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From Under A Rock – Tusk

September 10, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard
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From Under A Rock – Tusk  


My (Michael’s) sensibilities have been known to get a little bit weird sometimes. I enjoy movies for reasons nobody else enjoys them. I relish the avant garde (depending on who’s doing it). Sometimes I pick movies that are odd just because I want to have a discussion about them.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Logan. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Tusk.

Released: September 19th, 2014
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Justin Long as Wallace Bryton
Michael Parks as Howard Howe
Haley Joel Osment as Teddy
Genesis Rodriguez as Allison
Johnny Depp as Guy LaPointe

Michael Ornelas: I watched this when it first came out (not in theaters, but on DVD) and I wasn’t able to pin down the experience into any labelable emotion…yet I still had a ton of feelings about it. It was unique — maybe one of the most unique movies I’ve ever seen, and I wanted Aaron to watch it and discuss its merits (or lack thereof) with me.

Aaron Hubbard: I don’t remember the last time I said “What the fuck?” so many times in two hours. This movie is… weird. I don’t even know where to begin.

Potential and Follow-Through
Michael: Any movie with a unique logline will hook me. My favorite movie of last year was Swiss Army Man because of its logline and ability to follow through with the idea to maximum potential. Tusk also has a very unique premise, but doesn’t go the way storytelling theory dictates it should. Smith had the choice to spend the movie building suspense, but instead wanted to show the walrus suit at the halfway point, and spend the second half of the movie floundering with genre. I watched an interview where he said his favorite thing about Pulp Fiction was how masterful the shifts in tone were, and he wanted to try something like that. Thing is, Tusk failed to capture much tonal identity from the get-go, so that when it switches, you can’t really tell. This is a huge flaw in the film, but also an interesting case study because there are examples of movies that do it expertly.

Aaron: I really had trouble pinning down what tone Kevin was going for in the early going. His films usually have a distinct feel, but in this case it just felt like a bunch of random scenes cobbled together to make one ugly movie. Which makes the human walrus a perfect metaphor, when you think about it. To me, there wasn’t anything that worked; the genre changes were abrupt and poor, but they were also poorly executed.

Michael:The only scenes I thought worked were when Michael Parks was being creepy and ranting in the early part of the movie. In the build while Justin Long drank tea. It actually had suspense to it, and hooked me enough on first viewing to see glimpses of a great horror flick. It devolved from there into being a less-than-stellar movie, but the climactic scene of Michael Parks wearing his own walrus suit and battling Wallace to the death (and losing) is still my unapologetic favorite. I unironically love that scene, partially due to the sheer ridiculousness, and partially due to how seriously Michael Parks took the performance in it.

The Shaggy Walrus
Aaron: One of the most annoying jokes in comedy is a Shaggy Dog story; a joke that rambles on and on and on hitting the same unfunny note just to waste time. That’s what this reminded me of. Kevin made this film as a joke, just because he can, and it is utterly pointless. It’s boring before it jumps the shark, and then it jumps the shark over and over with bad walrus joke after bad walrus joke. I’m sure that’s somebody’s idea of a good time, but I want my money back. And I only spent two dollars.

Michael: Aaron and I argued fervently over Smith’s intentions with this movie. I tend to enjoy Kevin Smith and while this movie is certainly his weirdest outing, I believe Smith when he says the reason he made it is because he wanted to see this movie, and he knew that if he didn’t make it, he’d never get to. And that general idea as a filmmaker resonates with me. I also don’t think the movie is supposed to be funny. It definitely has “jokes” in it (very few of which hit with me), but at its core, it’s about watching a shitty dude have a shitty thing happen to him by an even shittier dude, and the ones we’re supposed to actually feel sorry for are the friends who have been burned by Wallace, yet still love him regardless. The movie shows a thing or two about unconditional love, while also managing to be goofy-looking torture porn. It’s a weird weird movie, but I’m glad it exists because it stirs up such passionate discussion on both sides of the debate.

Aaron: I feel like you missed the months of promotion for this thing where Smith basically said he was making the movie as a joke. I mean, the guy’s a smart guy, but he loves trolling people and that’s all this movie was ever meant to be. If Smith was wanting to make a good movie, it wouldn’t have been this.

What’s Next?
Michael: Kevin Smith was on the verge of quitting filmmaking before this movie because he was over the studio system. He got the idea for Tusk on a Smodcast (his podcast) episode, and it reinvigorated his love for filmmaking. Sure he knows it’s a stupid film, but if he had a blast making it, who cares? It got him to make a follow up (part two of the “True North Trilogy”) in Yoga Hosers, which was equally terrible, but the man got to make a movie starring his own daughter, and again, I’m sure that was an absolute blast for him. If you’re not in the moviemaking business to have fun doing it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Some may hate the results, but I wholeheartedly respect the motivation.

Aaron: I personally have no time or interest in vanity projects for directors. If you’re going to make a film, make it good. I mean, Nicholas Winding Refn makes films just for the hell of it, but at least he has interesting ideas and mind-blowing execution. Smith is just making films I could make with a camera and zero fucks. To me, it shows a lack of respect for his audience. But then, Smith Fans love throwing their money at him, so I guess it’s working.

Michael: I disagree. It’s not like this film lacked production value. The reason I think this film falls short is because Smith’s defining feature is witty-ish dialogue, and the setting for this film allows for very little of that. He’s not good at horror, but I think any filmmaker deserves the right to try something out of their normal wheelhouse. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to any audience because he made it on his own, self-financed, and didn’t force anyone to watch it. He put it out there, and those who saw it had the choice to.

Aaron: I can respect Kevin Smith’s purported reasons for making the film, but Tusk is one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I’ve ever had. I just want to forget it but I fear I never will.


Michael: Lol. I enjoy weird, and I enjoy the fact that this movie exists, even if I think the execution is poor.


Aaron: You know the Walrus and the Carpenter story? You are the oysters, Michael.

Michael: I’m rolling my eyes so hard, you can actually hear it.

How do you feel about this movie?

Next week:

Aaron: So this week, I wanted to take us in a new direction by tackling one of the best anime films for adults I’ve ever seen.

Michael: Dope. Hopefully it’s better than the one my employer put out this year…

Aaron: I can’t comment on that, but the original GitS is both a masterpiece and highly influential. I think you’ll love it.

What are your favorite anime films or TV shows?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise, Evil Dead II, Planet of the Apes, Wet Hot American Summer, Tombstone, The Core, American Graffiti, León: The Professional, Steel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Logan, Tusk

Aaron Has Another Column!
Dissecting the Classics is having its first month dedicated to a single director: Stanley Kubrick! This week, check out my review of The Shining, and show up again next week for Dr. Strangelove!

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 850 films. Recent reviews include Wind River, Batman and Harley Quinn, and Dunkirk.

The final score: review Poor
The 411
Michael is an apologist for this film because he supports unique premises being enough to go out and make a movie, while Aaron thought it was a waste of time. Neither one of us thought the movie was *good* per se, but I (Michael) at least think it’s worth watching at least once if not to just form an opinion about a very blatant attempt at making a movie that only the filmmaker felt really needed to exist.