The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree: “Steve Jobs,” “The Last Witch Hunter …

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Steve Jobs’ movie review: Michael Fassbender fascinates in less-than-flattering biopic.

I once had the pleasure of visiting the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at her home in Massachusetts. LOS ANGELES—“I studied Ashton Kutcher,” Michael Fassbender playfully answered when asked how he prepared to play the title role in the gripping “Steve Jobs.” In an especially good mood and joking disposition at the Mandarin Oriental New York, Michael was a contrast from the serious roles he’s been playing lately, from “Steve Jobs” to “Macbeth.” Physically, the 38-year-old actor may not resemble Jobs onscreen but with his terrific acting skills, he is the late computer visionary in Danny Boyle’s excellent film.Elsewhere, there’s little pre-Halloween love for ‘Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension’ and ‘The Last Witch Hunter,’ while ‘Jem and the Holograms’ and Bill Murray’s ‘Rock the Kasbah’ are total wipe outs.Firstly, he’s always scared of new projects, he told Mashable in a plush suite at London’s Claridges hotel ahead of the London Film Festival premiere Sunday. In a surprise pre-Halloween twist, Ridley Scott’s The Martian and family entry Goosebumps are in a close race for No. 1 despite a glut of new offerings, including the nationwide expansion of Steve Jobs.

Same goes for its creator, or at least the dramatic-fiction version of him in “Steve Jobs.” The biopic depicts the Apple Inc. co-founder as a visionary, a philosopher, an artist, an innovator and a seven-letter “a”-word that I can’t print here. “The very nature of people is something to be overcome,” Jobs says, as damning a statement as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, using author Walter Isaacson’s biography as a springboard, can put in his mouth. Secondly, he chose to boldly ditch the traditional “cradle to grave” biopic format for a completely different approach, basing the film around three real-life product launches and adding in imagined, behind-the-curtain scenes with various people from Jobs’ world. “Would there be people in the audience who would misunderstand the movie, take it literally?” he asks. “In other words, were there people who’d believe that Steve had confrontations with the same five people in the 40 minutes before every product launch?” Thirdly, though, and perhaps most importantly, he was intimidated because he was taking on a man, and a company, that has achieved almost mythical status in the eyes of consumers across the globe. “People have a real emotional connection, good or bad, toward him, his company and his products,” Sorkin says, leaning back in his sumptuous armchair. “There are people who love them.

And these lines, brilliantly delivered by Michael and his uniformly outstanding costars—Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg—help make “Steve Jobs” one of the best films of the year. Projections show The Martian — which won the Friday race with $4.4 million — and Goosebumps grossing the $14 million-$15 million range for the weekend. Buried deep in Michael Fassbender’s fascinating portrayal of Jobs is a sense of self-loathing coexisting with the man’s tyrannical egotism, although his psychological hangups – most notably, a feeling of insurmountable rejection tied to his being given up for adoption as a newborn – aren’t used as an easy excuse or explanation. We saw the outpouring of mourning and eulogising that happened after his death.” “When I began doing this, I would go to tech websites and fan sites, and places like Mashable, and virtual fist fights would break out between Apple people and non-Apple people.

Michael, whose credits include “12 Years a Slave,” “Shame” and the “X-Men” movies (he plays Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr), admitted that he’s a “slow learner,” so we can imagine the intense preparation he put in since he has lines in every page of Aaron’s screenplay. The assumptions that were made about people’s personalities because of what kind of phone they had, they were at the same level of intensity and passion as fans of rival sports teams.” “I don’t know, because I’m not one of those people, but here’s my guess,” Sorkin answers, pulling out an iPhone to turn between his hands and demonstrate. “Somehow, his understanding — to use just one example — that if your rectangles have rounded corners, that if you make a product in a certain way, that if you live at the intersection of art and technology, people will have an emotional attachment to their machines and devices. “They’re going to love their iPod they’re going to love their laptop. Rather than follow the conventional blueprint of the Great Man biopic, the Oscar-winning screenwriter (The Social Network) eschewed huge portions of Jobs’ history and built a narrative that views his life through the prism of three monumental product launches, set in 1984, 1988, and 1998. He condescends to his Apple partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the engineer/programmer yin to Jobs’ idea-man yang; in a moment designed solely to elicit a painful cringe, Jobs refers to Wozniak as “Rain Man.” Jobs routinely pushes around Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, initially unrecognizable in big glasses and brunette wig), and you wouldn’t know by the way he treats her that she isn’t his handler and lickspittle, but rather Apple’s marketing head.

