Jobs (2013)


Link: Jobs

Summary: The story of how Steve Jobs founded the computer company Apple.

Thoughts: This film suffered from two main problems.  Firstly, there was no over-arching theme, at least none that I could find, so it feels more like a dramatized documentary than a self-contained film.  Secondly, it seems Steve Jobs was too much of an arrogant jerk to be the inspiring figure he’s simultaneously attempted to be portrayed as.  His character in this film was almost completely unlikeable.  He treats his friends like dirt, and puts so much pressure on them to succeed it’s a miraculous wonder anyone continued to offer their services.  Meanwhile, what work did Jobs do?  In the film, mainly badger potential business partners, making it again seem miraculous his company was ever successful.  So when the sentimental music swells up in the background and Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs starts speaking in vague general abstractions about being nobly creative and changing the world, it feels like the forced empty sort of speech it is.  I have no idea how well the film reflects the true story of the man and the company, but as a film, this just doesn’t work.

About: Interestingly, part of the film was shot at Jobs’s actual childhood home in California, where his stepmother still lives.

Jobsmovie Los Altos

Apple Cofounder Steve Wozniak was approached by the filmmakers, but he turned down the opportunity to consult on the film after finding the script “was crap.”  Instead, he’s consulting on another Steve Jobs biopic, one being written by Aaron Sorkin, the writer behind The Social Network, based on Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography.  So we’ll probably get a much more decent Steve Jobs biopic sometime in the next few years.  It would be interesting, though I suppose quite unlikely, to have Ashton Kutcher reprise his role as Jobs; he does look like Steve Jobs, in a way.

Pelle the Conqueror (1987)

Summary: A father and son from Sweden immigrate to Denmark where they struggle to start a new life for themselves on a farm where immigrants are not made to feel very welcome.

Thoughts: For some reason, I have a particular interest in father-son relationship stories, and the relationship between this older widower father and his young son is considerably tested through the course of the film by their new surroundings.  Pelle’s father, played by Max von Sydow, wants to get remarried for practical purposes; he’s older and he wants someone to look after him.  But his search in an already prejudiced anti-immigrant environment does nothing to help Pelle, whose peers consistently bully him and his poor pathetic father.  Pelle’s only friends, if they can even be called that, are other outcasts.  When the father promises to beat up those who bullied his son, Pelle looks forward to it, but when confronted, his father does not in fact have the backbone for it.  Later, when a lead for a new wife comes to a dead end, the father searches for relief from his grief in drink, leaving his son to come home to find his father drunk and stumbling about.  Still, the father resolves to carry on for the sake of his son, to whom he promises that the world can be conquered.  Max von Sydow gives a great performance in this film.  Unfortunately, though, the story just seems to fizzle out at the end, leaving us in a rather dramatically ambiguous place, probably feeling emotionally empty.  In retrospect, it didn’t seem the overall story was about anything in particular, just a series of related episodic conflicts.  That is, I’m having trouble understanding what, if anything, Pelle learned through the course of the film, or if the whole things was just about torturing the poor characters.

About: The film is based on the first part of the novel Pelle Erobreren by Danish writer Martin Andersen Nexø (1869-1954), which was published in four parts from 1906 to 1910.  (An English translation is available from Project Gutenberg.)  Perhaps that is why the story feels so incomplete; it is based on just the first part of a much larger story.  Interestingly, the actor who played young Pelle was himself named Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard), named after the character from the original book.

The film won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.  The film also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; the year before, another Danish film had won the award—Babette’s Feast.

Yikes, what bad TV graphics they had in the late 80’s.  Looks like Pelle had some interesting contenders.  A psychic Nazi film?

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Summary: An old man recalls the friendships of his mobster past as he searches for some final answers.

