The “Steve Jobs” Conversation Continues

Alex Kirschenbaum and Greg Brecher couldn’t come to terms on how split they were over Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs.” The conversation needed a written forum to continue beyond their initial bare-knuckled 90-minute podcast brawl (10/26/15), which also featured Evan Twohy. THIS IS THAT FORUM.

Greg: Alex, just admit you didn’t like “Steve Jobs!!” All you liked was that Michael Fassbender’s hot.

Alex: Hahaha. Damn it, Greg, you indicated all the attributes of the movie yourself in our podcast with Evan – great writing, really good acting, ambitious structure courtesy of writer Aaron Sorkin. Sure, director Danny Boyle got in his own way a bit, fine. But where we chiefly diverge is in what we want from it. I don’t need it to tell me how to feel about this guy or draw its own conclusions about the way he treats people. It gives me the evidence and I enjoy the weird asocial pseudo-monster that he acts like. Can’t believe you guys weren’t interested by that character enough to care about the things he does and the people he leaves in his wake.

Greg: But the problem is that the movie gives us conflicting information about who Jobs is. You’re not asking enough of movies man. When did your standards go down?

Alex: I’d disagree. I don’t think it’s saying he’s a good person. I think it’s saying he can’t communicate with people personally and all he has is this intense take-no-prisoners laser-focus on how to appeal to consumers in a broader way. There’s a melancholic irony in that. I’m right about “Steve Jobs,” but it does feel like you guys had a more thorough posit during the podcast. Even though you’re wrong, your arguing skills were superior when tagging-team liking that.  How can you enjoy the writing and the structure and the acting and still dislike the movie? Just because of some (arguably) annoying flashbacks and an ambiguous conclusion? I don’t mind some ambiguity or nuance in my popcorn. Not sure why you guys would.

Greg: It came down to you telling us that you just liked watching a guy be shitty to people without needing an arc or any of the basic things that a movie should do. Also it’s such BS to say that a movie doesn’t give an opinion on its characters. Every choice in the script direction etc. is a choice to that end. These choices just weren’t cohesive.

Alex: It has the opinion that he is an asshole, and a socially uncomfortable one (to put it very, very mildly). But he’s also great at promoting his brand. That’s pretty clear. I don’t need for him to have an arc. The movie is about his CONSISTENT FOCUS in the face of his being an asshole to the important people in his life. He becomes (well, begrudgingly sort of tries to become) an asshole towards his daughter. Then he tries to be more honest with Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg). That’s sort of progress for a guy overcoming these severe asocial shackles.

Greg: First of all the comment about him being “great at promoting his brand,” suggests that you think this movie is about how good he is at his profession.  This could be about the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, but Sorkin uses Jobs because there’s already a mythos that viewers know about.  Why arrange the film like a play and character study if we’re not interested in the character’s arc?    I’m not telling you to dislike the movie. But I am saying we’re analyzing whether it works and you can’t pick and choose the moments that you want to ignore.  Whiplash did a story about “consistent focus” and being an “asshole” but still managed to pull out a full film with character arcs, change, and a consistent point to it.

Alex: What am I ignoring? The piece generally worked.  Here’s why I liked it:

-Strong script

-Great acting outside of Katherine Waterston and occasionally shaky accents from Winslet /Fassbender — more so Winslet, Fassbender was mostly on-point.

-Interesting characters who give us an insight into the machinations of the tech hype machine, especially the titular one.
-Compelling, engaging structure that keeps you fully invested in what happens every step of the way.

Greg: You just saying that doesn’t make it true. Why is it a good script? Why is it good acting?

Alex: Every character has a unique voice, especially Apple’s founding Steve’s (Jobs and Wozniak), the structure is unique, between the 3 product launches and the various little flashbacks. Steve Jobs is this maniacal guy with severe social interpersonal issues who belittles everyone in his life, even his daughter to some extent, and serves up cutting, expletive-laden commentary with little to no filter. Seth Rogen’s Steve Wozniak is a retreating, sweet tech nerd who stands by a man he views as his friend even when that friend is a condescending jerk to him. Which is most of the time.

