The NYTimes reports tonight that the movie 'Steve Jobs' had all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. It had a starry cast (Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Michael Fassbender). The screenplay was by the acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin (who also wrote 'The Social Network'). And it received rave reviews.
But the movie tanked at the box office, earning about $18 million in the seven weeks after its Oct. 9 release. Perhaps Hollywood had overestimated the public's fascination with the man. Perhaps the film came a couple of years too late or a couple of decades too early. Or perhaps we have Steve Jobs fatigue, after all the books, movies and documentaries on the visionary Apple co-founder.
But perhaps most surprising is the way in which Silicon Valley relished in, and contributed to, the film's demise."
The report went on to quote Mossberg, Steven Levy who covered the movie for the Rolling Stone, Marc Andreesen, John Gruber and yours truly.
Somehow the NYTimes reporter Nick Bilton feels that the comments made about the film were based on the false premise that we thought we knew Steve Jobs, when in fact most of us didn't. Then again, we didn't all make our decisions to slam the film based on knowing Jobs.
Bilton bursts out saying that "Here's the thing: They didn't know Steve Jobs. None of us did. I don't care if you had a sleepover party at his house once a week while you watched rom-coms and did each other's nails. Or if he granted you a 15-second interview after one of his product introductions. The reality is, Steve Jobs was trying to sell things, and he was an absolute master at using the media to do that.
Sure, these folks knew a version of Mr. Jobs that he wanted to show, and they knew his products, perhaps better than anyone. But the only people who may have known the true Steve Jobs were his family and a few close friends. And even they had different reactions to the film."
Yet Cranky Bilton forgets that many of the scenes in the movie, like the one with John Sculley, was likely Sculley simply trying to change history's view of the events to suit his own narrative. It was Sorkin who admitted to Mashable in an interview that "You can tell that the weight of that thing that's been hung around him for all of these years kind of ruined his life."
Later in the interview Sorkin stated that Sculley "sent me a fantastic, comprehensive document. If you were in the White House press corps, you'd call it a tick tock of that night, the night of the unsuccessful coup, the night that he almost flew to China but got the phone call saying 'If you get on that plane you will not have your job when you land', all of that. Sorkin stated that "It was fascinating, and I knew I wanted to dramatize it. Especially because it differed from the conventional record of what happened …"
Exactly, decades later a different take from Sculley surfaces that no one ever heard of before this movie. And without Steve Jobs to deny anything Sculley had license to make up whatever he needed to change the events so that he wasn't remembered as the bad guy any longer. Really? Is that kind of stuff to be respected as great film making based on some form of truth handed to him in a nice manila envelope decades later after the fact with no one alive to back it up? Really?
In the end, Silicon Valley's response to the Steve Jobs collectively was negative. Why that's gotten under the NYTimes writer's skin is a bit of a mystery. True, no one will ever be able to capture the life of Steve Jobs perfectly – and that's okay. What we want however, well at least what I'm hoping for some day, is simply a movie that covers one of the crazy ones of our time who thought could change the world in some way and succeeded. A look at Jobs' time at Pixar and yet more importantly, a look at his time with his crazy team like Ive, Cook, Forstall, Cue and others who brought us the game changing iPod, iPhone and iPad and the magic of it all coming together. A film that tries to capture the dream of his return to Apple and changing the computer world as we knew it with iOS.
The Sorkin movie on the other hand was a rushed movie that was supposed to be based on the Steve Jobs biography but ended up being about Steve Jobs, in part, through the eyes of his daughter Lisa. Now how narrow a view of Steve Jobs was that Mr. Bilton and why should that have been applauded?