Decoding Steve Jobs, in Life and on Film

8 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Decoding Steve Jobs, in Life and on Film.

That’s the underlying question that emerged in a new documentary released over the weekend by Alex Gibney in “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.” It is also a question that lies beneath the surface of the coming biopic by Aaron Sorkin, “Steve Jobs,” which had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend and will open on Oct. 9. NEW YORK • A weekend screening of Steve Jobs, a biopic of the Apple co-founder, drew high praise from some reviewers and suggestions that actor Michael Fassbender could be an Oscar contender for his portrayal of Jobs.

Steve Jobs was a complicated leader: brilliantly creative and obsessive about details yet so maniacal that he could make his colleagues cry and, yes, he created his own truth at times. (That’s the polite way of putting it.) Mr. Kate Winslet, who stars as Jobs’ confidante and work associate, thoroughly impressed Wozniak – he said he thinks she’s the movie’s best contender for the film industry’s highest awards. Festival-goers lined up hours early and ultimately filled the Palm Theater to capacity to see the British filmmaker and the third film that he has unveiled here in the Rockies — particularly in light of the fact that the previous two, 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire and 2010’s 127 Hours, both wound up with best picture Oscar noms (and Slumdog won).

Gibney, who directed the recent HBO documentary “Going Clear” about Scientology, explained what appeared to be his rationale for pursuing a documentary about Jobs in a voice-over at the beginning of the film. “When Steve Jobs died, I was mystified,” Mr. The website said Fassbender, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin gave Jobs “the brilliant, maddening, ingeniously designed and monstrously self-aggrandising movie he deserves”.

Gibney said, as he showed images of people all over the world mourning his loss. “What accounted for the grief of millions of people who didn’t know him? It described the movie as a “terrific actors’ showcase and an incorrigibly entertaining ride that looks set to be one of the fall’s early must-see attractions”. His introduction came right after a 30-minute reel of highlights of his work — composed of scenes from Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Millions (2004), Trance (2013) and, of course, Slumdog and 127 Hours. I’d seen it with John Lennon and Martin Luther King, but Steve Jobs wasn’t a singer or a civil rights leader.” He added: “The grief for Jobs seemed to go beyond the products he left behind.

At the outset of a Q&A about his career moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, Boyle cracked that he rather likes Steve Jobs’ approach of not acknowledging the past — but that he would happily make an exception on this evening to discuss his films. Critical reception at Telluride was so positive that Fassbender is rumored to be a serious contender for this year’s Best Actor Oscar, according to Variety. Boyle tackled questions about the films that made him want to become a filmmaker (“Apocalypse Now was a huge inspiration”), his struggle to get anyone in the industry to take him seriously (he cited rejection letters from David Puttnam and Alan Parker), the use of music in his films, how he’s shot his films all around the world, how much he enjoys working with actors (and how his background in the theater taught him to work with them) and all sorts of other things.

Gibney, a talented and persuasive filmmaker, uses the next two hours to seemingly make the case that Jobs, the man, doesn’t deserve the iconic status he attained. But what people were most interested in hearing about was Steve Jobs, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted film (adapted from Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography) that has been in the news ever since its planning stages, details of which were revealed in private communications that were made public through the Sony hack. “It’s so different from the stuff I’ve done before,” Boyle said, noting that the dramedy, which was shot in San Francisco, has none of the quick cuts and energizing music with which he is largely associated.

First they play at Telluride, a small gathering of industry elite, critics and fans, and then immediately go to the Toronto International Film Festival. Calling the film “the biggest opportunity and challenge of my career so far,” he deflected most of the credit to others — to Sorkin (for his immense research and capturing, in 200 pages, “the sound of [Jobs’] mind, with all its wonders and all its horrors”); to its cast (“It has some of the best acting in it I’ve ever seen”); and to the people whose lives are featured in the film, all of whom are still living, except for Jobs. Gibney goes through a laundry list of Jobs’s sins: backdated stock options, factory conditions in China and secret agreements with Silicon Valley rivals to prevent employee-poaching. And the acting is all first-rate — Fassbender obviously gets and seizes plenty of moments to shine, and Winslet and Rogen also have standout scenes opposite him.

For one, most people by now pretty much know Jobs’ story: his adoption; the early Apple days in a garage; his jerk-ish tendencies with family, friends and coworkers; his firing from and return to Apple; etc. (Sorkin, as always, finds interesting things to throw in there that are less familiar, but he tackled a very different sort of person with this film than with, say, The Social Network.) Additionally, Fassbender looks nothing like Jobs. Boyle forewarned that “It’s not really an impersonation film — it’s more of a gesture film,” but one can’t help but surmise that if Jobs had gone through life looking like Fassbender, he’d have been a much happier — if also less professionally productive — fellow. An e-mail crossfire between former Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin over the biopic was revealed from a hacking attack on the studio last year.

Indeed, one can only imagine what it must have been like for him to direct a film about a guy who, for better or worse, had an Apple where the rest of us have a heart. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces — no communication, adultery, divorce?” That history is worth remembering not to cast judgment on their huge accomplishments, but to remind us that they are human. (Whether Jobs does or does not deserve to be compared to King is a different question.) Sadly, it does appear that being flawed in one area may help in others. The Gibney doc will inevitably prompt discussions about anything that Steve Jobs didn’t get exactly right, even though the narrative film’s makers always have acknowledged that they took liberties with the historical record (just like the closing scene of Argo, for instance). At the moment, I would say that the film is on the bubble for picture, director, lead actor, supporting actor (for Rogen), supporting actress (for Winslet, who plays marketing exec Joanna Hoffman), adapted screenplay, cinematography (Alwin Kuchler) and music (Daniel Pemberton) noms — and that things could tip either way in each of those categories.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services, wrote on Twitter that he felt the Gibney film was “an inaccurate and meanspirited view of my friend. The bottom line is that it feels too early to make calls about this film with any degree of confidence — we first need to see what else is out there. It’s not a reflection of the Steve I knew.” In a fascinating interview last year with Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s famed designer and longtime friend of Jobs, recounted a telling story.

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