Thoughts: I’m not really sure what to say about this film.  It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.  It was three hours and forty-some minutes, but it pulled me in and the time flew by, like being pulled into a wonderful symphony; the pacing was just perfect.  This is definitely Sergio Leone’s masterpiece.  My only complaint is that I didn’t think it had to be so dirty; I guess Leone was going for the “gritty” dirtiness that tries to make you feel dirty as a viewer.  It’s all unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to the story.  That complaint aside, the overall film is just brilliant.  It starts out a bit confusing, because you get these seemingly random scenes and you’re not sure how they relate to each other.  But as the film continues, it all becomes clear, and in a way that makes the chronological shuffling somehow work wonderfully.  At its heart, the film is about the relationship between two guys played by Robert De Niro and James Woods.  We see their friendship begin as teenagers, continue into adulthood, take some wild twists, and end in an unexpected powerful tragic poetic awesome way.  Gah!  It was so good!  I can’t write anything very intelligent-sounding about it, because the emotion of it was just so perfect.  Tragic, but . . . I don’t know how to describe it.  It’s not like a “someone dies” sort of tragedy, it’s like the whole story, the whole arc of the main characters’ relationship just somehow comes together . . . I really don’t know what it is.  It just left me overwhelmed with emotion.  The film also features one of Ennio Morricone’s most beautiful musical scores, and some beautiful use of the song Yesterday.

It seems the blu-ray is currently out of print, but it seems there’s an extended cut in the works that will add an additional twenty minutes (I think) of footage to the film, bringing the film’s running time over the four hour mark.  Whew!  But I’ll definitely be on the look out for it.  Brilliant, epic, wonderful film.

The Way Way Back (2013)

Link: The Way, Way Back

Summary: A teenager tries to survive a summer vacation with his divorced mother’s new evil jerk boyfriend.

Thoughts: I’m not sure I really understand these awkward comedies; it’s like they want you to laugh at the main character’s dorky awkwardness and feel sorry for him at the same time, like you’re supposed to identify with him and then laugh at yourself.  And while I think dealing with an annoying jerk is universally relatable (as played to perfection by Steve Carell in his most loathsome role yet as the divorced mother’s new evil Candy Land Nazi boyfriend), relating to an overly self-conscious brooding teenager is not the most interesting or enjoyable mental exercise, at least not for me.  The film centers around the main character’s search for self-confidence, but he seems to mostly miraculously gain it externally, mostly by hanging around with the bizarre outgoing-funny-charming-immature adult character played by Sam Rockwell, who’s ready and eager to push a random awkward teenager out of his comfort zone and into the zone of self-confidence-building socially awkward situations, just like the friend I’m sure every awkward teenager daydreams of meeting.  I didn’t understand this film at all.

Sanjuro (1962)

Link: Yojimbo & Sanjuro

Summary: The nameless ronin from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) helps nine samurai defend against some kind of plot by scheming officials.

Thoughts: As you might guess based on my summary, I found this film I bit confusing.  I wasn’t quite sure what exactly the villains were plotting, so I wasn’t quite sure what the entire conflict was all about.  Still, even without understanding the intricacies of the overall plot, the main character’s clever counter-schemes were engaging, at times hilarious, while the nine samurai’s torment over whether or not to trust this nameless samurai kept things interesting.  The swordfights were well choreographed, but the comedy of the overall plot drained them of some of their dramatic power.  The film features some more of Kurosawa’s great cinematographic style, and it was nice to hear the musical themes from Yojimbo revisited.  Overall, though, the film is no match for Yojimbo, which remains my favorite Kurosawa film (of the ones I’ve seen).  Perhaps the overall conflict, being of a more political-scheming nature, just feels too light-hearted or abstract for me.  Still, I found it to be an enjoyable film.

The Wolverine (2013)

Link: The Wolverine

Summary: Taking place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the Wolverine is pulled into a conflict in Japan, where he must protect an old acquaintance’s granddaughter while trying to figure out why his self-healing powers have mysteriously vanished.

Thoughts: While I thought Wolverine’s constantly brooding moodiness got tiring very quickly, I actually enjoyed this film more than any other X-Men film so far.  Of course, I’m not sure that’s really saying much; I’m not much of a comics-based superhero movie fan in general.  Anyway, the Japanese setting was refreshing, the action was fun, and I thought the villains were intriguing enough, but overall the film seemed to be a rather standard action flick.