With the commencement of awards season and The 90th Academy Awards creeping closer, you might find yourself hearing phrases like “mise-en-scène” and “neo-surrealism” a bit too often. Like most casual film goers these phrases go right over our head, so you nod silently as you pretend to agree with whatever statement was just made about the Coen Brothers’ new movie. But that ends now. With this guide to scholarly film jargon, you will easily morph into Roger Ebert himself.

Auteur finds its origins in the French language and mainly refers to the director’s personal vision. Thus, the director becomes the author of the film.

Just past the film’s climax you will find the denouement. This is the defining point of the film and usually of fers the audience a resolve. In other words, it is when the odd ball couple make up after a romantic declaration of love was made in the pouring rain.

Deus ex machina refers to an unrealistic and convenient plot device that creates quick and easy escapes for the hero in danger.

Diagesis are the elements found in the natural world of the narrative. The most obvious example is of course dialogue, but also think of Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene. All sounds and the deafening silences exists realistically, as there is no score or narration present.

Although leitmotif is actually a musical term, it is sometimes used in film theory to discuss a recurring theme within a film. A good example of this is Jaws’ menacing music that is indicative of the shark’s close proximity.

McGuffin is an object which serves merely as a trigger for the plot. Pulp Fiction’s infamous briefcase is a textbook example.

Mise-en-scène is another French term and it refers to the arrangement of the scene. It describes how a director employs everything from lighting to props in order to deliver a comprehensive understanding of the scene in a single shot.

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