Tag Archives: Aaron Sorkin

A Meeting With Aaron Sorkin

I can now say two things about my journalism career: that I have interviewed two Academy Award winners, and I have met the man responsible for me even writing in the first place.

Last week, I got to interview screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for his upcoming film Steve Jobs. He’s also been behind a lot of Hollywood’s more intelligent and well-crafted films, including A Few Good Men, Moneyball, and The Social Network, of which he won an Oscar for.

The Social Network in particular is special to me. It was my senior year in high school the year it came out, and I knew almost nothing about which direction I wanted to go with my life. I knew two things: that I had a creative mind, and that I enjoyed reading and writing.

While I had these skills, however, I didn’t know how I could translate that into a career. Yes I was writing my own short stories and poems, but I saw those more as hobbies than I did as a means of sustainment.

That is, until I saw The Social Network.

I saw the film in November. It was a cold, chilly day, and I walked up to the movie theater in my sweats and hoodie like I was Mark Zuckerberg walking across his campus. Sitting in the theater, watching the film, I felt like Zuckerberg did when he realized the potential of his future creation of Facebook. The genius of the idea came rushing into his head all at once, like lightning when it struck Ben Franklin’s kite. So too did the craftsmanship of the film hit me all at once like I was flying my own kite in the movie theater.

The movie played out like a Greek tragedy of sorts. You had this character embodied with a mortal flaw (in this case, Zuckerberg’s social anxiety) which eventually leads to his downfall and, ultimately, his undoing. With the character of Mark Zuckerberg, however, his undoing is not the loss of his life, like it is in those old Shakespeare plays. His undoing comes in the form of social seclusion: with him being alone with only his genius and his ego to keep him company.

Oh, I had seen great movies before, but this one was different. It wasn’t great in the contemporary sense of going from plot point A to plot point B. This showed craftsmanship in which I hadn’t seen before. It’s uniqueness didn’t come from its premise or its ideas, but in how it told and expressed its premise and ideas. The intricate, witty dialogue. The complex and interesting characters. The closeness of its shots and the tightness in its editing. I had come to love and appreciate The Social Network in a way that I hadn’t appreciated even the most exciting and action-packed blockbusters.

It showed me that true excitement didn’t come from special effects. It came from interesting and compelling characters.

After watching the movie, I had one thought in my head: “I have to write about this.” So I went home, created a Facebook account (which is ironic, because the movie was clearly critical of social media) and wrote and published my first reviews online.

I didn’t know the first thing about film criticism. In fact, to this day, I attest the one that was written the worst was The Social Network (And also The Shawshank Redemption, which I had published previous to The Social Network for practice). But the quality of those reviews almost doesn’t matter. I had found a reason to write, and I initiated that ambition myself. I can always rewrite my reviews for The Shawshank Redemption and The Social Network, but my first experience at writing and publishing my own work is something I will never get to experience again. It is one of my greatest memories of being a writer.

Enter 2015, and I’m sitting down across from the man who more or less takes credit for being the writer who inspired me to become one myself. His most recent film, Steve Jobs, sports a lot of similarities to The Social Network. Both center on geniuses in their respective crafts. Both have character with social discomforts that make them seem more like aliens than human beings. But both go through these brilliant arcs in the film that shows changes to their characters and to their relationships with the supporting cast. The only difference is Steve Jobs ends on a more lighthearted note. The Social Network does not.

So there we were, Aaron Sorkin and myself, talking about the film and his processes in researching and writing the picture. The most interesting thing he said to me was that he wasn’t interested in telling Steve Jobs’ biography: he was interested in telling his story, and to do that required making inferences to the facts rather than writing just the facts themselves.

“It’s not a piece of journalism,” he said. “It’s a piece of art.”

While talking, I don’t think it dawned on him at how much of an influence he’s been on me, on how much his writing inspired me to write myself, or even that his screenplay had gotten me interested in writing about movies in the first place. Then again, maybe he didn’t need to know. He was an artist talking about his art, and we might have had a different conversation if he realized he was talking to a fan instead of a journalist.

