Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine photo starrating-4stars.jpgRemember when Steve Jobs swindled Steve Wozniak out of 90% of his share of payment for work they did on Atari’s ‘Breakout’ game?

How about when he denied his own daughter claiming in court documents that he was infertile so fathering a child was impossible for him?

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine will undoubtedly be a wake up call to anyone who readily consumes his fastidiously cultivated public persona. If you worshiped the man as this beatific deity before, then you’re in for a rude awakening. This informational account doesn’t deny the fact he was an esteemed man and a genius, by the way. In fact it firmly cements his brilliance and furthers his immortality. But it’s also a study in contrasts. How a highly regarded man who invented things beloved by millions, did some undeniably horrible things.

The Apple corporation has always maintained a carefully fabricated public image. “Think Different” was a slogan Apple promoted beginning in 1997. They were David going against the indomitable Goliath that was IBM. Apple’s iconic 1984 ad that introduced the “free thinking” Macintosh computer to a legion of mindless zombies held in captive thought by a “Big Brother” like presence. Much lauded American documentarian Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks) makes a strong case that Apple ultimately became Goliath. From illegal “no-poaching” agreements with other Silicon Valley companies to FoxConn, the Chinese factory where iPhones are assembled to SEC charges over the back-dating of stock options to a raid on Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home – distressing stories pile up one by one. The abuses are many.

I suppose what one takes away from Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine depends a lot on what you already know about the man. The documentary opens as an investigation that questions the cult of Steve Jobs. If you worship the man now, then you’re not likely to change your opinion even when confronted with some pretty heinous truths. The chronicle even acknowledges this fact. The church of Apple with Steve Jobs as its god, is like a religion for some. He was unrelenting in his quest to create devices that didn’t just reflect you, there WERE you. Director Alex Gibney presents a a meticulously researched film. He assembles some fascinating interviews with early colleagues and friends. These include Steve Wozniak, Daniel Kottke, Bob Belleville, Andy Grignon and Chrisann Brennan. Each one individually provides an intimate albeit partial view. However these as well as many others put together provide a more complete and compelling window into the true nature of the man. Indeed he changed the world for the better. But he left a lot of causalities in his wake.


22 Responses to “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”

  1. Nicely done.

    Alex Gibney also made a doocumentary about the dark side of the Church of Scientology.

    A busy man to say the least.


  2. Nice post. Jobs doesn’t surprise me, sounds similar to the Social Network, where you get the flawed, human side of an icon.


  3. I just saw this the other day. Fascinating movie. Probably my favorite documentary of the year, behind Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.


  4. High praise. Guess maybe I should watch this. Had it scratched off my list.


  5. I love how Gibney opened more of the “brutal” window in the mind of Jobs.


  6. I guess I’m just going to have to settle for the movie everyone and their sister is going to see this fall, the Danny Boyle feature film. I’ve been sort of tracking the progress of this film and in each review I’ve read the tone and praise gets more and more positive. Damn.

    (he says, typing on his 15″ Macbook Pro)


  7. Very interesting doc. Didn’t know much about Steve Jobs. Looking forward to the Fassbender movie now. 4 stars.


  8. I’ve heard if you already know about Steve Jobs, there’s not much you can take away from this documentary, so I haven’t been in a rush to see it. Plus a friend of mine told he found the way Gibney personally inserted himself into the documentary to be annoying. From the sound of it, I’d probably agree. Maybe I’ll give this a shot at some point though.


  9. The advantage of a documentary is that it gives you a look at the actual person rather than somebody impersonating him, so if you can see your way through the director’s filters and around his quirks, you get a better idea of what the subject was like than you do in a dramatizaton. I came away with the notion that Jobs had carried self-assurance to the verge of mania, which led to his failings at a personal level; but that he did put his sense of superiority to use in the talent the world knew him by best, which was promotion. He got Apple’s customers to think of themselves the way he thought of himself – above the common herd. When you produce a Mac or even if you just use one, you’re being a little like, umm … Bob Dylan? Albert Einstein? Martin Luther King? What I’m waiting for is the computer that makes you be like Mother Teresa.


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