The Pros and Cons of Jobs

Ashton Kutcher does a really good impersonation of America's greatest real-life anti-hero. While his impersonation gets more spot-on during inspirational speeches coaxing employees to think outside the box, it gets unfortunately more regular Ashton when he's simply telling his pregnant girlfriend to hit the road or generally being an asshole. (This is obviously forgivable, since the vast majority of living source-materials are commencement addresses rather than being cunty in private.)

One of the things Jobs did really well was really confront you face to face with the man's epic dickiness. Part of the magic of the real man was that you had to reconcile traits you admire--traits we really need as a species--with traits that are patently despicable. In this regard, Steve Jobs represents the full duality of man (the Jungian thing).

We're accustomed to having his innovation and non-traditional thinking shoved down our throats, and rightfully so. But we don't always get a compelling dose of his sociopathy and arguable psychopathy. Jobs reminds us that ego-maniacal tantrums can be an important part of resculpting a civilization's relationship with technology and with itself. And it also makes you wistful for an alternate universe where he was actually an admirable personality who managed to invent the future without cunting his best friends out of their stock-options.

I liked how writer/director Joshua Michael Stern focused on a lot of the 60's hippy, taking acid in fields stuff at the expense of a more entertaining but less artful script. For time constraint, certain narrative details in the Jobs saga needed to be glossed over or ignored entirely. There was a glaring and nearly deal-breaking example of this re: the epic freakout which occurred when he discovered Bill Gates copied the Mac software for Microsoft. Not only do we never see any of the background between Gates and Jobs or even see how and what Gates stole... But we also never see Jobs' visit to Xerox, where he stole their concept for the mouse--a utility which I would argue is the most important part of graphical user interface during the pre-touch-screen era.

All this omission renders the "they stole our design" plot-point flaccid. Why does Stern even include it, I wonder, if all we get is an umpteenth superficial Ashton tantrum but nothing that furthers his character's hypocrisy or our understanding of the cutthroat depths of innovation? I guess he kinda had to at least touch on it, considering that his feud with Gates is the most popular drama of his career. But since we never meet Gates, the sequence comes off as a token reference.

The biggest problem I had with Jobs was fairly unique to my own experience. There's a portion of John Debney's score, reserved mostly for emotionally poignant moments, which mimics with tone and cadence the piano chords in the Brooks Hatlen parole scene from The Shawshank Redemption. It is not for any intellectual reason that I have a problem with this, and--all things being equal--the score actually works fairly well. But the emotional stirrings that come from such curious homage to an important moment in 1990s cinematic psyche... It's an insurmountable distraction. (I don't think that the film will receive too much trouble with this from the general audience.  But the emotions in these scenes are vastly different from the emotions in Shawshank, and this created a dissonant affect which I was unable to overcome.)

In response to this movie, I re-watched TNT's 1999 made-for-TNT movie, The Pirates of Silicon Valley starring Noah Wiley as Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as Gates. (Just Google-video search it, you can watch it free on like the third link down.) Pirates was, we'll say, catchier. It moves quicker and it's more entertaining. But it doesn't really hit on the dark, nearly Plainviewian psychology of the man behind the Mac. I don't dare compare Jobs to There Will Be Blood on any level beyond the importance of sociopathy for success, but this is a very interesting correlation.

Does one need to be a sociopath to really make a dent in the world?

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