Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jobs & Steve Jobs

I am fresh off having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend so my gift to you is a special two-for-one entry today covering the two recent biopics done on Steve Jobs from Universal. Those films are 2013’s Jobs (trailer) and 2015’s much more uniquely titled Steve Jobs (trailer). I am well aware and a fan of the TNT original TV movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley (trailer) from 1998, but I already dug that movie out of my backlog a couple years before I started this blog. I vividly recall in 2011 it was only a week or two after I rewatched Silicon Valley when Steve Jobs suddenly passed away.

Steve Jobs already finished his autobiography, Jobs, before his death, but it released a few weeks later to rave success and a film adaptation quickly followed in 2013. I read and really enjoyed the biography as it goes pretty in depth about Jobs’ entire life and he has a ton of insight throughout it. A lot of people know of Jobs to be the man who founded Apple and responsible for the Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod and iPhone. The mammoth book covers a ton of his other endeavors, both successful and unsuccessful, and unfortunately for the film version of Jobs it walks that fine line of the two hour mark and just manages not to overstay its welcome, but with that length it is just simply not enough time to devote to everything Jobs accomplished.

A lot of time is dedicated to seeing Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) and Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) founding Apple right out of the Jobs family garage. The avid game player in me will give Jobs brownie points for being the only one of the three movies about him that covers his brief time at Atari where him and Wozniak helped design the arcade hit Breakout. The film hits the main bullet points of Jobs Apple career with Apple making it big with the release of the Apple II thanks to their first big investor, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), the friendship and betrayal of Apple CEO John Sculley (Matthew Bodine), the big Super Bowl ad reveal of the Macintosh and its failure in the marketplace that lead to the ousting of Jobs from Apple. The film skips about a decade just in time to see Jobs return to Apple and takeover the iMac project to huge success that leads to him becoming the CEO of Apple.

The film ends at that point and other than a quick wraparound at the beginning of the film, there is no time dedicated to Apple’s portable devices that made Apple the behemoth it is today. I understand and get that because at some point you got to find a good “now you know the rest of the story” moment to cut off at and that seemed absolutely perfect. I wish there could have been some actual verbal nod to Jobs founding Pixar and all the success he had there in his years off from Apple, but the film mostly sticks to his computer career. There is a couple of brief scenes of Jobs distancing himself away from his estranged daughter Lisa early on, and she is far less of a focus of the film here than in Steve Jobs.

Jobs does a decent job with the massive ground it has to cover. Ashton Kutcher does a pretty solid performance of Steve Jobs, and he is excellent doing the Steve Jobs freak out at overworked Apple employees, but he is simply outmatched by the excellent Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs. I have seen interviews with the real Steve Wozniak and I would say he is somewhere in between how the two films portray him. Josh Gad portrays him as the stereotypical computer geek and Seth Rogen portrays him as an alpha and one of Jobs’ few peers willing to stand up to him and call him out in front of his entire team. Rogen’s performance is far more entertaining than Gad’s and there was part of me that was gratified to see Rogen knock a serious role out of the park and it was nice to see him go one flick where his on screen character does not use drugs.

I remember not seeing a trailer when I reluctantly saw Steve Jobs at the theater last year and I went in expecting a redux of the biopic with more credible actors and the film trying to cover more ground on Jobs’ life and career since Jobs had a mixed reception. I could not have been more wrong and was blown away at the unique concept Steve Jobs went with for its format. Steve Jobs is separated into three parts with each part lasting about 35-40 minutes before Steve Jobs delivers a big press conference for three big product reveals in his life: the 1984 Mac debut, 1988 Next Black Cube debut, and the 1998 iMac debut. In those 35-40 minutes before Jobs hits the stage he is shown frantically moving about and getting ready for the show while interacting with six key figures from his life. Those figures are the aforementioned Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). Joining them are marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), top programmer Andy Hertzfield (Michael Stuhlbarg), his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and daughter Lisa (Makenzie Ross, Ripley Sobo, Perla Haney-Jardine).

The dialogue for this script is unbelievably well written. Every encounter Steve has with one of these figures is usually an intense verbal clash acted to perfection. It would feel awkward to describe Steve Jobs as a ‘total nonstop dialogue’ movie, but that is exactly what it is and I absolutely loved it. The film wisely sneaks in very brief periods to let you breathe and digest what you witnessed from time to time. Every key conversation Steve has circles around a big moment around his life previously detailed above. As much as I enjoyed this film, I could not help but think to myself as I watched it, “there is no way all these pivotal exchanges in Steve’s life happened just moments before these three big press conferences.” I came to find out later through production interviews and the commentaries on the BluRay that the film used creative license where it took real exchanges in Steve’s life with these six figures, but spliced them all together so they transpired conveniently before the big press day.

Both Jobs and Steve Jobs have a couple behind-the-scenes features and commentaries for their extra features on their respective BluRays. Jobs has a few brief EPK extras that serve more as extended trailers, a couple minutes of deleted scenes and a commentary with director Josh Stern. There is one really good deleted scene for Jobs that has a good moment with Steve and his daughter worth seeing. Stern has plenty of good facts and insight about the production, but he could have worked better in the booth with someone else to team up with.

Danny Boyle has the better solo director commentary for Steve Jobs, and he speaks just as fast as the dialogue moves in the film as he has tons of notes on the cast and production that he wants to squeeze in that made for a very informative and entertaining listen. There is a second commentary for Steve Jobs, this one with writer Aaron Sorkin and editor Elliot Graham. They have a remarkable discussion breaking down most of the intense dialogue scenes in the film and elucidate on their favorite lines and lines they regret cutting, but felt they had to. It got really into the nuts and bolts of the script writing process, but I was on board with them all the way. Sadly, both Steve Jobs commentaries reference a couple deleted scenes that they wish could have made the final film but presume we would be treated to them on the extras, but for whatever reason Universal decided to omit them on the BluRay. We do however have a far better Making of Steve Jobs behind-the-scenes special that is exponentially better than the EPKs on Jobs. The Making of is a thorough 44 minute piece interviewing the cast and crew on how this film was shot in its unique style and their thoughts on Steve Jobs himself.

If you made it this far it should come as no surprise that I easily prefer Steve Jobs over Jobs. If you got the time to devote to it, I would far more recommend the Jobs biography over the film. It is a decent Cliffs Notes version of his life to a certain point, and it would probably actually help benefit to watch it first before Steve Jobs to get familiar with a lot of the supporting players and key points it addresses so you do not miss a beat in the blitzkrieg of dialogue bliss that is Steve Jobs.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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