Greg: First of all what’s unique about them?  Secondly, “unique and rare” doesn’t always equal good. It can be bold or inventive but still be the NEXT computer.

Alex: Nice figurative tie-in.

Greg: Thank you.

Alex: But he is an innovator in the universe of marketing, he creates products that everyone around him are floored by. They respect that he’s the smartest guy in the room. And to your argument about “unique and rare” not being equivalent to good, the movie IS good.

Greg: How so?

Alex: I just told you!

Greg: No you said it’s good because it’s unique because it’s good.

Alex: I said it’s unique because of the structure, which lends it a play-like theatricality. And it’s unique because of its main lead, one of the most famous figures in the world who was both genius and jerk, as shown in the movie.

Greg: Which is cool and fun but does it work? What needs to happen for that to work as a conceit?

Alex: All the confrontational conversations held my interest, they take things in directions I wasn’t expecting (outside of the daughter)? It DOES work. It needs interesting characters, it needs externalized pressure (which is the success or failure of the products), it needs us to see how Jobs manages to stay in control of his world even as he pulverizes the people who just want to support his vision.

Greg: It works to what end though? What’s the purpose of having three stages like that?

Alex: Jobs we’ve covered. Jeff Daniels’s John Sculley is the prying father figure who is also a business partner that Jobs elects to betray when Daniels gets in the way of his vision. Wozniak is the guy he thinks of as the tech scrub that “needs to be protected.” Winslet is the loyal servant who stands by as he barks and berates his employees, trying to reconcile her respect for his greatness with his failings as a father. Until she can’t stand by anymore. She is somewhat one-too herself, always stressed and pleading, but it works because ultimately she doesn’t need to be a full character so much as a moral foil.

Greg: I would imagine it would lend itself well to showing change through passage of time. Or him being static. Either way, that’s a HUGE Choice that should have concrete payoffs

Alex: It’s him being static. You said that yourself repeatedly last night! There is not much of an arc to his character. That’s fairly clear, no?

Greg: Then what is the ending about?

Alex: The ending is about Steve Jobs TRYING to overcome the fact that he can’t relate to people, and they show that with his final interactions between the five most important people in his world (Wozniak, Winslet, Daniels, his daughter).

Greg: That only happens in the last 15 minutes.

Alex: So?

Greg: That’s bad story structure, come on!!!  You can’t tell me what the point of the film is in the last fifteen minutes and then solve it immediately. You can’t just try to put a bow on it at the tail end.  I get that he’s a jerk to his daughter throughout, but I’m never told why.  There’s just a clunky suggestion that it’s somehow tied to him being adopted in what is one of the most convenient and annoying flashbacks in film history.  The film’s structure is an interesting choice, but it fails in what it’s obviously trying to do.

1. Joanna – She is going to quit if he can’t relate to his daughter. She has had to deal with his ex Chrisann and their daughter Lisa in each of these launches, and the way he treats them.

2. Hertzfeld – Jobs explicitly talks about the way he doesn’t care about people, just about what they can contribute. Hertzfeld finally airs his negative feelings on Jobs to his face. It’s sort of poignant when Jobs in response confesses that he’s always liked Hertzfeld. And this is yet another indication that Steve Jobs can’t express how he feels about people.

3. Wozniak – They finally have a real conversation, where pent up grievances are at last aired. Wozniak elaborates on the Hertzfeld argument, namely why does Jobs need to treat people like shit? Jobs explains that he doesn’t CARE. Rather, Jobs cares about the iMac, and it’s going to be huge. This end to him justifies the means.

