Monday, October 26, 2015
Steve Jobs (2015)
Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Written By: Aaron Sorkin, from the biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Main Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg
Click here to view the trailer
Note: This might be a long preface, so I thank you in advance for bearing with me. Five days from now (max) I will finish up a project that has taken me six years to complete - the watching of all 1001 of the Must See Movies Before You Die. I'm not going to get into a whole reflection of the project now, because I'm not done and I'll save my thoughts on the overall journey for when I've actually finished. However, with the project coming to a close, it has forced me to think about the future of this blog. This blog was only ever met as a personal, diary of sorts, for me to keep and reread, something would allow me to sit aside a little time with each of the 1001 movies to reflect, record my thoughts, etc. However, I gained a bit of a following. Sure, compared to other bloggers, it's a meager following, at best - but to me, the eighty-four people who follow this blog and the few of you who take the time to type comments and see what I rate films, means the world to me. Also, I do, for the most part, enjoy doing the blog. Sure, there are times when I just want to watch a movie and not be forced to have an opinion, let alone one that makes sense on paper - but all in all, I like putting down my thoughts on movies.
So what will happen to the blog once I'm finished with the final eight films? Well, this review will sort of be a glimpse (just a glimpse) into what will become of the blog. I'll outline my entire agenda for the exact intentions of my blog going forward, but to peel back the curtain just a bit, one thing you'll be getting going forward is random reviews. It's simple: If I see a film that I have a strong opinion on - either good or bad - and feel like I have something meaningful to say, then I'll write a review. Otherwise, I won't. Therefore, I may go months without writing a random review or there may be weeks where I write five or six. As far as the "random reviews" portion of this blog goes, that's the way I'm going to work it. Like I said, I have other ideas and I promise I'll put up a whole post dedicated specifically to outlining my ideas going forward and what I'd like the blog to become. Now then...this is review is sort of a bridge from what the blog has been, to what the blog will become...sort of a glimpse into...
Ruth and I decided, a few days ago, that in lieu of going out to the movies to see Steve Jobs, the new Danny Boyle film with early Oscar buzz, that we'd stay in and give yours truly the chance to knock off those final few movies that stand between me and 100% success on my journey. Anyway, one thing lead to another and a spur of the moment change of mind saw us heading out to the theater to see the movie about the computer visionary.
On a personal note, before getting into the meat & potatoes, there was something about the Steve Jobs trailer that just called to me. I somehow knew that when I saw this film that I'd like it, but since me and Ruth almost never go to the theaters, I knew it'd be a while before I got around to it. So, I decided to do the next best thing and head to the library to check out the Walter Isaacson biography of the same name. I don't get a whole lot of time to read, usually leaving a book in my locker at work and using it to help me pass the time during my lunch hour and the thirty or so minutes of time that needs killing before I punch in, in the morning. If I clear thirty pages a day, I'm lucky - as people waft in and out of our lunch room at work, not to mention the music that's filtered in from above; needless to say, there are distractions aplenty. Before heading out to see the film tonight, I had checked into GoodReads, on page 211 of the biography - up to the part where Jobs and Apple CEO John Sculley had their falling out, with the board backing Sculley over the overbearing, tyrannical Apple founder. When I got to the part in the FILM, just beyond this, I had about a two minute window where I really regretted coming to see the film before finishing the biography. My thoughts being, during that two minutes, that I'd have appreciated everything that was to follow more, if I'd been able to draw parallels between the two mediums and compare & contrast. I quickly realized my thinking was wrong.
In fact, I think I did just right, reading a third of the book and then going to see the movie where two thirds of what I'd be watching on the humongous screen would be new to me. It gave me the chance to see the film from both sides of the spectrum - as someone who had read the book (for the first third) and as someone who had nothing to reference. Don't you hate those douche bags who go to see a film that they've read the book to and proceed by telling you all the differences and "what they got right"? I do. I only got that small, 1/3 window to be that douche bag and I'm sure my wife will vouch for my douche baggery, as we sat down to dinner and I became what I hate - "you know how they talked about having to have special tools to open the Macintosh? That was true!". Aye aye aye...
Anyway, during that first third, I got to realize that they were hitting the nail right on the head, as the filmmaker's proceeded to throw in, what seemed like a hundred little, intricate details that was tantamount to two handfuls of nods & winks to those who knew the real story: the TIME magazine hubbub, the tidbit about the special tools to open the Macintosh, the quote from Hertzfeld comparing Jobs to God and the creation of the universe, the "reality distortion field" talk, etc, etc, etc. Then, turn the coin and I got to experience the rest of the film as someone who was being told the story for the first time. I don't know about you, but I - and probably subconsciously - look at a film in a different light once I've read the source material. I'm a movie guy at heart, but I've rarely read a book, watched the adaptation and liked the film more. With Steve Jobs, because I hadn't read all of the bio, it gave me a chance to not be so uptight about inaccuracies and just sit back and enjoy myself, comforted by the fact that the source material was being handled with care.