At one point, David Fincher was poised to reunite with Sorkin and direct, but when he dropped out, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) stepped up and embraced the concept. “For the most part, this structure works,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his B review. “Each chapter symbolizes a critical crossroads in Jobs’ career. But as I’ve reflected on her vast library of Lincoln histories, I’ve wondered whether society might benefit if authors, filmmakers and the public paid as much attention to the history being made by business leaders.

Hopes were high for Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender as the iconic innovator, but the Universal film may gross $7.2 million from 2,493 theaters as it rolls out everywhere following a limited release in select theaters over the past two weekends. Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), a key Apple computer scientist, misses a three-week deadline handed down by Jobs, and the exchange is as follows: It gets worse – worse than Jobs’ combative confabs with his father figure, Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), which are edited furiously, like action sequences, verbal swordplay with dodges, parries and stabbings in the heart. It worked on a huge segment of the population.” Sorkin admits that he doesn’t actually remember any of the product launches that provide the structure to the film -– the 1984 Macintosh launch, the unveiling of the NeXT box in 1988, or the iMac in 1998. “In fact, until I started working on the movie I didn’t realise that these products had launches that were like movie premieres,” he says.

And Boyle, who’s always been one of our most playful visual stylists, shoots each section using different film stocks (16mm, 35mm, and digital) to subliminally reboot the audience’s expectations. Jobs argues the paternity of his daughter Lisa with cold rationale and public insults – a famously awful quote in Time magazine – directed at her mother, Chrisann (Katherine Waterston).

Every section crackles with exquisite rat-a-tat dialogue (Sorkin has no peer in this regard, with the possible exception of Preston Sturges 70 years ago)…” Mastering that rat-a-tat is Michael Fassbender, who stepped into the giant role only after Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale backed away — reportedly under pressure from Jobs’ partisans — but he makes the producers look smart. She struggles to raise the kid while Jobs sits on a stock portfolio worth $440 million, and it isn’t until young Lisa plays with his inevitable financial failure, the original Macintosh computer, that he agrees to give them more than the pittance ordered by a judge. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking that tackles the issue of how and why, exactly, Jobs left Apple in 1985 and is partially based on notes Sculley sent Sorkin during his research. “He sent me a fantastic, comprehensive document,” Sorkin says. “If you were in the White House press corps, you’d call it a tick tock of that night, the night of the unsuccessful coup, the night that he almost flew to China but got the phone call saying ‘If you get on that plane you will not have your job when you land’, all of that. “It was fascinating, and I knew I wanted to dramatise it.

He volleys and tangles with Kate Winslet, who plays his right-hand, Joanna Hoffman; Seth Rogen, the brilliant mensch Steve Wozniak; Jeff Daniels, his mentor and rival John Scully; and Michael Stuhlbarg, one of Jobs’ most essential whipping boys, Andy Herzfeld. Jobs was a once-in-a-generation business leader, and while one can applaud or criticize his portrayal in the new Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle film, or the recent Alex Gibney documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” or the other releases that preceded them, in my view it’s a positive thing for the public to be considering his legacy. In terms of other movies written by Sorkin, Moneyball opened to $19.5 million in late September 2011, while The Social Network debuted to $22.4 million. I’m not talking about an autobiography or memoir, such as Andy Grove’s “Only the Paranoid Survive” (one of my favorites), but a truly objective, deeply reported work that counts as legitimate history. Sorkin’s talktalktalk is audacious in the speed with which it demands exposition be recited, entertaining in its punchlines, rife with both detail and big-idea truisms and vexatious to those yearning for realism.

Apple and some Jobs loyalists — especially his wife, Laurene — have expressed their disapproval of the film. (Jobs’ widow recently called it “fiction.”) The filmmakers concede that they’ve stretched the facts to get at some greater truth. Beneath it lie ruminations on the artist and the corporation, genius and commonality, the human struggle to balance intuition with intellect, passion with reason. When the Macintosh came out, everyone was like, “Oh well, this is a toy and I can’t use it in the office.” So his vision was basically to take away the idea that these machines were just perfunctory and that we actually form relationships with them. The movie, starring Diesel as an immortal witch hunter who attempts to stop a plague from destroying New York City, is on course to gross $9 million-$10 million from 3,082 theaters for a fourth-place finish. If that happens as a by-product, of course it’s a nice thing — but you can’t write for that reason.” Woz, Sculley, Mac development team member Andy Hertzfeld and Apple comms expert Andy Cunningham have all reacted positively to the movie, Sorkin says, “in contrast to Tim Cook, [his widow] Laurene Jobs and Jony Ive, who haven’t -– but neither have they seen the movie.

