Akron resident Chris Stuckmann won’t be putting Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on his must-viewing list.
“I wanted to love it so much,” he said. “It disappointed me severely.”
Although he is not alone in his feeling, Stuckmann speaks as a go-to guy for more than 600,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, which includes reviews of recent movies along with features such as “Hilariocity” (movies that are “so bad they’re good”) and “Analyzed Movies” (closer looks at significant films).
If you’re accustomed to brief reviews on TV, Stuckmann is a change of pace; his Batman v Superman review runs close to 10 minutes. If he had to boil it all down to a minute like some TV reviewers, Stuckmann said, “My head would explode, man.”
Stuckmann’s study of movies began in 2002 when his mother took him to the old Plaza 8 theater in Chapel Hill to see Signs. He ended up seeing it five times, soaking up the details of filmmaking; he later made his own movies, and these days sees three or four a week.
The video reviewing “kind of combines my two loves,” said Stuckmann, who will turn 28 on Tax Day. “I love talking about movies, but I also love making short films.”
At first he did them for free. Now he benefits from the advertising accompanying them on YouTube.
And his following may stem in part from him seeing himself as an accessible enthusiast.
“I try not to come off like I’m high and mighty or something,” he said. “I’m not. I’m just a guy who loves movies.”
He now has a book about them: The Film Buff’s Bucket List: The 50 Movies of the 2000s to See Before You Die (Key Lime Press, $14.95). It’s a chronologically arranged set of cinema contemplations from American Psycho to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In between you can find art-house fare, blockbusters, action, horror and animation.
Stuckmann is no stranger to list-making, composing his own top 10 every year. But even then, he said, there’s a movie some people love that ends up in 11th or lower. And with the book, the task was even bigger.
“When they initially came to me, they said, ‘1990 to 2015, 50 movies.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be crazy. I can’t do that. That’s way too much,’ ” Stuckmann said. “We were able to boil it down to 2000 to 2015. But when you sit down and actually try, when you watch as many movies as I do and love as many movies as I do, trying to whittle that down to 50 was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in this career.
“So many films fell by the wayside. Films that I love. … The criteria basically was: if I loved this film, if it touched me in some way, if it maybe changed my viewpoint on film, or my outlook on film, or better yet changed my outlook on life — then it would be on my list.”
This is also a list of movies he can watch more than once. He considers 127 Hours, with James Franco, a fantastic movie but “do I really feel like popping this Blu-ray in again? I don’t.” So it did not make the cut.
But the movies that did, he thinks, form a guide for people who missed some of the movies the first time around.
His audience tends to be under 35, but there’s a sizable teen component. He wants the book to reach those teens “who maybe missed a film that I consider culturally impactful or never got to see some of the smaller movies (in the book), like When Marnie Was There or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Oldboy, the Korean film … I want people to grow up with a good balance between big-budget, low-budget and no-budget, and why all these films have merit.”
And when folks are looking at movies, he wants them to be seen as much as possible the way he saw Signs: in the dark, in a theater. Sure, the audience that confines its watching to the home has some advantages. “There’s no chance of an obnoxious moviegoer: someone who’s kicking your seat, who’s shining the light on their cellphone,” he said.
But seeing a movie in a theater can still be “a transformative experience. It’s a place where you can go and, when the lights dim down, even when I’m not very excited about the film I’m going to see, it’s still a magical experience. You’re going to a place that to me feels almost holy.”
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal, Ohio.com, Facebook, Twitter and the HeldenFiles Online blog. You can contact him 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.