Are we all aware how much of an artist Danny Boyle is? He's fast becoming one of my favorite directors and even though The Beach was a steaming dog turd, the merits of Trainspotting and 127 Hours alone are enough to get him a "free pass for life". He seems to have a clear vision of just what he wants and it's usually a vision that couldn't be imagined by another mind. His films always make me think in a different way about the story he's telling me and his passion for each and every one of his projects is always projected onscreen. I loved how this film spliced in snippets of newsreel footage and at one point, even a quick clip from The Simpsons (a jab at Apple's big failure in Jobs' absence - The Newton). It reminded me of the erratic editing choices we were treated to in 127 Hours and yes, I'm using erratic as a positive there. Add Steve Jobs to the list with 127 Hours & Trainspotting and that trifecta is enough to make me look forward to any Danny Boyle film that comes down the pike from here until the end of his career - which hopefully isn't anytime soon. While I'm praising members of the cast & crew, I guess there's no use delaying the inevitable - Michael Fassbender is marvelous here. In fact, Fassbender is so good here, that unlike Boyle he doesn't need three films to make me look forward to all of his future projects, he only needed one - this one. I'm lousy at predicting what "the Academy" will think or who they'll want to send their golden man home with, but yeah, I think Fassbender should be considered for any award that is even discussing "Male in a lead role". He's in nearly every scene and he nails it. Except...one thing...
Does he really capture the essence of Jobs? In reading the first 200 pages, I got a sense that Steve Jobs was much more harsh than this. The Jobs I was reading about wouldn't be joking with Joanna Hoffman (Winslet) minutes prior to the launch of the Macintosh - he'd be berating someone or being ultra compulsive about one last, minor detail. He'd be pacing or crying somewhere in a corner. Actually, speaking of crying, it surprised me that the filmmaker's didn't use Jobs' real like knack for being emotionally open, having Fassbender shed a few tears at opportune times. According to the biography, Jobs' himself would often breakdown in a fit of water works. I don't know - perhaps I misconceived Jobs' from the book alone. Perhaps Fassbender hits it right on the money. Plus, I'm nowhere near done, so perhaps there's still a human side to be unveiled. However, based solely on what I saw onscreen - yes, give Fassbender truckloads of awards! Oh and may I mention one more thing about the cast? I think - no, I know - I'm pretty fed up with this fad of hiring the Apatow actors in serious roles? Must this continue? Are we kidding ourselves that Jonah Hill deserves to be in a Martin Scorsese movie, let alone a Quentin Tarantino and a Coen Brothers movie!? Hey, I like Seth Rogen too - but there's a time and a place for him and Steve Jobs wasn't it - but hey, he has a beard and so does Wozniak, so I guess he was a lock - I don't know...I'd also like to mention Michael Stuhlbarg, whom I expect to get forgotten by other reviewers. The key scene to watch out for him in, is his meeting with Jobs during the third of the film that deals with the iMac launch - a sad scene where both Michael's bring it and probably a great chance for Michael F. to break out the crying that I mentioned.
The film is a little exhausting to be honest - in a good way. And really, reading about the real Steve Jobs and how exhausting his personality could be, it was only fitting that the film be just as draining. What Rocky was physically, this film was emotionally. The verbal showdown between Fassbender and Jeff Daniels (playing former Pepsi CEO and one time Apple CEO, John Sculley) is wonderfully edited, jumping back and forth between the face to face argument and the event that they are arguing about - Jobs' ousting as Apple chairman. It's highlighted by a rousing score that only intensifies the scene - a scene made great by the outpouring from from both Fassbender and Daniels. When the scene ends and the music stops, it's as if we, the audience, need to take a big deep breath - as if we've just been drowning in the emotional outpouring radiating out of the screen. Another key "fight" scene would come later, near the end of the picture, during the final third of the film and involved Jobs and Wozniak - arguing over Jobs' failure to even mention the Apple II team at the launch of Jobs' latest invention - the iMac. See, I like Seth Rogen as much as the next guy, but, at least in my eyes, he'll have a hard time washing off the stink of his lesser roles.
The film is split into three parts - all taking place during the launch of three key products in the history of Steve Jobs, the inventor's, life: the Macintosh, the NEXT computer and the iMac. Honestly, it is the opinion of this reviewer, that if Steve Jobs is successful, you could, hypothetically, make a sequel. However, this time around, you make a conventional biopic. Because this, ladies and gentleman, is not your conventional biopic. It's a dialogue driven piece, a wink and a nod to the people who knew Jobs or even knew his story, a character study more than a cut & paste "he was born, all this stuff happened, then he died" movie. If Danny Boyle were to be so ambitious with his loyalty to the Steve Jobs story, he could - again, hypothetically - make a companion piece to this Steve Jobs and just tell the story, from A to B to C. It's not likely and may not even be a good idea, simply a thought. However, even mentioning the words "Danny Boyle" and "conventional" in the same sentence is already making me think that thought may be scrappable.
I think I've eaten up enough of your time, especially considering I'm an amateur movie reviewer and you could just as easily be reading Peter Travers or whoever. Call it a win for Danny Boyle, Michael Fassbender and Steve Jobs. While it may not be the ideal movie to require the "cinema experience", I'm glad I trekked out tonight to see it. It's rare that I find a modern film so intriguing that I find it necessary to make that special, $30 trip to the theater (man's gotta have popcorn and actually, it was closer to $40). I'm a man who knows what he likes and simply watching the Steve Jobs trailer and reading a little bit of his story was enough to make me pretty sure I'd like this film. I wasn't wrong. If you love strong dialogue pieces, actor's busting their ass to make sure you're sucked in and a viewpoint of history that differs from your own, then you must see this film. It's not without flaws - while Fassbender was putting on a clinic up there, I'm not entirely convinced he nailed the essence of Jobs, someone who seemed more inhuman than human and while I admire the unconventional structure of Steve Jobs, the little traditionalist inside me may have preferred a more textbook biopic. Otherwise, the filmmaker's, cast & crew here were definitely A players, who put out an A product.
RATING: 8/10 That has to be a contender for longest review I've ever written right? I hope I said something in there worthwhile and actually helped SOMEONE make up their mind as to whether or not they wanted to see this movie.
October 26, 2015 9:56pm
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