the candler blog

Extra Thoughts on Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Film, Link, Review, SXSW 2015, Technology

I wrote a piece about Alex Gibney’s latest documentary, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, for GOOD Magazine.

The film is by no means a comprehensive portrait of Jobs, though it features a number of interesting new interviews with those close to him, like the aforementioned [Chrisann] Brennan, iPod chief Jon Rubinstein, and Macintosh engineering head Bob Belleville. […] Mostly though, it seems Gibney set out to make a negative portrait of Jobs, and he succeeds.

Audiences who know little about Jobs are certainly in for a shock. I heard plenty of gasps among the SXSW audience I watched the film with.

While I believe Gibney made this film to better understand his relationship with the technology that has conquered the world, I think he’s a bit cagey in his narration about how deliberately unsavory his portrayal of Jobs is. This is not a flat out biography. I’m not sure I’d call it a hit piece either, but it comes very close.

That said: it’s all true. Jobs had a very dark side that was never quite hidden, but surely overshadowed by his incredible successes.

I’m not sure why now, but the legacy of Jobs seems to be coming more to the fore this year. Besides Man in the Machine, which has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures and will probably see a release sometime this year, just this week we saw the release of Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.1 That latest unauthorized biography of Jobs has been met with praise so far by the Mac blogging community and even Apple itself.

I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t speak to whether it looks at Jobs through rose-colored glasses (whereas Gibney’s glasses would be more ashen) or if it truly is a comprehensive investigation into Jobs’s life. If I had to guess, Man in the Machine will fade, just as the scandals rehashed in it have done over the years.

  1. That’s an iBooks affiliate link. If Amazon is more your bag, here you go. I thank you in advance.

Jason Schwartzman’s On-Screen Schmuckery in 7 Chinese Brothers

Link, Movies, Review, SXSW 2015

Me, for Heeb Magazine:

This year, at SXSW, we have the premiere of Bob Byington’s 7 Chinese Brothers, a film that showcases the lighter side of [Jason] Schwartzman’s on-screen schmuckery. He plays Larry, a fuck-up to be sure, but a fuck-up you can cheer for.

I enjoyed this one. If you’re a Schwartzman fan, 7 Chinese Brothers should head to the top of your list.

HBO In Talks With Apple To Be Launch Partner For ‘HBO Now’

Link, Movies, Technology, Television

Big scoop from Michael Learmonth over at the International Business Times:

HBO is in talks with Apple to make Apple TV one of the launch partners for its highly anticipated streaming service when it debuts next month. HBO and streaming partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media are working to have the standalone service, called “HBO Now,” ready to launch in April in conjunction with the premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones,” according to sources familiar with their plans.

$15 a month. No cable subscription required.

Maybe we’ll hear just a bit about this on Monday when Apple has its Apple Watch event. If Apple landed an exclusive launch window it would be huge for the Apple TV. If for even just a few weeks into the latest season of Game of Thrones Apple TV is the only device you can get standalone HBO on, they would sell a bundle without updating the hardware.

Time will tell.

How WWI Made Wristwatches Happen

History, Link, Technology

Linda Rodriguez writing for Boing Boing:

“The problem with the pocket watch is that you have to hold it,” explained Doyle. That wasn’t going to work for the officer at the Western Front – when an officer lead his men “over the top”, leaving the relative safety of the trenches for the pock-marked no man’s land in between and very possible death, he had his gun in one hand and his whistle in the other. “You haven’t got another hand in which to hold your watch.”

I came across similar histories to this piece when researching my “Smartwatch through History” article for GOOD Magazine. Rodriguez offers a great, conciese refresher on the history of the wristwatch.

We’re on the precipice of another wave of wristwatch innovation. Hopefully it won’t take another war to push the state of the art forward.

Final Cut X Used to Cut New Will Smith Film

Editing, Movies

Apple has some new marketing materials speaking with the team behind Focus, the new film starring Will Smith that opens this weekend. The film was edited on Final Cut X. It’s full of effusive praise from directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra.

“We got exactly the film we set out to make,” says Requa. “What I love about Final Cut Pro X is that it allowed me to be involved with, and in control of, every aspect of making our film.”

