Saturday, August 17, 2013

"JOBS": almost too straightforward as a biography of the Apple founder ("Uncle Steve")

Jobs” (or more correctly, “jOBS”) is a two-hour, somewhat conventionally scripted biography of Apple founder and inventor Steve Jobs, as directed by Joshua Michael Stern and written by Matt Whiteley.
The film opens with a middle aged Jobs announcing new products to his eager employees.  You can recognize actor Ashton Kutcher’s voice and facial lines anyway.
It then goes back to the days when, in 1974  at age 19, Jobs dropped out of college (Reed College in Oregon) Jobs dropped out of college to invent game boards and soon had a vision for a personal computer.   Jobs is depicted, when young, as having no people skills and having BO (rather like Jack Nicholson's character in "The Witches of Eastwick");  yet he quickly learn to bargain and negotiate hard with vendors and retailers in a way that would make Donald Trump proud. Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) comes across as rather slovenly at times, reinforcing the amateurism of the early days in a Palo Alto home garage.   As a ruthless and idealistic perfectionist who expected everyone to follow his own way of thinking, he could overpower people, and sometimes do the “You’re fired” thing well before “The Donald” trademarked the phrase.  There’s a scene that reminds one of the recent AOL public sacking at a conference call.
The film recounts his battles with the board.  Once the company went public, his idealism and principles were put to a test by Wall Street bean counters, played by established stars like James Woods.
The film does not go into the health crisis at the end, which came from an unusual form of pancreatic cancer.  There is speculation that his delay of conventional treatment may have reduced his long term survival chances, but he lived eight years, until October 2011.
Jobs denied paternity to a daughter for a while, but eventually raised her.  Work and innovation made him tick; personal relationships seemed like an afterthought.  Nevertheless, he assembled a cast of characters, including Chris Espinosa (Eddie Hassell), some of whom did not always maintain his respect.
The history of the personal computer does come through the film.  There was a time when color was a challenge for game designers.  Putting everything in one box so that it worked when the consumer plugged it in was a challenge, as I recall from the Radio Shack TRS-80, my own first computer at the end of 1981.  But soon Jobs insisted on separate the components, especially the keyboard.
IBM and Microsoft are depicted as haven stolen Jobs’s ideas.
The official site (Open Road films) is here.

Kutcher is convincing in the role, with his lean, restless presence. Kutcher is popular on Twitter as “aplusk”, and once promoted Twitter on Larry King Live.  In more recent times, he has had staff review his tweets before he posts them (he once invited all of his million followers to Hollywood Hills party at a friend’s house, just before I went to LA myself.)  Kutcher’s own life as a technology investor meshes with the role he played.  Kutcher, in the recent past, has led the “Real men don’t buy girls” campaign, against child sex-trafficking, which has gotten the attention of state attorneys general, who want to gut Section 230 and saddle Internet companies with more “brother’s keeper” responsibility to counter the problem (my “BillBoushka” blog, Aug. 9 and 11 entries).  It would be interesting to know how Kutcher feels about the Section 230 matter as an investor. 

PBS has aired a smaller biography of Jobs, “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing”, reviewed on this blog Nov. 3, 2011, very shortly after his passing.  

I recall listening to Jobs talk about entrepreneurialism on a PBS documentary in the mid 1980s (afte rhis first scuffle his board and I think after he had started NEXT) while living in Dallas.   Mother was on a visit and watched it with me.

I come away from all these films with the impression that Jobs was all about passion, and focusing on one's own goals.  But most people seem to have to pursue the goals set by others!

The film did not draw me into its world as much as the somewhat fictionalized dramatization of the history of facebook in "The Social Network" (Oct. 3, 2010). 

Angelika Mosaic preceded the feature with a Hulu short film from GE Focusforward (any connection to "Focus Features"?) “The Secret of Trees”, about teen inventor Aidan Dwyer, who (near NYC) developed a configuration of solar panels based on the distribution of tree leaves according to fractals and Fibonacci sequences link ).  Angelika often shows a 5-minute Hulu short subject about innovation. The theater is to be commended for keeping the number of previews at a minimum. 

Pictures: I haven't used the iPod much (except to record vinyl to play on a TV or computer); also: MacBook (for composing with Sibelius); the iPad (a hotspot when traveling); I also still use the 2002 iMac downstairs to play DVD's. 

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