Little-known until its debut at SXSW this weekend, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney’s “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures for a North American theatrical release, and CNN Films for television broadcasts, Deadline Hollywood reports today. An earlier story from The Hollywood Reporter claimed that several Apple employees in attendance walked out early, and Apple’s Eddy Cue has used Twitter to denounce the film, calling it “inaccurate and mean-spirited.”
Very disappointed in SJ:Man in the Machine. An inaccurate and mean-spirited view of my friend. It's not a reflection of the Steve I knew.— Eddy Cue (@cue) March 16, 2015
The Man in the Machine includes interviews with a number of former Apple employees including Jon Rubinstein, Bob Belleville and Daniel Kottke, as well as Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, and even video footage from a 2008 SEC deposition given by Jobs himself. Early reviews have described the documentary as “a riveting and important corrective to the myths Jobs helped to propagate,” and “unsparing portrait of Steve Jobs [that] will prove extremely displeasing to devotees.” A few representative quotes from those reviews follow…
Gibney offers a more conceptual and critical assessment of his subject’s legacy than did Walter Isaacson’s biography, which was published less than a month after Jobs’s death in October 2011. …On a certain level, “The Man in the Machine” functions as a corrective and a tribute to the many brilliant men and women Jobs surrounded himself with but didn’t necessarily give their due; many here attest to his sharp way with a jab and his monomaniacal need for control, particularly with regard to staff retention.
Alex Needham, The Guardian (4 stars out of 5)
The film points out that Jobs’s genius was in personalising computers – Lisa being the first – but it also reveals that this impulse came from a pretty messed-up place. … Jobs achieved things that the vast majority of us would never dream of. Yet Gibney’s film forensically anatomises the contradictions, the ruthlessness, and the pointlessly crappy behaviour that reveal Apple’s ideals to be a sham, even while the products themselves continue to prove almost irresistible.
It’s a surprisingly nuanced, in-depth and affecting portrait of the man, made in the face of opposition from both Apple and Laurene Powell Jobs. …There are definitely times when Gibney reaches. But Gibney has done a good job with the ex-Apple employees he could get, and it’s fun to hear stories about, say, the raucous night of drinking that followed the successful iPhone unveiling in 2007. On the whole, what emerges is a balanced portrait.
Rather than going for a chronological history of Jobs’ life, Gibney has created a documentary that is about his own dawning awareness of the many facets of Jobs. …Familiar figures from throughout Jobs’ life make appearances… but largely they’re telling stories we’ve heard before: Jobs’ cruel denials over the paternity of his daughter, the insane working hours Apple employees were subjected to, the a-ha moment when Toshiba hard drives made the iPod a reality. What’s different is the focus. It’s an unflinching look at the emotional shrapnel people took when they were part of Jobs’ life, and how some of them — paradoxically — still feel tremendous love and gratitude towards him.
It’s also interesting that a significant portion of the documentary is devoted to the imbroglio between Jobs and Gizmodo following the infamous 2010 sale of a prototype iPhone 4. Former Gawker legal head Gaby Darbyshire, who was involved in the controversy, is notably one of the film’s producers.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine currently does not have a release date, but is expected to debut before the Danny Boyle/Aaron Sorkin/Walter Isaacson film “Steve Jobs,” due October 9, 2015. Boyle’s film will focus on the events surrounding three of Jobs’ famous keynote speeches, starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs.
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