Saying that the internet can be a negative place sometimes is a bit of an understatement. And in that vein, if you look at the landscape of some of the biggest movie-related YouTube channels — Red Letter Media, Honest Trailers, Cinema Sins, How It Should Have Ended, Your Movie Sucks — a certain pattern begins to emerge.
It seems that we, as an audience, seem to delight in a confirmation that the movies we watch are bad. And while there's nothing wrong with criticism — some movies are just not very good — there is another way to approach discussing film. And that's where Movies with Mikey, one of my favorite YouTube shows on the internet, comes in.
Instead of taking the approach that films are inherently nothing more than a collection of plot mistakes and flaws to nitpick over, Movies with Mikey aims to celebrate cinema by showcasing the best parts of each film, highlighting the overarching themes and individual moments that make movies special. Part of the Chainsawsuit Original channel, the series is written, produced, and edited solely by the titular Mikey Neumann in his spare time. Neumann, who by day is the the chief creative champion for Gearbox Software, cites his experience cutting trailers for things like Borderlands and Battleborn as integral to his success at the show. Each episode ranges between 10 and 20 minutes long, but always serves as unique mix of movie trivia and analysis that’s just a joy to watch.
In an interview with The Verge, Neumann described his motivation as stemming from that fact that he wants to highlight the positive. "I want more joy out in the world. I want people to feel good about the things they like, as opposed to feeling attacked all the time." It's a problem that Neumann sees as being specific to the way we view movies culturally. "Nobody makes a web show that's like, ‘Here's the shittiest three things about Mondrian,'" he says, referencing the Dutch painter. "Nobody's deconstructing and destroying things like the internet destroys film."
So Movies with Mikey takes a different perspective. No matter the film, Neumann shines a light showing off the things that make it great. Whether it's a critically acclaimed hit like Mad Max: Fury Road, or a more minor cult classic like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Movies with Mikey finds something positive and interesting to say about it. Neumann reframes things like the criticism of Max’s lack of agency in Fury Road, arguing that the character’s choice to go along with Furiosa doesn’t serve to minimize his role in the overall series, but rather expands it as Max is choosing to assist another simply because it is the right thing to do. Of course, Movies with Mikey's sunny outlook brings additional challenges: Neumann notes that he "did realize pretty quickly that doing comedy and positivity can be a challenge — to be funny while celebrating someone else's art." But so far, it's a balance that Neumann seems to have been able to successfully reach in the two-plus years he's been making the show.
But a positive viewpoint isn't the only thing that makes Movies with Mikey special. It's the deep, constructive dive into film that has become the show's signature style that makes it stand out. Neumann's goal is to say something new about each movie he covers, no matter how popular or analyzed that movie is. His video on The Force Awakens recasts the conflict in the movie between the Light and Dark sides of the Force as being rooted in the power of love, while his take on John Wick considers the entire film from a mythological viewpoint based on comments from one of its producers. Or take his most recent episode, a deep dive into the big-screen Firefly spinoff Serenity, where Neumann postulates that the reason audiences loved the show was because the crew of the Serenity always loses.
The combination of Neumann's own humor, upbeat outlook, and deep insights work together to create something magical. Barring a miracle, Neumann’s show is likely never going to be a YouTube juggernaut in the way that some of the other major channels are. He’s a little too late to the game; his publishing schedule is too erratic; and he insists on maintaining a positive outlook, refusing to play into the expected norm of letting viewers feel superior to their entertainment by belittling it. But Movies with Mikey’s defiant peddling of hope is still growing against all odds. It’s by no means the most-watched movie channel on YouTube — Cinema Sins, for example, has over 6 million subscribers to Chainsawsuit’s 37,278 — but Neumann’s show is more popular than ever, and the recent episode on John Wick had the fastest growth rate of any of his videos to date.
And as for Mikey himself? He has no intention of slowing down. "I want to make it for as long as it makes people more joyful and happier in their sort of day to day."