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Steve Jobs (the movie)

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I recently saw the latest biopic about Apple co-founder and re-fashioner of industries Steve Jobs.

It was a fine movie. The Rolling Stone reviewer calls it brilliant. But it hasn't been a commercial success. 

Why not? I don't know, but I'll make the simple observation that it is the antithesis of an action film. It isn't even a very visual film, it could almost have been done on the radio. Everything depended on the dialog. Still, that dialogue was very well-written and acted by a world-class cast.

It is written as a three act play, and each act is a product launch. Various backstage dramas each time precede the moment when Jobs walks on stage to unveil a new product to the world. We also get some quick flash back scenes to events the characters are talking about, and some very brief news anchor narration in inter-act transitions.

The essentials of the familiar story are conveyed through this structure. Job and Woz co-founded Apple. As it outgrew them, Woz became associated with the Apple II and Job with other products, more innovative but less remunerative. Also, as the company grew, the founders had to bring in a professional CEO as 'adult supervision.' That was John Scully, a veteran of Pepsico. Scully and the board eventually rebelled against Jobs' high-handedness and fired him. Later, in deeper troubles, the board fired Scully and brought back Jobs. All that, as I say, will be familiar to most of the audience interested enough to go to this movie.

What was surprising to me was that the movie made NO MENTION OF PIXAR AT ALL. The "Elba" period in Jobs' life is represented in this movie, and within the 3-act structure, by the launch of the Cube, the key product of NeXT, a company Jobs later sold to Apple as part of his own triumphant return to its executive suite. If you followed the above link to the Rolling Stone rave you may have noticed that the critic there mentioned Pixar near the top, as one of the reasons Jobs was worth making a movie around.

But ... more dramatically relevant, Pixar was at least as important a part of Jobs' work during the Elba period as was NeXT. And Toy Story was a success whereas the NeXT Cube was largely a flop. I've also mentioned the Jobs/Pixar connection in this blog before, and I have to admit that I understand the problem. Jobs' work with Pixar wouldn't have fit within the three-act structure. A movie's grand opening doesn't look at all like a computer's product launch. Still, to consign it to the memory hole seems a bit much.


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