Rob Ager (born 1973) is a British internet-based independent film director, self-help theorist and political activist who is best known for his analytic discussions of themes, hidden messages and other detailed stuff in mainstream films. His website, "Collative Learning", features many written analyses and video reviews of films like as well as non-movie related stuff, like hidden symbolism in the work of pop band The Prodigy. He became notable after he posted his videos on YouTube, where he attracted a large audience and attention from popular news media, which has seen both praise and criticism of his content. Some of his analyses are only available on his website (either written or with a video on order), while other stuff is available on YouTube.So far he has analyzed themes in films such as:
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
- An American Werewolf in London
- The Big Lebowski
- The Birds
- Blade Runner
- A Clockwork Orange
- Cape Fear
- Dr. Strangelove
- The Exorcist
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Flash Gordon
- Full Metal Jacket
- Halloween (1978)
- High Plains Drifter
- Mad Max
- The Master
- The Matrix
- Mulholland Dr.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- No Country for Old Men
- Pulp Fiction
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Reservoir Dogs
- RoboCop (1987)
- The Shining
- Starship Troopers
- Star Trek
- Taxi Driver
- The Terminator
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
- They Live
- The Thing (1982)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Warriors
Ager's interpretations of The Shining have received a great deal of popular media coverage, though Ager chose not to take part in the documentary film Room 237, citing that he wasn't impressed with the line of other interviewees. In response to his critics, Ager has referred to his viral video claiming that the sets of the Overlook Hotel were designed (deliberately in his opinion) to spatially disorientate the viewer. Ager notes that although screenwriter John August published a debunk of Ager's video on his blog, Ager's interpretation of the film was confirmed a year after he posted it when Jan Harlan, executive producer of The Shining, confirmed the impossible set designs were deliberate after all.
Ager's assertion that the monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey represents the cinema screen (tilted on its side to look like a doorway) has proved to be one of his most popular videos. Dan Leberg of Georgetown Univerity published a paper objecting that the theory was first espoused by Gerard Loughlin, though the article supplies no evidence that Ager had plagiarized Loughlin, being that Ager's video essay on the topic is more in depth than Loughlin's and provides further comment on how such interpretation impacts the rest of the movie as a whole. Jay Weidner has also claimed to be the originator of the monolith/screen interpretation. It may be that all three sources reached similar conclusions independently. Leberg also complained that Ager's video on the monolith was unduly influencing his own film students.
In another video, Ager asserted that IBM's Product Placement in 2001, and the inclusion of the dying HAL computer singing the song Daisy Bell (also sung by IBM's first talking computer) is proof that Stanley Kubrick intended a direct parallel between HAL and IBM. Kubrick and Clarke themselves said it was coincidence that HAL actually stood for IBM (to the point of it being made fun of in the book sequel). However, the IBM issue has continued to be controversial in that archived letters between Kubrick and IBM, since made public, reveal disputes between the parties. Biographer Vincent Lobrutto has claimed that IBM executives cautioned their employees against watching Kubrick's film, as they were unhappy with the final product.
An upcoming French documentary about the Mad Max series features Ager as an interviewee, billed alongside director George Miller and Noam Chomsky.
Ager's opinions and interpretations have been criticized by some as being a bit far-fetched or just planting Epileptic Trees, but have also received praise from the likes of AV Club, Time and Entertainment Weekly. His reviews are quite interesting and shed new light on films you may already know by heart, but Ager can also be very political in his output and occasionally veers toward conspiracy theory territory.
Rob Ager provides examples of:
- Audience Participation: He often changes or adapts earlier versions of his analyses, based on interesting suggestions or new information, sent in by readers and viewers.
- Call-Back and Continuity Nod: He notices several call-backs and continuity nods to earlier scenes in certain films. Or to other films by that same director.
- Censor Box: He censors nudity so that YouTube doesn't remove his videos.
- The Conspiracy:
- His videos often fuel these kinds of ideas and he made an entire video on how to make sense out of conspiracy theories. He even tells his viewers that they are free not to believe him.
- He frequently dismisses belief in the The Illuminati as nonsense, which also sets him apart from most conspiracy theorists.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Ager is probably better known as a movie analysist at the moment than for his own low-budget movies.
- Properly Paranoid: Some of his detractors dismiss Ager as being nothing more than a conspiracy theorist, though most of his videos do not feature conspiracy theory related content. Ager has published political campaign content separately from his film analysis videos, though inevitably his political views sometimes spill over into his film analysis content.
- Reference Overdosed: Ager uses a lot of sources and cites them by name, too.
- Scenery Porn: Ager's reviews make you appreciate the attention to details and backgrounds in films more.
- Small Name, Big Ego: A good third of his personal website is accusations of libel.
- Subliminal Seduction: He finds several examples of these. He also does this in his own movie projects.
- Take That, Critics!: He once made a video about Alien which was basically one gigantic "fuck you" aimed at all the people who claim a lot of his theories are far-fetched. All the stuff he mentioned in the video was tongue in cheek and ridiculously over the top.
- World of Symbolism: Or Faux Symbolism to some.