4. Lisa – Her father can’t explicitly tell her “I love you.” He just does not have that in him. All he can say is that the LISA was named after her, and he’s going to put music in her pocket (a nice allusion to the iPod, and a nice way to motivate its creation, no?). In no scene does Jobs violate the principal that he can’t relate to people. And in three of them he’s still mostly an asshole (in the end of the Winslet moment, she’s able to leverage their friendship to make him be decent towards his daughter, and you see him soften as much as he can).

5. Sculley – Here, we discover that Jobs, true to form, doesn’t care a ton about losing Daniels’s character as friend, partner and adviser. He cares about the reality that Daniels ran Apple the wrong way and nearly cratered the company. He cares about how they could have been more effective together.

These are all rich dialogues, full of nuance and fantastically written verbal sparring courtesy of a master writer. Not sure how you can think they’re not. I would contend that there really isn’t much movement on Jobs’s part, in terms of the sentimentalizing of his character. Even in the last 15 minutes. Any shift is microcosmic. He is trying to be more aware of other people’s feelings, but he’s not really doing it that well. Most of the three scenes (outside of Hertzfeld and Wozniak) end with Jobs’s conversational partner accepting him anyway, warts and all.

Greg: You’ve studied this stuff, in life and in school. How are you so lax on the fact that there’s no real character movement until the last few minutes. That doesn’t seem to go against EVERYTHING you know about story?

Greg: Bro tell me what the point is of this movie? Concisely.

Alex: Dude. It’s like I’ve been telling you — the Boyle and Sorkin “Steve Jobs” movie tackles about a guy who can’t relate to the people he’s supposed to care about in his life, while simultaneously creating a product that appeals to everybody.

Greg: BUT IT DOESNT DO THAT!!! Because it suggests that what he’s done for the world is worth it, no matter the human cost. And that he becomes a good person when he has accomplished it.

Alex: I mean, I will concede that the flick does suggest that. But only in its final two shots, where Jobs, bathed in a spotlight on the stage mid-presentation, approaches Lisa from the wing in slow-motion, regarding her with glowing, compassionate affection. I don’t think that a single shot compromises the whole movie. And it certainly preserves a bit of ambiguity, in that the movie ends before he ever reaches her. They never embrace, he never brings her out to the stage.

Greg: The ending goes against the whole point of the movie, or at least the point it purports to make.  If that’s what you think the movie is and the ending doesn’t do that, then the film is a failure.

Alex It’s 20 seconds. It’s not the movie. And it IS ambiguous to an extent. Although certainly the conclusion that he has come around can be inferred.

Greg: There’s nothing ambiguous about him inexplicably holding onto a piece of paper in his dad jeans, that his daughter drew 20 years earlier.  How is it not trying to twist the whole movie around? It’s the end, it’s the culmination of the film. It’s what every ingredient should have been adding up to. How can you dismiss that? And for that matter, how can you dismiss the whole scene of him running after her as being anything more than a too-late, too-tidy wrap-up?

Alex: The ending is the whole third act, not just one segment of it. His pursuit of his daughter on the roof doesn’t violate the character’s behavior that’s preceded it.

Greg: It suggests that he knows he should have put family first.

Alex: He was only coaxed into it by Kate Winslet’s threatening to quit if he doesn’t deal with his daughter. In his mind, she’ll get over it — it’s not so much that he doesn’t care about her, it’s just that he’s compartmentalizing her way too much, like a book that he can finish reading later because he has other books to read first. But the scene that stems out of his being forced to prioritize Lisa represents him trying as best as he can to put her ahead of his work.

Greg: Are you kidding me? HE FUCKING ALREADY DOES. He held on to the piece of paper
and “remembered her.” He named the computer after her.

Alex: Jobs hasn’t prioritized her over Apple until this very moment. But he DID care about it before. He couldn’t really show it (e.g. when she’s in the rafters and nothing more than nuisance to him, during the NEXT sequence, when she hugs him and he doesn’t know how to accept it). He still barely can. But he IS trying. That’s what the scene is. He never says “I love you.” And even then, he never says she can stay with him on breaks from college or anything. Steve Jobs loves his daughter, but even at his most emotionally open moment with her (that we are privy to), he wants to keep that love at something of a distance.

