Thursday, September 3, 2015

The good, bad and ugly about Steve Jobs

By now, nearly the entire world knows that the late and much-lamented Steve Jobs was a complicated mixture of businessman and artist.

A tech whiz and marketing genius, Jobs twice headed Apple, the company that created whole new behaviors with the introduction of products such as iPods, iPads and, of course, the iPhone.

Director Alex Gibney's new documentary -- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine -- offers a comprehensive look at Jobs's career, reminding of us of his well-documented abilities and also examining his less-attractive personal traits: a willingness to intimidate subordinates and an equally well-documented denial that he was the father his first-born child, a daughter. (Jobs eventually admitted he behaved badly, and reconciled with his daughter.)

As willing as he is to look at Jobs's personal warts, Gibney also doesn't shy away from examining Apple's seamier side: its use of cheap Chinese labor, a scandal involving backdated stock options and Jobs's control-freak style of management.

Personality and business practices aside, Jobs, more than anyone, helped take the fear out of computing, creating devices that set the current standard for design and user-friendliness.

I don't think Gibney has uncovered a trove of new information, but he knows a good subject when he sees one. Prior to Man in the Machine, Gibney's most recent effort was the HBO documentary Going Clear, a scathing look at the Church of Scientology.

Four years after his death, Jobs continues to fascinate, and Gibney's movie serves as a warm-up for the upcoming Aaron Sorkin-written, Danny Boyle directed bio-pic, which casts Michael Fassbender as Jobs.

That film, entitled Steve Jobs, will have its debut during Labor Day's Telluride Film Festival, and is due in theaters on Oct. 9. (And, yes, for the record, I'm an Apple user.)

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