I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, “If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don’t, you won’t be able to understand your own explanation.” That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Yes. But if a work seems baffling yet remains intriguing, there may be a simple key to its mysteries.
Roger Ebert, “O, Synecdoche, my Synecdoche!” (November 10, 2008)
When I started really thinking about the movies I watched, Ebert was the one reviewer I read religiously. And when I started to write about movies (and music, books, TV shows, et cetera), Ebert’s was the style I tried to emulate most. His opinions sometimes baffled me but he didn’t write like a pompous twat and he didn’t write like a snot-rocket philistine. He could poetically, profoundly explain why The Tree Of Life isn’t pretentious nonsense and why The Rock is a transcendent blast.
In 1999 I emailed him a paragraph on how the flashing images of Tyler Durden early on in Fight Club occurred at key moments during the narrator’s subliminal creation of his alter ego. Ebert kindly emailed me back: “I think you’re right. Best, RE.” I didn’t shut up about that for weeks.