Take the whole thing with a grain of salt. I’m yet to meet an editor who prefers Final Cut X to any other tool. In fact most editors I know still laugh it off. The truth is that the application is much better today than when it was introduced, but the stigma has stuck.

From a sheer workflow perspective, the whole piece is an interesting read. I think the filmmakers overstate how much better Final Cut X at certain tasks than the competition (remember that this is a marketing page paid for by Apple) but there are some compelling items discussed. The film was shot on an ARRI Alexa, for example, which puts out ProRes files that can be cut instantly in Final Cut X. While that is technically true of other editing systems, it has always been FCX’s ace in the hole, and I can see why that would impress filmmakers looking to cut on location.

Here’s the strangest line:

The directors were happy enough with the animated opening credits — created by editors using the standard text tool in Final Cut Pro X — that they decided to use them in the final movie, which is extremely rare for a high-production feature film.

That’s nuts. I kind of need to see these titles on the big screen now. The text tool in Final Cut Pro was largely unchanged from versions 1.2.5 through 7: it was terrible. And now FCX’s text tool is good enough to bring to the big screen? I don’t actually believe that.

The other big question I have is how Requa, Ficarra and lead editor Jan Kovac dealt with color during the edit. The article mentions a few times that there’s no transcode necessary with Final Cut X, but raw footage is extremely flat and not very nice to look at. The film’s color was finished on a Quantel Pablo Rio, but I wonder what they did in the meantime.

The transcodes that happen in between production and post will usually apply a color shift to make the picture easier to look at when editing. What’s FCX’s strategy, then? Is there a standard color filter that gets applied to all Alexa footage ingested? I don’t know because I, too, am yet to work on a whole project in the program. It’s nice to know that it’s possible, though.

(via MacRumors.)

Fountain and (cont’d)

Fountain, Link, Screenwriting

John August digs into the thought process behind how his app, Highland, and, by extension, Fountain as a whole, deals with (cont’d) in screenplay formatting. The whole piece is interesting, but I especially like this bit:

The screenwriter is always the best judge of whether the dialogue is continuous, so you can just type it yourself.

That’s sort of the philosophy of Highland and Fountain: your script is exactly what you type, nothing more, nothing less.

I love that Fountain thrives. Part of the reason it does is August’s careful and considered stewardship.

The New Digital Hub

Technology

Very cool piece by Glenn Fleishman (which I came to by way of John Moltz) titled “iWatch, iHub.” Here’s the key line:

The Watch is the digital hub around which everything rotates in the new Apple universe.

For a refresher, here’s Steve Jobs introducing the “digital hub” strategy, the engine that continues to drive Apple, way back in 2001. The short of it: as you life goes digital, the Mac (and later the iPhone) should be the central repository for all your stuff.

Fleishman envisions a future Apple Watch with its own radios and GPS (the forthcoming inaugural models require an iPhone to connect to the web) and how it will be the key to your digital life. The most interesting (to me) idea he mentions with what to do with such a wearable is this:

The entertainment hub for your car, which no longer needs a radio/receiver unit at all, but just a surface-mounted magnetic charging dock against which you place your Watch while driving.

That reminded me of the opening scene of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, in which Ryan Gosling’s meticulous “Driver” ties a watch to his steering wheel so he can time a heist underway. (You get five minutes with The Driver, then he’s gone.)

I actually only recently started wearing a watch again, in part to gauge how much I like having something on my wrist should I take the leap and get an Apple Watch. On the drive in to work this morning I happened to test checking the time on my wrist. It’s silly since I have a clock on the in-dash stereo as well as next to the speedometer.

I was left wondering: why on earth would I want to look at my wrist while driving? Where would the Apple Watch go? Fleishman’s idea sounds like a good one.

And if we need to stoke the flames of the Apple Car rumor, this is kind of a fun place to take things.

Local

Movies, Short Films

LOCAL is a very cool short skate film by Sean Slobodan.

The film’s description of how they got the closing shot of the moon is great:

I was shooting from a little over a mile away in massive field. Because this was just on the top of a dirt hill we had to build about a 100 foot track made out of plywood for Daniel to skate on. … Ultimately there were probably 20 people who helped make this shot possible.