And again, I wish they’d reserve judgement.” Cook actually went so far as to call the film “opportunistic,” prompting Sorkin to insist “nobody did this movie to get rich” and add, “If you’ve got a factory full of children in China assembling phones for 17 cents an hour, you’ve got a lot of nerve calling someone else opportunistic.” Sorkin has since apologised, but told us he hasn’t heard from Cook since –- glancing towards the dictaphone as he says it. A terrific display of ensemble acting unfolds as Jobs prepares backstage, and the aforementioned key characters return for each act, cycling in and out of his presence, arguing for acknowledgement, trying to meet his exacting demands or reminding him that he’s not just a remarkable businessman, but also a terrible friend and father. That wouldn’t have been a bad result, since the horror film is only playing in 1,656 theaters, compared to nearly 3,000 locations for the last Paranormal Activity film. Most observers attribute a chief executive’s short-term orientation to the pressures of capital markets or the lure of market-based incentive compensation, and I agree these are powerful forces.

It’s an idea as old as the hills – that people are more important than work, even though that work sometimes changes the way we interact with the world. Not a spoiler: Jobs’ years-long struggle to execute his vision has a happy ending, especially obvious if you’re reading this review on an iPhone, Macbook or iPad. Edgar Hoover’s cross dressing.” It was a “dream job,” he says, but he had to pass. “I was very uncomfortable with putting the words into the mouths of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, people like that. I believe the outside world’s limited interest in making long-term evaluations of business leaders’ legacies is one factor that leads them to prioritize the here and now over the long term.

When she bails, he comes across a young singer (Leem Lubany) who could be the biggest discovery of his career, and arranges for her to appear on Afghan Star, the equivalent of American Idol. I just thought, that’s off limits for me, right now.” “You know how in a cartoon strip, whether it’s Peanuts or Doonesbury, all of the characters look different, but they’re plainly all drawn by the same person?” he says. “They’ve all got a distinctive nose, or feet that look like dinner rolls.

Unburdened by the distraction of spot-on impersonation and conventional Great Man milestones, Fassbender and his fascinating, often off-putting character steer clear of the dreaded biopic shallows to explore murkier psychological depths.” “What Sorkin and Boyle have to offer is not a warts-and-all portrait but the suggestion that there is something heroic about a wart. What would I ask him? “What did you do in your moments of doubt?” I don’t really know. “Who was the most impressive person that you met and worked with? Schaltz draws feet. “Once I was able to define that I was putting these events into the context of a writer’s conceit, and not a docudrama, not a dramatised Wikipedia page, I felt fine making [people like] Woz talk.” He’s the deftest superficial director alive.” “It’s interesting to imagine what Fincher, with his eagle eye for vanity and other human follies, might have made of Sorkin’s genially misanthropic script.

The live-action movie is projecting a $1.1 million weekend from 2,413 theaters — the worst opening of all time for a major studio release going out in 2,000 or more theaters. If there’s any solace, it’s that Universal spent $5 million to make the film, starring Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis. The movie argues that a big part of Jobs’ genius was his sense of showmanship, and that his enormous ego was both hindrance and boon: He simply refused to be wrong, even when he was.” History will be the ultimate judge of his administration’s decisions, he told CNN in 2013. “I’m just not going to be around to see the final verdict. It actually helps, like Shakespeare—the rhythm helps you understand the emotional journey, the objective or what is going on inside the character’s mind at the time.

Last year in my commencement address, I had planned to refer to Lee Iacocca, who wrote a best-selling memoir of the turnaround he led at Chrysler in the early 1980s. Most business schools offer few (if any) courses in business history. (Harvard Business School has such a course, but it’s an elective instead of a core requirement.) Today many of the brightest M.B.A.s may know little of Thomas Watson or even Andrew Carnegie. Against this backdrop, it’s only natural for business leaders to want to manage in a way that allows them to enjoy the fruits of their efforts during their time in the job — and to make decisions that cause the company to be successful now, while they’re leading it, instead of tomorrow, when hardly anyone will remember that they led it. But I worry that we’re too quick to forget the accomplishments of great business leaders, and that if the people leading companies felt some solace that their long-term legacies might warrant a more careful evaluation, as is now occurring around Steve Jobs, they might make very different decisions. When you are trying to drive a vision through and when you are working a lot, and for long hours, your patience levels tend to wane away—that’s from my personal experience.

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