The Documentary by Alex Gibney – One half good, the other half hack job
I decided to watch the Alex Gibney documentary, Steve Jobs the Man in the Machine, las evening. The first part was interesting in a familiar kind of way. Much of the material had been covered in previous films about the iconic Apple Co-Founder
Some of the interviews were incredible. I had never seen any previous video with Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs eldest child Lisa. She brought a unique insight into the Steve Jobs very few ever knew. Steve Jobs’ college buddy, former roommate and early Apple employee Dan Kottke offered new insights beyond the stories previously published. Then there was Bob Belleville.
The hardware engineer who made sure the original Macintosh came together, Belleville was the most compelling story among the cast of side characters in this Steve Jobs film. I was surprised by how strongly effected I was by Belleville’s recollections of Steve Jobs death.
One of the things not seen in previous documentaries covering Jobs and Apple made me uncomfortable watching it. Gibney was able to gain access to the video deposition Steve Jobs gave in 2008. I found the footage shocking. I was not bothered by its content of testimony. It was the physical deterioration in Steve Jobs himself. I can understand why many viewers wished that material had not been included.
We had seen Jobs’ condition get progressively worse at various product keynotes over the years. Even in his sit down chats with Walt Mossberg, though he was obviously frail, he still projected enthusiasm. However, the appearance of exhaustion in “The Man in the Machine,” and lack of focus was disturbing to me.
The last hour of the film transitioned into a “Let’s bash Apple” exercise. That was obvious in Gibney’s decision to interview Yukari Kane, a former reporter at The Wall Street Journal whose book “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs” has been generally dismissed as a hatchet job by one Apple exec after another.
Foxconn, Gizmodo, Stock Backdating and other sordid allegations occupied the bulk of the last hour. Quite frankly, the move just turned me off. It also left me wanting to watch Robert X. Cringley’s “Lost Interview” with Steve Jobs again. That was one of the best Steve Jobs interviews you will find. Watch that and wait for Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine to become available on Netflix.
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