Tag Archives: aaron sorkin

‘Steve Jobs’ a blast

One of the complaints you often hear about biopics is that they don’t get the facts right. They take too many liberties with the source material and distort their subjects so much that it becomes a disservice to the individual. And while this is true in some circumstances (“A Beautiful Mind” (2001) for instance), it is unrealistic to expect biographical truth from any film. The human life is too complex, too nuanced, too multi-dimensional to completely capture in two hours. All we can expect is a dramatization that captures the spirit of the individual. So it is that “Steve Jobs”, the latest biopic of the famed computer whiz, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, captures the spirit and complexity of its titular subject.

Jobs, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, is presented as a megalomaniac, running over anyone who doesn’t follow his lead. The real Jobs’ widow attempted to shut down the production of the film because of its harsh portrayal, but there is no denying that just based on the facts of the man’s life, his refusal to recognize his daughter, his firing and return to Apple and his strained relationship with co-inventor Steve Wozniak, that the man was no saint. The film expertly captures the dark nature of the booming computer business from the 1980s into the 1990s, and Jobs represents the struggle at the top of the food chain, the man who refuses to be swept aside, who knows that his vision is the only one that can bring about the revolution the world deserves. So while he is indeed a jerk, he is also an icon that has transformed the world, and the film views him as such.

The film is structured in three specific acts, each featuring the debut of a new Jobs’ product: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT cube in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. The same characters keep appearing in these scenes as well, each helping to peel back a layer of Jobs: Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan and three different actresses (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo and Makenzie Moss) playing Jobs’ daughter, Lisa.

Jobs spends the film arguing with those around him, taking credit for things he likes, bashing things he doesn’t, using people as a means to an end. He mentions during one of his fights with Wozniak that, “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.” He is the conductor of the computing world, pushing everyone he knows to reach the apex of technological perfection. And with tried and true Sorkin-esque dialogue, it is an impressive display of barbs, quips and put downs.

This is not to say the film does not have issues. It goes by so fast sometimes that it is difficult to keep up. Jobs borders so heavily on unlikable that many may simply lose compassion in the man (though his personal drive makes him endlessly interesting). And there is not a complete conclusion, the third act ending abruptly on a somewhat predictable note.

But Sorkin, Boyle and Fassbender are all at the top of their game. It is a moving, heartfelt film that illuminates one of the 20th century’s most interesting individuals. It reminds us that we are still in the midst of the technological revolution, but no one has yet to take the baton from our previous conductor.


The Best 25 Movies of the Last 25 Years Part 2

Link to Part One

17. The Social Network (2010)

The finely tuned tandem of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin create a fascinating examination of the dawn of social media with “The Social Network.” Swirling testosterone mixed with betrayal and the potential of billions of dollars combines to alter the lives of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) in ways none of them can imagine as their project, Facebook, shoots off to become a phenomenon the world has never seen before.

16. No Country for Old Men (2007)

A masterpiece of cinematic craft, the Coen brothers create a folk tale from Cormac McCarthy’s source novel. When Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a bag full of money after a drug deal goes wrong, he runs off, initating a cat and mouse chase that features one of the greatest villains of the modern era in Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Tommy Lee Jones plays the cop chasing the whole situation and who realizes the depths of carnage in the world around him. It is a brilliant examination of violence and the harm it does not just to the perpetrators and victims, but the soul of every man in the community.

15. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Hollywood had never really made an honest look into the slave trade until Steve McQueen’s immersive “12 Years a Slave”, a film that brought home the horrors of slavery and the crushing weight of its history. Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man kidnapped by a couple of journeymen and sold into Southern slavery. His journey takes him across two plantations, one run by a semi-decent man (Benedict Cumberbatch) and one by a sadist (Michael Fassbender). A reminder of the pain and disgrace of slavery in United States history, the film examines how the act of slavery is not just a restriction of freedom, but a perversion of basic human decency.

14. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Perhaps no company has defined the past 25 years more than Pixar. Using ground-breaking CGI technology, the original “Toy Story” changed not only animation, but all filmmaking. The fact that it is a great film is an added bonus. But it is with “Toy Story 2” that Pixar officially became a cinematic powerhouse, with a film that added to the first film’s heart, humor and durability. When toy Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy store owner who will sell him to a foreign collector, the rest of the gang (Buzz (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and Slinky Dog (Jim Varney)) will team together and venture out to save him. It is the story of Jessie (Joan Cusack) however that steals the heart of the viewer, a cowgirl toy abandoned by her owner and unsure if she can ever love again. A story about friendship and youth, all the “Toy Story” films are remembered by the child in each of us.

13. Groundhog Day (1993)

A modern day Frank Capra film, “Groundhog Day” takes a comedy premise (What if you lived the same day over and over again?) and imbues it with a deeper quest about life’s purpose and the value of love and community. Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a grumpy weatherman sent to Punxatawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day ceremony. Phil can’t leave however because he keeps living that same day over and over again. As he falls in love with his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), Phil must cope with his seemingly hopeless situation as it drives him to near-insanity. Perhaps Bill Murray’s finest performance, he and director/writer Harold Ramis craft a film that simultaneously makes the viewer laugh, think and love all at the same time.

12. A Separation (2011)

Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” is a brilliant interpersonal drama about gender, marriage, responsibility and truth. Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) are trying to secure a divorce because he doesn’t want to leave the country due to his ailing father while she does. He hires a housekeeper,┬áRazieh (Sareh Bayat), but when Nader’s father nearly dies when he is out, he blames her for negligence and attacks her. As events spiral out of control, the viewer can’t help but think of the state of the globe and the changing dynamics of old world versus new world in it.

11. Spirited Away (2001)

Hayao Miyazaki has been at the forefront of Japanese animation for the past quarter century and perhaps no film of his Studio Ghibli has been more admired than “Spirited Away.” Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents are moving to their new home when her father takes a wrong turn while driving, and they enter a magical world. When her parents are turned into pigs, it’s up to Chihiro to navigate the mystical land and find the help she needs to save her family and return to the normal world. The film is among the most creatively inspired movies ever made with breathtaking images and a moving story seemingly taken out of mythology.

10. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Perhaps the greatest trilogy ever made, Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” is a composition of everything we love about cinema: big, adventurous, thrilling and heartfelt. In the land of Middle-Earth, young hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) is given the ring of power. He must destroy the ring before it falls into the hands of its master, Sauron, who will use it to enslave the world. With a fellowship to guide him, his journey takes him across the world as war breaks out among the kingdoms of the land. The trilogy brought writing, acting and special effects together in a way that may be unequaled, and it has become a beloved piece of cinema history.

9. The Dark Knight (2008)

Boldly asserting a new type of superhero film, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” incorporated many of the lingering feelings of the post-9/11 world into its narrative. Batman (Christian Bale) joins forces with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to bring down the mob plaguing Gotham city, but the Joker (Health Ledger) emerges from the darkness, threatening their hopes and pushing each of them to their limit. Heath Ledger’s defining performance as the Joker gives the film edginess and charisma, and the encompassing idea of heroism and what that means makes “The Dark Knight” the greatest superhero film ever made.

Part 3