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Op-Ed: I watched the Steve Jobs movie 5 times and here’s why you’ll want to too

Steve Jobs movie 16-9

[Ed. Note: This is a guest post by Lontih Khatami who [disclosure] works at the same studio, Universal, that produced the film but did not work on the film. Spoiler: it’s better than iSteve]

Interested in seeing the new Steve Jobs movie that Universal is releasing this weekend in select markets (with wide expansion set for October 23)? Well, me, too. Only I’ve already seen it five times within the past dozen days. And I eagerly await my next few viewings.

You’re probably wondering how I’ve been able to see this inevitable Oscar contender so many times prior to its initial release. The more important thing to ponder, though, is “Why would anybody WANT to see it so many times in such a short timeframe?” The answer to that question, quite simply, is because the movie is masterfully made, and it works on so many different levels. Not unlike so many of the products the title character brought into this world…

To best analyze this movie, one would rightfully begin with the fertile subject matter — a titan of an entrepreneur, a revolutionary communicator, and a contradiction of a human being (after all, Jobs is a man who denied the paternity of his own illegitimate child for years while obsessing to marry technology with accessibility in order to procreate the most sought-after and sophisticated gadgetry of our time for strangers).

And who better to write the screenplay on such an intriguing individual than someone who possesses these same traits himself? Namely Aaron Sorkin, whose taut screenplay is fraught with conflict, three-dimensional characterization, expertly crafted scenes, transfixing dialogue exchanges, and an uncanny insight into the human condition; and he seems to accomplish all of this within every scene.


Steve Jobs, the movie, however, is not a one-man show (nor is Steve Jobs, the man/myth — Woz, anybody?). No, Sorkin had invaluable help from his filmmaking collaborators. I’d venture to say making a movie is akin to making a computer; there are hundreds of people (creatives and technicians alike), countless components and painstaking decisions involved in constructing both. But making a movie and/or a computer work magnificently is a whole other matter.

In tech/geek circles, Jobs and company are widely considered to have made their computers with an unmatched expertise. And in film circles, Sorkin and director Danny Boyle seem to share that same esteem. Allow me if you will to further this movie/computer analogy. If Sorkin is the programmer writing the sequences and instructions needed to make the movie, then Boyle is the central processing unit that flawlessly carries out these instructions with a flair.


There’s a scene halfway through the movie (a sequence, really) that has stayed with me more than the rest of the compelling scenes. It starts off with Jobs backstage at the second product launch of the three product launches that Sorkin utilizes to structure the movie (specifically the introduction of the NeXT computer, at a crushing time in Jobs’ life after he was fired from Apple).

On his way to the stage, Jobs enters a large, empty hall where a dozen or so tables are pushed up against the walls with chairs stacked high and haphazardly on each of them. There is only one man in the room, John Sculley – the man responsible for Jobs’ acrimonious dismissal from the very company Jobs created. The two hadn’t spoken in years, and there Sculley is, seated in the one chair on the floor.

As the two friends-turned-rivals begin to argue their own points of view of Jobs’ “firing”, the scene flashes back to the moment when Sculley first informs Jobs of his impending loss of stature within Apple. This flashback takes place in Jobs’ unfurnished home. The scene then continues to intercut between the NeXT pre-launch, Jobs’ home, and flashbacks of Jobs’ volatile demise in the Apple boardroom. The flashbacks climax in the boardroom where Sculley sits at the head of the table alongside the rest of the board as they unanimously oust Jobs.


The first time I watched the above scene, I vacillated between feeling it was a bold sequence and feeling it was an overly showy, style-heavy choice – the ridiculously stacked chairs in the hall… the conspicuously empty house with Jobs sitting on the floor while working on his beloved Macintosh… the hyper-kinetic intercutting.

It all bumped me in that first viewing. I saw it again, and decided to just focus on the dialogue; pretty damn good dialogue, I thought. I saw it a third time, trying to pay close attention to the visuals AND audio (not an easy task when Sorkin is on a tear, and Boyle is getting visually adventurous). This time, I noticed a few other nuances, like many of the shots in Jobs’ house had him and Sculley speaking to each other from separate rooms (for the first time, these two literally and figuratively are not seeing eye to eye).

