Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a 2015 American biographical drama film starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Jeff Daniels. The film features a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and was directed by Danny Boyle.Boyle is known for the films Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, and Sunshine. The film is based upon the biography of the same name by Walter Isaccson as well as interviews personally conducted by Sorkin.The film is separated into three acts, with each act beginning before the launch of a major Apple product: the Apple Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998.

I feel I must get this rant out of the way. As someone well-versed in technology with basic programming skills and an enjoyment of technological experimentation, I despise Apple products. They have polish and they look nice, but that’s it.They all run on closed systems, so no ability for any sort of experimentation or basic customization (they all look exactly the same, there is no room for anything creative, cool. or practical). The desktops are non-upgradable and non-modifiable (I’m currently running a custom built PC, FYI). iOS 10 is just now introducing features that Android has had for years now. All of their products are extremely overpriced given the hardware specifications. They are not the revolutionaries you think they are. I’m watching this film because I am interested in the talent in front of and behind the camera.

There’s no denying Steve Jobs was a very smart man who knew what he was doing. He knew marketing and was honestly a very good computer engineer. He was also a raging dick, by most accounts. Cult of Mac, a publication dedicated to all things Apple, in their review of Isaccson’s biography, said:

Walter Isaacson’s book is an unflinching biography of a manifestly great man. But it’s not a fun read. In fact, sometimes it’s a lot like being locked in a room with a borderline sociopath. Powering through Isaacson’s bio will give you unique insight into how Steve Jobs changed the world, but it’s not necessarily a comforting one.

Jobs was an adopted child, given up by his first family after one month before ending up in the care of the Jobs Family. He met a girl his senior year of high school, got her pregnant, and denied responsibility. This came back to bite him in 1984, when someone tells the press about Lisa. Jobs develops an algorithm that speculates that 28% of American men could be the father.

Yes, Steve Jobs is a dick. He is a brilliant, self-centered, narcissistic, egotistical, loving, distant, damaged, complicated man. To my surprise, the lack of customization featured in Apple’s products was a large part of this film. The product featured in the first section of the film, the Apple Macintosh, at Jobs’ insistence, unlike the extremely successful Apple II (not designed by Jobs), was built as a closed system, with end-to-end control.

When arguing with Wozniak in his garage, Jobs argued that all computers of Apple’s design would be closed system. Jobs says this is because he doesn’t want hackers and hobbyists messing around (keep in mind that is EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE), but in truth, it stemmed from Jobs’ need to control the things in his life.

Wozniak tries to tell his friend that computers aren’t art.Jobs’ response?

“F*%k you!”

Jobs predicted that the Macintosh would sell a million units in the first 90 days. It was expensive, a closed system, and it didn’t do anything special. So this happened.

The argument about the ad concerns Apple’s famed “1984” ad shown at that year’s Superbowl.

In 1985, Jobs founds Next, Inc. along with key people from Apple who left the company with him. In 1988, he holds a product launch for the Next Computer. The interesting thing about the Next Launch? The PC was not running an Operating System. Jobs knew Apple had stopped innovating, so he was going to wait until Apple showed their hand, and then build them exactly what they needed so he could win back his company. The Next launch was running off a tech demo developed by Avie Tevanian.

I heard a lot of people say “I am not a fan of Steve Jobs, but I love this movie.” This is a truly excellent and stylish film. Boyle is a great director. I could watch Michael Fassbender read those little “learn to read” children’s booklets and still be entertained. He is, without a doubt, one of the best actors of this generation. Kate Winslet gives a wonderful performance as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ friend, assistant, and confidant through the years. Seth Rogen is also great as Steve Wozniak, who praised the film.

Deadline was able to catch up with Woz.

When I caught up with him Wozniak told me that, unlike the Jobs  biopic with Ashton Kutcher, this one is totally authentic. “I saw a rough cut and I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs and the others (including Rogen’s dead-on portrayal of Wozniak), not actors playing them, I give full credit to Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin for getting it so right,” he enthusiastically told me. Of all the actors in the film he thinks Winslet might be the most likely to garner awards attention. I would add Fassbender to that list for sure. It’s a dazzling display of acting and he is almost never off the screen.

