The 58th SF Intl Film Festival: Opening Night – Alex Gibney’s “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”

Steve_Jobs_The_Man_in_the_Machine_01iHoles. That’s the word used by my father-in-law to describe those who are always fidgeting with their smartphones. It’s also the first word I thought of while in the still darkened Castro Theatre while scanning last night’s audience during closing credits. Apparently, that part in the movie where you were supposed to feel guilty for all the times you’ve acted all iHoley did not resonate with everyone, for scattered around me were the glowing emittance of personal internet chat devices. Seeing this, it was all I could do just to muster up the strength not to become a symbol of irony and tweet about it. Instead I skipped the Q&A with the director, decided to skip the after party as well (I live in the East Bay and did not want to be stranded in SF), walked to the 16th Street BART, took a seat on the train behind a young drunk couple who were heavily making out, grabbed my non-iPen pen and non-iPad pad and began to write down my thoughts on the film, which I have now transcribed for you below.

three-stars15Here is what I knew about Steve Jobs before seeing this documentary: He was the CEO of Apple. He likes turtlenecks. He has a reputation for being an asshole, burning a lot of bridges and friendships on his way to the top. He’s a bit of a genius. He had people the world over who have never met him crying upon news of his death. (After the fact mild spoiler alert: Jobs died in 2011.) It’s this last point, the worldwide mourning of the man, from which highly prolific documentarian Alex Gibney uses as his jumping off point into the life of Jobs’, his career, and the technology associated with his name and company.

As the movie began and the focus was aimed on Jobs, the beloved icon, I could feel my patience being tested. Please don’t let this be nothing more than an elaborate pom-pom piece on how great the man behind Apple is. However, at around the 35-minute or so mark the film becomes way more critical, and thus way more entertaining. I love me some drama. And although there was never any mention of Mr. Bill Gates, there was the inclusion of insightful observations from his Zen Buddhist Master, ex-Apple employees, his ex-wife, his daughter, and countless other past co-workers that more than made up for his IBM rival’s absence. Heck, there’s even two fun little animated sequences that even the most jaded of documentary enthusiasts, the ones who are no stranger to this type of story telling device, might find amusing.

All in all I left this movie feeling not that much different from beforehand about the man, only now I hate Apple products a little bit more. Also, I can’t stop wondering how Gibney manages to churn out so many high profile documentaries at such a rapid rate. Maybe he has a sweat shop somewhere in China near the Apple factory. Maybe he addressed this in the Q&A that I didn’t stay for. Maybe I don’t really care all that much and would rather just chalk it up to movie magic. Yeah, I think I’ll go with that, movie magic.

And that’s my Opening Night. Only one movie tomorrow due to having to work a nine-to-five and having band practice, but hopefully it will be a doosey. Jon Watts‘ “Cop Car”, here I come.


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival

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