Hmmm, nice touch I thought. It wasn’t until my fourth viewing, when I just couldn’t shake my suspicion that those damn chairs piled high on the tables like post-modern art were meant to bump me, and thus make me think. Alas, they were there for a very precise reason – to highlight that Apple was in upheaval and disarray at that moment, and that Sculley had THE chair (on Apple’s board), the very chair that Jobs wanted.

Throughout that entire sequence, arguably the most dramatic of the movie, Jobs never once sits in a chair. He stands in the oddly chair-strewn hall, he squats/stands/walks in his own home, and he paces and fumes in the Apple boardroom (the sole person on his feet). At that moment, I was no longer just a fan of the movie; I was in awe… of the movie and the filmmakers.

There are plenty of other scenes and moments in the movie to laud, of course, but I’ll save those for you to discover and appreciate. Until then, get in line (or online), buy your ticket, take your seat, and enjoy the show.


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  1. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    “Alas, they were there for a very precise reason – to highlight that Apple was in upheaval and disarray at that moment, and that Sculley had THE chair (on Apple’s board), the very chair that Jobs wanted.”

    [citation needed]

    • Joe - 7 years ago

      Exactly. Steve didn’t want to be on the board. He specifically said he didn’t want to be that high up. That’s also why HE specifically recruited Sculley to take over. The problem was that Steve just lost control of his teams and….well…was just a kid acting childish. He needed to grow. He didn’t want to be on the board.

  2. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    @ Lontih Khatami, I fully get why people want to be entertained at the cinema, but a director creating a biography that doesn’t reflect the person they are making a movie about…this movie is not for me.

  3. BDKennedy (@BDKennedy) - 7 years ago

    Once in a lifetime, we hopefully get someone like Steve Jobs. These days, younger generations watch movies and think that’s how the world is without researching who he REALLY was. The people close to him said this movie is not an accurate representation of his character. This movie is going to mislead history as to who he was. It dilutes his character and I refuse to see it.

    • PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

      That is an excellent point / post you make! +1

    • 98cobra - 7 years ago

      Absolutely my feelings to the letter. Ive read the last 2 biographies, including Becoming Steve Jobs which was endorsed by Apple. The movie is flat out inaccurate in so many ways. Besides getting nearly all of the facts wrong in some way, they are also misrepresenting Steve’s character as well.

    • kisertn - 7 years ago

      That’s not what I understood from the commentary. I have understood them to say that this is not an actual portrayal of events, but that they *did* capture some of the essence of the man. I may have misunderstood, but this is what I came away with.

  4. Dafty Punk - 7 years ago

    How much did you guys get for this “Editorial’? Smacks of checkbook journalism.

    • Seth Weintraub - 7 years ago

      Nothing (obviously). I know the extreme Jobs fans won’t give it a shot but I think other folks will want to know about the movie.

      • Dafty Punk - 7 years ago

        I know you most likely didn’t get paid for this, but at the same time it’s so damn gushing that it reads like a paid placement. Much like many of your reviews of product that were clearly supplied to you for free, usually they are also positive reviews. Seems like half the reviews for products on Amazon these days are written by people who got free or discounted products… Of course everyone loves a product they get for free or at a severe discount (or in this case, from a company they work for). Is Consumer Reports the only place left that pays for the items they review?

        I guess we shall see once the movie is in theaters and normal people actually see it. Until then I’ll take a review written by someone who works for the company producing the movie with a grain of salt.

      • seanadb - 7 years ago

        I’m definitely a fan of Jobs, knowing he had issues in his personal life (who the hell is perfect, right?). The only thing that I’ve seen that bugs me about this movie are how it plays fast and loose with at least one fact: Apple didn’t “rip off” the GUI. They offered Xerox shares in Apple and the GUi that Xerox made was INCREDIBLY clunky. What Apple made was a whole new level of GUI in comparison.

        Anyway, looking forward to seeing the movie! Thanks for the review

      • mdelvecchio99 - 7 years ago

        agreed on the GUI line from Woz, totally bogus. apple exchanged about a million in stock for the right to use what they saw there. and even then they implemented their own and added much to it. read about it from the guys in the room:,_Apple_and_Progress.txt

  5. charismatron - 7 years ago

    Hm, ad blocker still let’s me see this “review. /sarcasm.

  6. Benjamin (@NSbenjamins) - 7 years ago

    the fact that Steve Jobs’ family doesn’t want it to be made is a good enough reason for me to not watch it.