Indeed, Steve Jobs has won countless awards from multiple outlets, including several best actor noms and wins for Fassbender, several best supporting actress credits for Winslet, and several screenplay credits for Aaron Sorkin. One thing I find brilliant about the film from a production perspective is that cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler, in order to distinguished between the three time periods featured in the film, actually used three different film formats: 16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988, and digital for 1998. It is a very interesting and unique way to signal a change in time. I also found the projections on the wall in the Skylab clip to be extremely interesting.

I detest Apple products (for reasons that are surprisingly discussed at length in this film) and I’ve never been a fan of Steve Jobs. This film, however, is brilliant and engrossing, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good drama, regardless of whether or not you know or care about technology or Apple. It is very, very, very good.

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Black Mass

Black Mass is a 2015 American biographical crime drama film starring an ensemble cast including Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, and Corey Stoll. It was directed by Scott Cooper and written by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk. It is based upon the 2001 novel of the same name. The film chronicles the story of Whitey Bulger from 1975 to the mid-90’s.

Whitey Bulger was the head of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang. John Connolly was an FBI agent and a childhood friend of Bulger’s. Bulger sees an opportunity to eliminate his rivals and turns informant, giving Connolly information to eliminate opposition in exchange for protection from prosecution. Using the FBI as a weapon, Bulger is able to reign supreme as the most powerful crime lord in Boston for years. Due to widespread corruption in the Bureau, nothing was done to prosecute Whitey Bulger or any members of the Winter Hill Gang until a DEA investigation into Bulger in 1994. At that point, Whitey was tipped off by Connolly concerning an impending indictment by the federal government. Whitey remained on the run for 16 years until being captured in 2011. Connolly was arrested in 1999 after, two years earlier in 1997, various media outlets revealed the FBI’s involvement with Bulger.

This is a film that lives and dies by its cast.Gangster films today, for the most part, lack originality. That isn’t the fault of the screenwriters or the directors, it’s just that, after Goodfellas, arguably the last truly original gangster flick, we’ve seen it all before. Just because a film lacks originality, it can still be a great film. Scorsese’s own 1995 film Casino relied heavily on the formula set by its spiritual predecessor, but was still just as engrossing. Depp’s own Donnie Brasco and Public Enemies managed to bring interesting stuff to the table despite the extreme familiarity.

Here, Depp gives his best performance since before he was tapped for Captain Jack. Although Depp achieved fame with my generation playing eccentric characters in ridiculous costume and makeup, he made his bones playing real-life characters like Ed Wood, Hunter S. Thompson, and Joey Pistone. Still a pretty good-looking guy, Depp’s performance as the not-so-good-looking Whitey required extensive makeup and prosthetics.The makeup department did a truly wonderful job here and have received an award nomination for their work. Depp has also won and been nominated for several Best Actor awards for his portrayal of Bulger.

Bulger is straight up terrifying. He is a truly nasty piece of work that I hope never to meet in my life. Someone put it this way “[Depp] looks more like a vampire here than he did in Dark Shadows.” It’s like he’s looking into your soul.

Whitey makes every scene he’s in extremely uncomfortable. You have no idea what he is going to do next and you hold your breath waiting to find out.

Of course, a brilliant actor is nothing without talented actors backing him up. I have always enjoyed Joel Edgerton since I first saw him in the excellent MMA drama film Warrior back in 2011. In summer 2015, his directorial debut The Gift (which he also starred in, wrote, and produced) really impressed me, and may have been one of the best films I had seen all year. He, as usual, gives an amazing performance along with pretty much the entire cast. There isn’t one performance I didn’t enjoy here, and that is the main draw of this film.

The story isn’t original, but it isn’t slow and the screenplay is very good. As I said, the acting is phenomenal from all involved. The cinematography is very well-done, as well. It isn’t a legendary film and won’t be remembered two decades from now, but it is supremely entertaining due to phenomenal performances and I really enjoyed it.