Monday, August 26, 2013


Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as the enigmatic Apple co-founder, has been getting a lot of negative critical reaction. The film may not be a Hollywood blockbuster with explosions and comic book heroes, like many other of this summer's film offerings, but it isn't a slanted pseudo-hagiography, either. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Neverwas, Swing Vote), Jobs is more a collage of scenes from the life of Steve Jobs. Kutcher does a pretty good job of looking and sounding and walking like his subject. Where the film falters is in its cut-and-paste approach to Jobs's life and career trajectory. There is a lot of time spent on his interoffice and personal bad behavior — the viewer walks away with the impression that Jobs was a dick - a brilliant dick, but nonetheless, a real dick to be around, whether at work or at home. And then, he gets fired from Apple and flash forward, he's not such a dick anymore.

Ashton Kutcher (top) and his doppelgänger, Steve Jobs, below
It's probably impossible to compress the life of someone like Jobs, or the beginnings of a company like Apple, into a two-hour film. It would have probably been better to make a mini-series. Notably missing are scenes depicting what led to Jobs's triumphant return to Apple in 1996 — his founding of NeXT Computer (which provided the OS X platform for the next wave of Apple computers) and Pixar, which revolutionized the film industry.
"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. 
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together."
Although a film like Jobs can only really skim the surface of someone who has made such an impact on modern technology and the way we live today, it does manage to highlight some interesting aspects of Jobs's life. From his time at Reed College in the early 1970s he was driven, but not to follow a traditional path — he dropped out of school and chose to audit classes.

"... After six months, I couldn't see the value in it [attending Reed College]. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
... If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. ...If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do."
He brought his original way of thinking to his job at Atari, but couldn't really mesh with the other employees. Jobs was an idea man, a true visionary, but lacked empathy. Although there are too many scenes devoted to the early days of Apple, centered around work cubicles, Josh Gad does a great job portraying Woz, Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple I computer and the co-founder of Apple with Steve.

The Steves, Wozniak and Jobs
"Welcome to Apple Computer."
Jobs ends with Steve Jobs introducing the iPod. There isn't a person in the audience, Apple groupie or not, who will feel that is not too abrupt a place to stop telling the story. Photographed by Russell Carpenter (and for a few scenes shot in India, Aseem Bajaj), Jobs is a good-looking film. The camera gets in close, trying to get inside Jobs's head. It may not completely succeed, but it does leave the viewer wanting to know more about the man.
"Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. 
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
Quotes from Stanford University Commencement address, delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005
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