Greg: I understand that the movie tries to do all these things. I concede that totally. But it doesn’t add up. Instead, it careens in a host of different directions, ping-ponging across wholly disparate points that feel antithetical to each other. I actually liked a lot of the scenes, I’m not even arguing from a place of liking or dislike. I’m judging the piece as a whole, not by its individual scenes, strong though some of them may be on their own. The movie is less than the sum of its parts.

Alex: I’m judging the thing on its cumulative merits too, you know. It was all very good, outside of my issues with some of the accents and maybe, fine, that last little 20-second sequence. The mildly overemphasized Danny Boyle flashback stuff really didn’t bug me until you and Evan mentioned it. Boyle visually SHOWS the flashbacks via the goofy “CSI”-flavored flashes for the Time Magazine cover, and the vision of the NEXT production process and its anticipated failure rolling out over the wall of that tunnel, as he confides in Winslet.

Greg: You’re infuriating. You enjoy people being assholes in movies for some reason whether there is growth or not. And so “Steve Jobs” works for you despite its obvious shortcomings.

Alex: I don’t like those kinds of movies when they’re done poorly. Like, oh, I dunno, “The Master.” “Steve Jobs,” though, was a character story done well.

Greg: But GOOD STORY requires arcs, and changes, and empathy and sympathy. I don’t get off on one dimensional characters going off the rails.

Alex: Unwavering lead characters in movies, like Steve Jobs here, are not one-dimensional. They are singularly focused. The man has depths! There is the surface level, the tech-marketing titan. And there is the suppressed side, the side that feels. Which he has trouble expressing, which is shown repeatedly in the movie.

Greg: I just think you’re letting it off the hook on a lot of things. The passage of time is irrelevant because nobody changes. They’d have been better off doing it over one launch. Were the movie just one launch, it could still end with Steve Jobs being an asshole who finally becomes self-aware BUT tells himself he’s okay with that because he has grander aspirations.  It should have been “Birdman.” Well, it basically is “Birdman,” but done without emotional logic.

Alex: People don’t change in this world that much, it’s about the way they express how they feel toward each other. And Lisa changes, in an interesting way as it pertains to her dad. Really, she’s the main engine of change in the movie. She goes from loving wide-eyed adoration of her mega-successful pops 1984 to being somewhat coolly guarded in 1988 to having a better sense of who Steve Jobs is than Steve Jobs. And again, it’s about the evolution of his business and the evolution of the way people express how they relate to him. All of which is very fascinating. You’re honestly telling me weren’t interested in the failures of the first Macintosh or the NEXT, or the secret success of the Apple II (which I had no idea about prior to this movie), or Jobs’ ouster at the company, or his eventual reinstatement that yielded a triumphant run of hits (starting with the iMac, which is the only big hit Sorkin shows us)?

Greg: It’s not about the evolution of his business. It’s not about his business at all. Where are you getting that? Sorkin himself has said he’s not interested in that.  Listen to his podcast with Chris Connelly.  Yes I’m very interested in Jobs. And his business. And him changing the world. I went into this wanting to like it because I was interested in seeing a great writer handle the history of a such a complicated but seismic figure in the culture. But it is not at all about his business. It’s about his relationships. And it’s so weird to have a movie about relationships that remain static the whole time. For fuck’s sake, the framing of it as a three-act play and setting the whole thing in a few rooms should be enough to tell you that it’s not about his business. That they’re striving for something more than a biopic about what he did. That is a major misread on your part if you think this movie is about “business.”

Alex: It’s about how he orchestrates his branding, not the nuts and bolts the bigger picture goals of each launch.

Greg: IT’S NOT ABOUT HIS FUCKING BRANDING!!! The movie takes it completely for granted that we know about what he’s done.

