Monday, October 12, 2015

Are You Sure Fincher Didn't Direct This? The Red Flags in 'Steve Jobs'

'Musicians play the instruments, I play the orchestra.'
I'm just as excited to see the Steve Jobs movie as you are. A couple of things are already raising flags. Let's go down the list shall we?

1. Marketing is smoking something. Every TV spot I see for Steve Jobs starts out great. It's the titular character (played by Michael Fassbender) narrating; 'The two most significant events of the 20th century; the allies win the war, and this...' exposing the first ever Apple Mac. Awesome. I'm in. In fact, the History Channel just put the smart phone (which doesn't have to be an iPhone but come on) as the #1 invention of all time. But then it's 25 more seconds about the fact that he won't acknowledge his illegitimate daughter like he's Henry VIII or something. Who cares? No one. Steve Jobs is not a figure about whom the personal life is important. Do we care about Thomas Edison's sex capades? Me thinks not. As literally the second greatest inventor since the aforementioned Edison, Steve Jobs interests most of us as a pioneer of technology and a pillar of innovation. Why even put that in the movie in the first place? But that's a different story. The trailer is great, especially when Wozniak (Seth Rogen) asks him; 'what do you do? You're not an engineer you don't write code, so WHAT DO YOU DO?' It is great for exposition, and pretty much right on target considering no one took Steve Jobs seriously initially because he didn't really DO anything, he was a designer as far as Silicon Valley was concerned. But to market the film as a lazy Lifetime movie is just stupid. It will appeal to women, Fassbender is in it, so you don't have to pander to that demographic.

Boyle (left) converses with Fassbender and Rogen in between takes.
2. After The Social Network (2010), we all expected that the creative union of Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher would continue. Unfortunately they divorced, and out of all directors who are great at this kind of no-holds-barred bio-pic, and can handle the biting writing of Aaron Sorkin, it's definitely not Danny Boyle. I know he's made some great films; well one or two. Personally I think the man's only good ones are Trainspotting (1996) and 28 Days Later (2002). This is far too big a mountain for him to climb. Also, the film is about technological innovation as I said. Who handles that awesomely? Fincher. Which movie was so perfect it's almost subliminal? The Social Network. I'm sure we'll all be sitting there thinking; 'I wish Fincher had directed this'. This is a pretty heavy assumption, but that's what I'll be thinking. 

'I can't wait for you to think of a proper metaphor' the words of Sorkin are music to my ears.
3. In terms of award season fodder, I'm skeptical. As much as I love Fassbender, and how method he is, and basically flawless as an actor, he doesn't seem like he's the strongest performer in the movie. I really hope that this doesn't turn into a film where the main character doesn't even carry his own story. The supporting roles already seem to be played with more gusto and bravado. But all that the trailer shows me is that Fassbender has a great wardrobe department (that's a given considering Jobs famously only wore black turtlenecks and dad jeans) and has the voice down. Ergo, when it comes to the Oscars, we might see the exact kind of backlash we saw with overhyped films like The Social Network. I know all of the principals are going to be nominated, but honestly, I don't see a win in any of their futures (perhaps because I'm rooting for Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl and can't possibly conceive of saying 'Oscar winner Seth Rogen', but only time will tell. 

4. Just to sing Fincher's praises a bit more, I don't think anyone understands that dark side of humanity in all of us better than him. He's proved it again and again with Se7en, Gone Girl, and AGAIN The Social Network. Danny Boyle is a few clicks away from being Baz Luhrmann; as in style without substance. Fincher tells the story of a person that is unbelievably flawed but is somehow, through Fincher magic, is endearing. Boyle, not so much. Steve Jobs is in essence a character study. It's the Citizen Kane of the technological revolution; the story of a man who gains the world and loses his soul. Boyle loves spectacle, whereas Fincher loves deep and complex personal stories no matter what the setting is. He looks at the characters before he looks to the aesthetic. Boyle, in my opinion, does the exact opposite. 

Sorkin's don't-fuck-with-me face. 
5. Maybe I'm just being a nit picky bitch here, but I get frustrated when a story that is inherently American, not in a flimsy patriotic way, but where being American is so important to the story is directed by a British guy. It's like when people were outraged that Milos Forman (a Soviet defector) made One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest (1975), which was very clearly an indictment of American culture. The only thing is, Forman is an infallible director and he pulled it off and no one gave an argument when he, his film, and his actors, all won Academy Awards. Steve Jobs, like Marilyn Monroe and Superman, is an American icon. And the setting of his losses and triumphs highly effects his destiny. I'm not saying that Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan, or Ken Loach can't make American movies, but have you ever seen one? I know Neil Jordan directed Interview with the Vampire (1994) but that's basically a fairy tale that's set in New Orleans. Also Neil Jordan is awesome. Boyle has proved his versatility in working outside of his cultural comfort zone with Slumdog Millionaire (2008), but I don't think that makes him an ideal candidate. Just off the top of my head, I'm thinking Gus Van Sant, Robert Zemeckis, The Coen Brothers, or probably Paul Thomas Anderson should have been in line to direct this before Boyle. But maybe it will be one of those accidental miracles like when Spielberg decided to direct Schindler's List (1994) after Martin Scorsese turned it down. Handing Sorkin's material is no easy feat ok children? It's like trying to adapt a dense but fascinating text book. Every single word, punctuation, and inflection is important. And it goes damn fast. Only time will tell is Boyle was up to the task. 

Jobs is a very 'recent' person for a bio-pic as in he didn't die 100 years ago. When he unveiled the iPhone it was a historic moment. Aside from the OJ Bronco chase, it was perhaps the most memorable moment that we all collectively watched on TV and lived through. Ergo, material is still fresh, ergo it's easier to screw up. 
Anyway, we're all excited so I don't want to piss on that. Fassbender can play anything, I'll acknowledge that. And hey it's not like distinctively American films didn't have foreigners in it; look at L.A. Confidential (1997), where 75% percent of the cast that were playing LAPD officers were Australian. It's a risky film, and I just would have liked a little bit more of a safety net. I'm going to go in watching it with the onset of a panic attack. It aesthetically looks great. This is a pejorative ya'll. When something aesthetically looks great, it usually doesn't have much else. It's the director's way of saying; I know I fucked up on the story, but look how pretty! Based on the pre-release hype, it looks like a film that grazes the surface, but underneath it all, doesn't have much soul. My shining beackon of hope is Sorkin, as he's more stubborn with his scripts than Billy Wilder. Want to change something because it doesn't 'feel' right? Fuck you, say what's written on the page. He's one of the few writers who can actually do that. So let's hope he stuck to his stubborn guns and people listened to him first, and Boyle second, if at all. 

Below, the trailer: 

Below, the actual unveiling of the iPhone at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA in 2007. You don't have to watch the whole thing it's long, but it is a piece of history. When we're all wearing silver jumpsuits and riding around in our hovercrafts, I'm sure we'll still be using an iPhone of some kind...model 16 that, like Google Glass, we can wear on our heads, or we'll be microchipped with. I can't wait for the future. 

A quick lesson about filmmaking brought to you by the films, style, and aesthetic of David Fincher. Seriously, in my subjective (and well informed) opinion, he's the best director working right now.

No comments: