave and cool poise. Jennifer Aniston plays the victim well to Mos Def and John Hawkes captors in a fun plot based on the Leonard novel THE SWTCH. Also big props to Tim Robbins who delivers a hysterical performance

5. Boyhood
Of all the films out in 2014, Boyhood stands out as the most innovative. The story has been told how Richard Linklater film every year for twelve years to show us the ups and downs of a young boys life. Patricia Arquette delivers the most compelling character as she sees her children grow up through two alcoholic and abusive relationships desperately trying to do the best for her kids. For my money , it’s the best directed film of the year.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This Marvel phenomenon won’t stop anytime soon. This was not just the best comic book film of the year, it’s also Marvels Dark Knight film, the one that transcends being just another comic book movie. This film serves that comic book purpose but also serves as an intriguing political thriller with wonderful performances from each of its actors. And last but not leaset, it changes the game Marvel has set up and creates great build up for Avengers 2.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson + Nearly Every Actor he’s ever worked with+ A bemusing Ralph Finnes+ a murder mystery= the makings of Wes Anderson’s funniest film since well 2 years ago. Each film of his is different yet similar. He does a great job at making his version of any genre he chooses. His version of the murder mystery is the most gut busting script of the year. Further props to Willem DaFoe and a scene involving a cat.

2. Locke
Once in a while you get a film that is so unique , it is hard to replicate it as a popular concept by any studios. The idea: following one man and only one on a journey in a confined space. Ryan Reynolds do it beautifully in Buried, now Tom Hardy has one upped him with with Locke. The problem with Locke is that it’s impossible to give a plot without spoiling it. All I can tell you is that Tom Hardy has never been better as a man driving in a hurry for 90minutes with only people on the phone to talk to.
Rent it and watch this unique drama as soon as possible

1. Tusk
Ahh yes, the aforementioned Walrus Picture. Well lets look at this without the bias previously mentioned. Kevin Smith has made a film that is original, unapologetic, and the birth of a new genre; the podcast picture. A genre that is based on brainstorming and conversation, which allows the film to be twisted and turned in wacky directions that either make you laugh out loud or quiver in fear. There is only one other director who’s work can be considered as on par with Tusk, and that’s David Lynch. Smith perfectly captures the cerebral concept without much fallout. Michael Parks has never been better, one upping his performance in Red State as Howard Howe, a lonely man trying with grotesque methods to give his walrus companion the Fighting chance he didn’t have. The poor (and definitely unsympathetic ) soul trapped in this walrus suit is Justin Long who delivers a brave performance as a man who must earn redemption at the cost of his humanity . Johnny Depp turns in a memorable performance as Det. Guy LaPointe, who has been hunting Howard for years.
The balance of humor and terror is surprisingly well done, which puts it in the pantheon of a soon to be Midnight Movie Cult Classic.

I saw this film 8 times, and each time it got better, so I’ve had 8 times to think this through. For my money, Tusk was the most entertaining film of the year.

And now that I’m sober thanks to that haunting reminder, it’s unlikely that I will ever forget it.

Runners Up: X Men Days of Future Past, Wild, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Lego Movie

– Zach

About the Author:

Zach Eastman is the filmmaker responsible for films such as TWOMBLEY (Starz Film Festival 2012 Official Selection) and THE BOY WHO STARES. He is also the producer of Matty O Connor's film GUNS DRUGS AND SYNERGY, Adam Jewels award winning film THE ZONE, and Tony Grosz's TWO YEARS SINCE FRIDAY. He has been a frequent guest on REEL NERDS PODCAST and now is one of their contributors.
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