Alex: Let me submit a few things to back this up. the friendliness of the Macintosh (“hello”); the fact that the NEXT is actually a covert op to get him back into Apple with an operating system that caters to what Apple needs; the iMac as a personal computer that everyone will love because of its friendly layout and the colorful, translucent shell displaying its internal hard drive — a kinder, gentler revision of the original Macintosh. And that in itself had been designed to seem kind and friendly, to steer away from the HAL-9000 concept of a personal computer.

Greg: These are Macguffins, they’re plot devices to force certain confrontations for him.  It’s about his relationships, and how he navigates his God complex.  It’s not about his fucking company. What movie are you watching?? Boyle and Sorkin use those facts moments to highlight his interactions with the people closest to him. And they completely take the technology for granted.

Alex: It’s not about the technology, it’s about the promotion of that technology, and the nuances of the way the various important cogs in the company deal with each other and value each product being launched. Specifically, it’s about about how everyone tackles that stuff in relation to the way jobs wants to promote and wields his praise or his verbal abuse.

Greg: The promotion of his company?  Haha no its not! It’s not about salesmanship or his work genius. It assumes we think and know he’s a genius.

Alex: Totally disagree. He is SO intense about every detail of the launch, every detail of SELLING IT.

Greg: But that’s not what the movie is about!!! If it were we’d have the Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie. Instead, you don’t see him come up with anything. It’s always after the fact. It only shows the fall-out. And where the relationships have landed once the dust has settled.

Alex: And the products. Specifically, it’s about his role in their design, specifically, very much highlighted throughout. Here’s another key example: the whole thing with not making the NEXT cube a perfect, even-sided cube because it wouldn’t look right as a perfect cube, all the stuff with the face of Macintosh that drives the professional action of the first segment, the price points for everything and the way he’s trying to predict market interest. Also, it DOES show the creation of the first Apple computer, in a Van Nuys garage, as the Steve’s debate the elements of its creation.

Greg: Alex are you serious? Yes, those are details and character building elements to show certain characteristics. But that’s not what the movie’s about! Sorkin didn’t make this movie because of the fucking cube? The whole thing is almost allegory. The artist, the businessman, the loyal servant, the two technical geniuses. It doesn’t even matter that we’re talking about Apple. Know how I know that? Because it’s framed like a play and glosses over huge portions of this guy’s life where he built up and lost his companies.  And then it sticks me in a room with him and 3 “ghosts” from his past present and future so to speak. It’s a “Christmas Carol” for the Silicon Valley set, but not good. You think Aaron Sorkin sat down and pitched a movie about how Jobs is a good promoter? You think that’s what this movie is? If you were making this, wouldn’t you show him actually, I don’t know… promoting his creations instead of cutting away from the presentations themselves?

Alex: He IS though. It’s the backstage nuance. The speeches (of which we do hear the important bits as he rehearses them) are secondary.

Greg: Alex I’m really stunned. I take it you think “Raging Bull” is about boxing. Or
“Citizen Kane” is about the newspaper business.

Alex: I never liked “Citizen Kane.” Plenty of older movies hold up. “Kane”… not so much.

Greg: Oh it totally does, but that’s another conversation.

Alex: I’m just saying it’s not about him as a tech genius, it’s about him as a brilliant showman.

Greg: We’re running in circles! I feel like a broken record — it’s not even about him as a showman or genius. They gloss right over that.  If it were about a brilliant showman they would show the shows.  It couldn’t be clearer that was not the intent.

Alex: To say that “Steve Jobs” is just about his relationships is like saying “Raging Bull” is just about De Niro’s relationships with his wives and his brother. It’s about how JAKE LAMOTTA HATES HIMSELF. And how that self-loathing manifests in his relationships. Obviously the boxing is just the background.

Greg: Right, that’s what that film is about. Just as “Steve Jobs” is about putting self over others in the pursuit of greatness. What that “greatness” is DOES NOT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Alex: The promotional aspect of the entire enterprise is the focus of his work and the whole narrative through line.

Greg: No, that is irrelevant. He could want to be the best fucking acrobat in the world and the movie would more or less be the same. Again, Apple is a MacGuffin. The real purpose (as we see by the end) is his “reckoning” with the people around him.

Alex: This is an iconic figure, the guy who is kind of running our lives from the grave (like I said in the podcast). It’s so much more about context than a story about the world’s greatest acrobat or whatever.

Greg: No it’s not. The movie’s underlying point is PRECISELY why Aaron Sorkin framed it the way he did. And if there’s anything positive to say about it it’s that they took such an interesting gambit.

Alex: But it’s also about who he is, and what his promotional tech savvy was able to cultivate and where it was able to take the technology that we’re all so reliant on right now

Greg: Where the fuck do you get that from? They take it for granted. Holy shit. We don’t actually SEE anyone consuming his tech. Nobody outside of the daughter in the first sequence, for all of 10 minutes. That’s it. The thing literally marginalizes all his work.

Alex: No, we see how he promotes the tech and how the tech evolves and how it sells and how everyone at Jobs’s job (sorry, had to) reacts to its greatness.

Greg: He could be any billionaire, but its helpful that he’s Jobs because viewers come in knowing more about him.

Alex: It’s not about showing the consumer. it’s about how he knows where to take the consumer with the new technology.

Greg: You’re watching this movie as if it cares about NEXT and I’m watching it for what it’s trying to do, which is talk about the man’s relationships.

Alex: It cares about how his inner circle reacts to NEXT.

Greg: No it doesn’t. Flat-out it doesn’t. “Ace in the Hole,” THAT’s about a promoter.  This movie does not present Jobs as a great promoter. Because promoters are by all accounts “charlatans,” hype men. Whereas here we’re presented with a guy who believes in his stuff. He doesn’t know how to build it or how the exact mechanics work, but he knows the essence of what it is and what it can be, and he’s willing to stand by what he thinks at all costs, even if those costs are reprehensible. But it could be fucking anything he’s doing. Apple and its technology is secondary.

Alex: It’s a key part of the story, it’s not secondary at all. It’s all about how these people relate to each other through the products and what the products mean to them personally and professionally. Think about “Wall Street.” It’s not just about Bud Fox’s growth into a man, and the way he deals with these two father figures — basically A Decent Man and The Devil. It’s about how that ties in to his evolving status in the world of brokers and day traders.

Greg: Ugh. In “Wall Street,” the work is just a setting. You could make it any other high paying industry and the movie would still work, albeit in a less-cool setting.

Alex: It’s about him selling his soul. Not just any high paying industry facilitates that transaction.

Greg: No but plenty outside of the stock market do. You are such a sucker for “coolness.”

Alex: But isn’t a huge part of that movie about the specific ways the market contaminates those characters as human beings?

Greg: No. Not at all. It’s about how money makes you do bad things.

Alex: Well of course that’s a big part of it.

Greg: …Just as this one isn’t about computers.

Alex: I’ll grant that it’s not JUST about computers. And that “Wall Street” is of course not JUST about Wall Street. But the nature of those industries DOES inform a lot of what makes those movies interesting.

Greg: Hold up, let’s take this back a step. What do you think makes a movie? Because I’m getting the sense that a movie set in a certain world you find interesting is enough. As long as you think the world its set in is cool to you, you’re good.

Alex: I need interesting characters doing things I’m not anticipating. “Steve Jobs” has that. I also think a movie’s visual elements are very important. Movies are visual experiences, they’re informed by their texture and their atmosphere. It’s not wrong to enjoy those elements. In the specific case of “Steve Jobs,” I don’t think I’m enjoying them at the expense of the baseline story. You and I just fundamentally agree on what that is. So let me give you an example of a movie I love that doesn’t really care about the very flimsy point it’s making — the original “Evil Dead.” Well actually, the first two. The basic underlying point of both covers how quickly you’d turn on your friends if they became murderous on a dime and tried to kill you. That doesn’t really have much to do with how great that movie is, though. Following that thread, is there a basic underlying point to “Under Siege?” I mean, I guess kind of, right? It’s about how heroes come from unexpected places (the cook is secretly a Navy SEAL!).

Greg: But all these examples are “bad” movies, which is not to say that they’re not fun, but they’re very basically packaged. They serve one purpose, to entertain and be cool.

Alex: But the enjoyment of the movie comes from the characters, the atmosphere, and the PLOTTING. not the underlying point, just how it gets from A to B to C. They’re not “bad” movies — they’re dumb ones. Different things. movies don’t have to be smart to be good — not that “Steve Jobs” is dumb. The context of the movie matters, not just the underlying theme — which we still disagree on in this movie anyway

Greg: You’re entering fanboy territory here…

Alex: That’s a dismissive way to sidestep what I’m saying. AND ONLY TRUE IN SELECT CINEMATIC INSTANCES.

Greg: I very much use films the way Ebert did, as empathy machines. As ways to connect and understand other peoples’ experiences.

Alex: Your favorite movie’s “The Third Man,” right?

Greg: That’s my default, yeah.

Alex: You’d really love it as much if it wasn’t a post-war film noir, set in a broken-down Vienna? The way it looks and the way the plot moves are very important to the fabric of the piece. If those aren’t executed effectively or particularly interesting, it loses a lot of value.

Greg: The Vienna/noir aspects are fun to me but ultimately I love the relationship.

Alex: Well, true, everything about the movie works. And the tainted friendship IS a big part of that. As well as being the main point, a la “The Social Network.” I’m glad you’ve come around on that, PS. That’s a certifiably great movie.

Greg: I love stories about best friends who have one thing that ultimately puts them on opposite ends of the central conflict. That’s why I love stuff like May’s “Mikey and Nicky” and Wajda’s “Danton.” And that’s the case with all my favorite films. And sure, I’d agree that “The Social Network” is another great movie that falls in the friendship-betrayal category. The relationships are ultimately the most important thing to me. It’s an added bonus if I find the setting interesting.

Alex: I need both setting AND relationships, surface AND depth. I’m not saying that surface just has to be “cool.” It just has to engage me and inform the story in an interesting way.

Greg: But I think you’re totally cool without the relationships.

Alex: I’m not! For instance, in “Under Siege,” Steven Seagal hates terrorists. There you go. Relationship.

Greg: Haha. Don’t joke your way out of this one.  I’m really asking what relationships you gravitate to in films. I think focusing on surface components does a disservice to real movie analysis.

Alex: The way you like the betrayal of a friendship? As the prime emotional element?

Greg: Right. What relationships do you connect with the most?

Alex: Well a parent and their child navigating the child’s developing adulthood has always been particularly interesting to me. Another good theme I’ve always been into relative amorality within a single person – both of which “Steve Jobs” has.

Greg: But amorality by itself is nothing. It has to be placed within relationships to be something. So lets look at “Steve Jobs” from that prism.

Alex: Well usually someone in a movie is amoral, it’s about how they either hurt people or how they corrupt their world.

Greg: So you like the chaos of it?

Alex: The chaos and the unpredictability. I want to make a point about one of my favorite movies ever here, actually. A movie that I have tattooed to my body, a movie that isn’t really about relationships at all. I guess you could say it’s about family units and how fragile small town life relationships really are. But ultimately, it’s a movie ABOUT movies.

…Okay, okay, that movie is “Gremlins.” And it’s great. And it doesn’t really matter that “Gremlins” doesn’t have much to say.

Greg: All right, I’ve got to run. Parting shot: the Ashton Kutcher “Jobs” is a better “biopic” than this.

Alex: Well, that’s your opinion.

Greg: Good talk, go Bulls.

Alex: Go Bulls.

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