Sorkin probably will never read this post, and it’s just as well. He revealed his brilliant mind to me, and that was a gift in itself. Maybe one day some young, aimless artist will read one of my reviews or stories and realize that they want to write their own reviews and stories too.

One day, but until then, I’m going to keep enjoying perfecting my craft. Just like Sorkin is perfecting his.

– David Dunn

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“STEVE JOBS” Review (✫✫✫)

Creator. Entrepreneur. Father.

Steve Jobs is defined by three years of his life: 1984, 1988 and 1998.

The movie, Steve Jobs, covers these years of his life. So will this review.

1984

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is on edge. The Macintosh is malfunctioning. He is told by his technicians that the computer won’t say “Hello” to him. It’s 40 minutes before the product launches. His ex-girlfriend is waiting in the other room with her daughter, who Jobs insists isn’t his, wondering why they are both living on welfare while he is making millions. He paces back and forth in between his professional and personal problems. He tells his technician to fix it and walks off stage.

Fassbender is mesmerizing as Jobs. He’s ecstatic, energetic, passionate. He’s tense, egotistical, confrontational. He’s at peace when thinking about how many people’s lives this new computer will impact. He’s angry at people who come up to him, trying to stop him from completing his mission. His expression shows that they’ll fail. He’s too determined to let his ambitions die.

The filming in this sequence is enclosed, personal. It uses tracking shots to follow Jobs as he paces back and forth, looking at TIME Magazines, drinking his sparkling water, his mind racing with everything that needs to get done. The reel itself has a texture to it that I couldn’t quite point out until it hit me: this sequence is shot on celluloid film, reminiscent of the decade that it’s reflecting. A great choice of stylistic direction from Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), but just like the time period we’re in, we know that it won’t last long.

Jobs handles his personal issues. The technical issues are resolved. He steps out onto the stage and introduces the Apple Macintosh.

1988

The Macintosh underperformed in sales. Jobs is let go by Apple, the company that he helped start. He feels betrayed by his closest friends, alone in his struggle for significance.

He meets a few of his former colleagues who want to wish him well. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) starts acting friendly to him, but then confronts him on not giving him enough credit on the launch of the Macintosh. He asks him what he does.

“I play the orchestra, and you’re a good musician,” Jobs says. “You sit right there and you’re the best in your row.”

The scene switches to another where Jobs is confronting a former confidant. The editing is off, choppy. It’s cross-cutting between this scene and a flashback so rapidly it’s hard to keep track of the two conversations. I don’t know what Boyle was trying to do here. Maybe he thought he was adding tension to the scene. I thought he was adding confusion.

Jobs visits his daughter in the next room, who is skipping class to come and see him. She’s in middle school. He tells her she needs to go to school before she rushes up to him and hugs his legs.

“I want to live with you, daddy,” she whispers to him.

She and her mother leave. Jobs is shaken. He steps out onto the stage.

1998

This is it: the launch that has come to define both Apple and Jobs for years to come. This is the most important act of the film, and the one I will talk less about for the sake of spoilers.

Jobs looks different. He looks older. His hair is whiter. He’s sporting the iconic glasses and turtleneck that most people recognize Jobs in. Fassbender is no longer just acting like Steve Jobs. He has become Steve Jobs.

The framing of shots is similar to the beginning. It tracks Jobs while he walks from one place to another. He’s more sure of himself in relationship to Apple, less sure of himself in relationship to his daughter. Boyle captures the panic on his face, the fear recognizing his failings as a person and as a father.

It’s nearing the end of the film, and I realize the thing that I love most about the movie is its screenplay. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin captures both the genius and fragility of Jobs, the sharpness in his words and the intimacy of his emotions. This is a good change of pace for Sorkin. From a filmography of lightning-quick, witty characters and dialogue from A Few Good Men to The Social Network, this is his most emotive work yet. It makes you feel more than it makes you think.

I exit the theater. I call my dad on my iPhone and tell him I love him. Steve Jobs too realizes that the greatest thing he ever made wasn’t an Apple product. It was his daughter.

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