Tag Archives: Danny Boyle

“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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“TRANCE” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

The pocket watch is mightier than the magnum.  

Trance is a fantastic art film, a mesmerizing and fascinating thriller that uses twists, turns, hallucinations, and narrow corridors as its tools to build suspense, and dialogue and performances to form sympathy for its characters.  Its surreal, twisted, strange, nonlinear, and non-conventional, but to dust with conventionality.  This is a great picture.

As the film fades in, we are introduced to Simon Newton (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer who takes us through the ropes of what his job entails.  He tells us of the extensive steps it takes to reserve a painting, the protocols his employers tell him to do when putting a painting up for auction and what steps he must take if a robbery takes place.  Their most valuable item is a painting by Francisco Goya called “Witches In The Air”, and his employers gave him precise instructions on how to preserve the painting if thieves do happen to come into the auction in an attempt to steal it.

Sure enough, thieves break into the auction and attempt to steal the painting.  This troop is lead by one named Franck (Vincent Cassel), and he is determined and headstrong into getting that painting.  Right before Simon puts the painting away, however, Franck cuts him off, a brief struggle happens between them, and Simon is knocked out, with Franck leaving with the stolen painting in tow.

When Simon wakes up, he realizes he lost his memory from the past two weeks.  When he’s finally released from the hospital, Franck pays him an unwelcome visit.  Turns out, all that Franck got on the day of the heist was just the frame of the painting, whereas the real article itself was transported to an alternative location.  Torturing him by peeling back his fingernails, Franck comes to find out Simon truthfully does not remember where he put the painting.  So he tries a different method of extracting information, one that involves psychology and hypnotherapy at the hands of one named Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson).  Together, they attempt to probe Simon’s mind, and begin their search for the painting Simon has kept hidden from them.

Here is a film that knows what it wants, a movie that knows its characters, their motivations, its story, and precisely how to tell it.  Director Danny Boyle, who is nearly a master at experimental cinema (if you don’t believe me, look at his hallucination sequences in Slumdog Millionaire or 127 Hours) does something very rare here: he intertwines and meshes characteristics of a narrative film with that of art and experimental cinema, making a truly absorbing, gripping, and fascinating experience.

Let me make something clear here, however: I hate experimental cinema.  Nine times out of ten they don’t make any sense, they seem relevant only to those making them, and they elicit a confused response rather than an emotional one from its audience.  Here though, the result is much different.  Everything is crystal-clear and fluid, the visuals dynamic and expressive, the editing cut together neatly and crisply. It’s like a mind game of cat-and-mouse, except the cat is willing to seek out help and the mouse is more lethal than both cats are lead to believe.

Oh believe me, my attention was unadverted throughout the entire picture.  While I didn’t understand everything immediately in the film, I understood what I needed to in the moment and the plot filled in the rest for me as time went on.  And what did I understand, more than anything else?  That these are sinful characters, decrepit criminals that lie, cheat, and connive their way to success and to financial gain.  Cassel was aggressive and talented as Franck, and while his character was despicable and loathsome at first, a softer side of him was later revealed so that the audience could come to terms with his character.  Dawson is as beautiful and motivated as ever, and while she too was at first a sympathetic figure, she later reveals a darker side to her character that even I didn’t expect.  I’m not even going to go into James McAvoy.  His performance was so specific and so wide-ranged that I was compelled to care for his character while at the same time hating him.

And yes, in case you didn’t pick up on it, the movie is deserving in its R rating.  It is violent, bloody, disturbing, graphic, and it has its vast share of nudity and sexuality, with some of the violence and sex combining in many gruesome scenes.  If this were any other picture, I would take off points for that.  But like Pulp Fiction and Taxi DriverTrance is a film that uses its bleak content as a tool to tell a story and define character, to show an encompassing yet tragic story of three fatally flawed individuals who will torture, manipulate, and kill to get whatever they want.  You have to watch a movie like this long enough to realize the point when it stops being a thriller and starts forming into something greater: when it starts forming into art.

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