    • ctyrider (@ctyrider) - 7 years ago

      That’s just silly. Of course, there some people with vested interest in preventing any negative elements in portraying someone they loved / worked with / worshipped. Fact of the matter of – none of the commenters have yet seen the movie, and therefore cannot cast any judgement.

      I’d advise to keep an open mind and judge the move on its own merits. And also, as a work of art, rather than documentary portrayal of SJ.

      I will see the movie (not 5 times obviously) and make up my own mind.

    • seanadb - 7 years ago

      His wife hasn’t seen the movie. Steve Wozniak and Andy Hertzfeld know Jobs and they’ve both seen the movie and they both like it, also acknowledging that it isn’t altogether representative of reality. I wish Lauren would at least see the movie on her own before judging it (after which she is welcome to say it sucks or whatever).

  7. Rasmussen (@Twitboydk) - 7 years ago

    If you go see a movie 5 times in such a short time – it has nothing to do with the movie being good or not. It has something to do with OCD.

  8. Don’t think i will see it Woz has said he likes the movie but Woz is a nice guy, the children working in factories for $0.17cents a hour was slanderous at best from a director that should be trained to think before he opens his poo flap

  9. 98cobra - 7 years ago

    I’m going to watch this eventually, but based on some of what Ive read and seen in trailers, it feels woefully inaccurate after reading the 2 recent biographies. Add to that interviews from the people that were there and knew Steve, and they too say the movie is very far from accurate and very far from the truth in many regards.

  10. uniquified - 7 years ago

    I don’t want to see any movie five times.

    • spiralynth - 7 years ago

      The Usual Suspects should be viewed multiple times, at least twice.

      The Player should to be viewed at least 5 times to grasp all of its amazingness. Over the course of multiple years, I’ve seen it at least 10 times and I still keep seeing something I hadn’t before. It’s that dense with detail and nuance.

      Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see this Sorkin/Boyle production and I’ll reserve judgment until I do.

      • MaxBay - 7 years ago

        Good point about The Player. An exceptional film.
        The snake-in-the-Range-Rover scene is still electrifying, especially given the fax Griffin Mill received.

  11. chrisl84 - 7 years ago

    Good grief, anyone who has seen it more than once at this point seriously needs to get a life

  12. MaxBay - 7 years ago

    Universal, please stop this.

    The piece is poorly written, but at least it is short on Valley Speak.

    Makes me less interested in seeing the movie.

    I haven’t ‘seen any Steve Jobs movie, so this piece of propaganda would not have worked if it had been done well.
    Because of his announcements through Apple, and through Youtube videos including his address to Stanford, the man is still alive in a sense.

    What did Steve Jobs ever do to Hollywood?

  13. Dave Huntley - 7 years ago

    I admit I am a bit cynical quite often but reading this piece I just think it’s marketing… Mostly likely viewers are people with an interest in Apple and Sorkin and Co have been trying hard to frighten all those people away so it seems like the studio had to do something to get some positive coverage.. Is this it? How much is your bonus check from Universal? Thats what instantly springs to mind…

    Only one person has been clear on the movie, Woz says it isnt factual at all, it’s just a drama. So Universal is probably wasting its time on how they caught the spirit of the man and all that, it’s a soap, trying to suggest theres much reality here is really pulling wool over people’s eyes.

    I won’t be watching. I have no idea why people want to see a movie about Jobs. We know enough of the real man, who wants a dramatized version as well?

  14. webzpinner - 7 years ago

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mac, my iPhone, iPod,iPad, etc… But I couldn’t care less about Steve Jobs. I don’t watch Nicola Tesla documentaries every time I flip a light switch, or read a Marconi biography before listening to the radio. Steve jobs made products people wanted. ‘Nuff said. He doesn’t deserve a theatrical movie… Maybe an A&E biography episode, but that’s about it. Many pioneers of entertainment died without movies…

  15. drhalftone - 7 years ago

    I refuse to watch any Steve Jobs biopic that doesn’t star Christian Bale.

  16. quiviran - 7 years ago

    This movie was made by artistes for artistes. You engineers won’t get it. I’m an engineer and I’m not going to waste any money supporting nonsense.

    I think the opportunistic label assigned to this film by Tim Cook is probably about right. All of the spin offensive being conducted by Universal right now is very telling.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.