370. In Conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool (PART 1: Life in Liverpool / Interest in Film Analysis)

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Rob Ager from Liverpool, who is probably best known for his film analysis videos on YouTube in which he discusses classic Hollywood thrillers, sci-fi and action movies in quite astonishing levels of detail, often focusing on deep psychological and political themes and hidden messages that most viewers probably wouldn’t even notice. His videos are carefully constructed documentaries, made for educational purposes and all of them feature a voice-over commentary by Rob in which he analyses the film and gives his observations.

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Click here to visit Rob Ager’s website collatedlearning.com

I think I first came across Rob’s work on YouTube about 5 or 6 years ago. Sometimes I start watching YouTube and I get sucked into a kind of YouTube worm hole. That’s where you start watching one video, and that leads you to watch another one and then another one and eventually you find yourself watching something really fascinating and unexpected and that you wouldn’t normally have come across. I think that’s what happened with Rob’s videos. I think I first came across a short documentary he made about a horror movie called The Thing by John Carpenter, which is one of my favourite films. It’s really scary, tense and well directed, and it has a terrifying monster in it. Also it has a complicated story line which creates an eerie sense of paranoia that invites the viewer to speculate on who is or who isn’t a monster. It was really interesting to listen to Rob talking about The Thing in so much detail and it made me think about the movie in ways that I hadn’t considered before.

Then after that I kept noticing other videos by Rob and I would always watch them with interest. He has videos about The Matrix, Star Wars, The Shining, Alien and more.

Sometimes I find his comments to be a bit too specific, like he is perhaps over-analysing the films, but then again I think this is what’s great about movies – that everyone can interpret them in any way they want – and that a film might mean one thing to you, but mean a completely different thing to someone else. Even the director of the film might have a very specific message in the movie, that most of us don’t even notice. I think most modern film makers understand these ideas and they often leave their movies open to interpretation. Think, for example about the ending of Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio – what does it really mean? We’re supposed to imagine and discuss our own interpretations of it, and I think it’s one of the strengths of the film and one of the reasons it is so popular. Everyone can leave the movie with their own theory on what it was about and what had happened at the end. Rob Ager takes this principle – that there are multiple readings of a movie – and really runs with it in his documentaries, suggesting that many of these great films that we love could in fact be about political events in the real world, our deep desires and psychological motivations or even about hidden power structures.

Another interesting thing for me is that Rob comes from Liverpool. He’s a scouser (that’s the word for people who come from Liverpool) and he speaks with a scouse accent, which really reminds me of the people I used to meet, talk to and work with when I lived in Liverpool years ago. The Liverpool accent is really distinctive, and I always want to feature different British accents on this podcast, so on this one you’ve got the chance to get used to listening to a scouse accent, or Liverpool accent.

Also, I think Liverpool is a fascinating city and not enough people know about it. Most people know The Beatles or Liverpool and Everton football clubs, but there’s more to Liverpool than that. I’m hoping that Rob will tell me a few things about what it’s really like to live and grow up in this important English city.

His website – CollativeLearning.com reveals all sorts of interesting things – like that fact that Rob is a filmmaker himself and he is very prolific with his analysis videos. He has loads of documentaries which you can download from the website. What becomes clear after reading and watching his work is that Rob is a very observant and articulate person with a great interest in film, but he is also knowledgeable about a wide range of academic theories and he incorporates ideas from psychology, sociology and philosophy in his film analysis. All of that reminds me a lot of the things I read and wrote about while doing my Media & Cultural Studies degree at university in Liverpool. What’s also notable about Rob though is that he has received no formal academic education or training in all of these subjects – he’s completely self-educated.

I’ve never spoken to Rob before, and I’m recording this introduction before our interview, which is due to start in just a few moments. I’ve got no idea how the conversation will go or what directions our conversation will take but I really hope it’s an insightful and engaging listening experience and that Rob and I get on with each other. I suggest that you listen out for differences between my standard Southern British RP accent and Rob’s accent, and let’s see what kind of vocabulary emerges from our talk.

Alright, it’s time to speak to Rob now. So, here we go.

*Conversations starts (after I remembered to press ‘record’ on my device)*

Links & Videos

Rob’s website www.collativelearning.com

Some interesting videos from Rob’s YouTube channel

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  • alexmillenium

    Dear Luke,
    The link to the Rob’s site on the top of the page is wrong. The one below is right.
    Thank you!

  • Catherine Bear

    Dear Luke,

    Thank you for inviting Rob to the podcast.

    Rob is an open-minded and smart person. I liked his critical notes on some scientists and journalists who pretend to be intelligent using complicated language.

    Also I was impressed by his retaining of his Scouse (or Liverpool) accent, even though he was living in another countries. It shows that he is very proud of his origins and his identity.

    Liverpool seems to be quite a special place. I would love to visit Liverpool one day and learn the people and the culture there. :)

    Cat

    • It’s a cracking place Liverpool, although it’s pretty rough in some areas, as Rob says in this episode.
      The people are hilarious though – if you can understand them!
      Here’s an old video of some scousers telling jokes and stories
      www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TJJi1ATtLE

      • P.s. Don’t worry if you don’t understand these scousers in the video linked in my comment, ok? Their accents are REALLY strong. Plenty of native speakers wouldn’t understand them – e.g. a lot of Americans who have never heard scouse accents would find it hard to understand the video.

  • Olga Litvinchuk

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!^^ I will have a very interesting and really good morning. I know it ^^