Category Archives: Movies

Scott Knaster visits the Steve Jobs movie office

Scott Knaster blogged about his day advising the crew of the new Steve Jobs movie:

“Every room had things taped up on the walls. Giant blown up pictures of the different events they were going to re-create. One entire wall was nothing but ancient Mac error messages. Another was photos of buildings where different Apple events happened. One wall had pictures from the Internet of random Apple employees from the ’80s.”

Apple seems intent on downplaying this movie as inaccurate and unfair to Steve, but it’s not supposed to be a documentary. It’s promising that they asked Scott Knaster for help getting some of the everyday details right. I’m really looking forward to it.

Steve Jobs and ET

I watched two documentaries last week. The first was “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”, which I somewhat regret paying $7 to rent. It had its moments, but also seemed to become more negative and dramatic the longer it went on. I guess we should all hope to be so lucky and famous to have people try to bring out the best and worst of us.

The second documentary I watched was “Atari: Game Over”, which was free on Netflix. It was great, interspersing a history of the rise and fall of Atari with the effort to dig up the ET game cartridges supposedly buried in New Mexico. Highly recommended.

The Prestige

I saw The Illusionist when it came out a couple months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love magic. The film was well told, the ending a surprise for me. Edward Norton was really good in it too. I re-watched Fight Club a week later, for the first time since the theatrical release.

Last night, I saw The Prestige. How lucky are we to have two movies about magicians in the same year? The Illusionist was really good, but The Prestige sidesteps direct comparison and just creates a new league for itself. My head was still buzzing an hour after the film was over, unraveling the different layers of the film, what it all meant for the characters and their actions. It was one of those rare works that inspires, both from the flawless filmmaking and the dedication of the fictional characters as well. I was literally on the edge of my seat and completely captivated.

Even as the credits started to roll I wanted to see it again. It’s that good.

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”: last month. It’s a very important movie, and I hope everyone has a chance to see it.

They handed out copies of Seed Magazine at SXSW this year. There were a few articles on global warming, including “this depressing quote from James Lovelock”:, the environmental scientist responsible for the Gaia hypothesis:

bq. “The prospects for the coming century are pretty grim: If these predictions are correct, it means that all of the efforts that have been made, like the Kyoto and Montreal agreements, are almost certainly a waste of time. They should have been done 50 or 100 years ago. It’s too late now to turn back the clock, so to speak.”

What are we supposed to do with that? If we are scared and powerless, nothing will change.

The Bush administration agenda too is based on fear. Fear led us to IRAQ, to no-warrant wiretapping. Instead, with An Inconvenient Truth you leave the movie theater inspired, with a new sense of urgency. This is beautifully woven together — personal highlights from Gore’s life with his talk with facts with videos.

And as a Mac user, it’s nice to see “Keynote played such an important part”: in the production of his talks (via “James Duncan Davidson”:

Also, this on YouTube: “A Terrifying Message from Al Gore”: (Futurama!)

United 93

When I first heard about the “United 93 movie”: I had just about the “same reaction as Matthew Haughey”: Hollywood only wants to make some quick cash off of other people’s tragedy. The movie is going to be painful to watch, it won’t be accurate anyway, and it will be full of sappy, exaggerated nonsense meant to pull at our emotions and our wallets.

I probably said about as much to my television. I only watch a couple hours of TV a week, and a significant portion of that is yelling at advertisements or the local news crew.

But then a few things changed:

  • I heard that the desire to make this movie was more driven by the director than executives.

  • Reviews coming in seemed “very positive”:

  • I realized that I couldn’t ignore this movie just because of my overwhelming fear of flying.

  • I remembered that after September 11th, I wanted to make a film about it too. (My story was not a “docu-drama”, but a short animated film with a fantasy spin on real events in New York City.)

Anyway, I saw the movie Friday night. As surprising as it may seem, it is very good. I don’t think I’ll say anymore than that.

Harry Potter book 4

So I finished rereading Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire in anticipation of the 4th film, which we just saw last night. (Thanks Damon for remembering to buy tickets a month early.) The film did a great job of capturing the important points of the book, while pushing the plot along at a very quick pace. The first half dozen chapters seemed to slip by in only five minutes of screen time. I was wondering how they were going to squeeze 800 pages into two and a half hours, but they did it.

Overhead while Traci was reading the book: “It’s weird… Hermione seems so much more like a Hufflepuff.”

Television feature request

I rarely watch TV anymore. When I do, like for the ongoing Olympics coverage, I quickly become frustrated with commercials (especially those not appropriate for 4 year olds, even if the main show is). I want a “visual mute” feature for my television. One click on the remote kills the sound and dims the picture, down to 15% or so. Forget high-definition, how about something I can use? (Patent pending.)

Whale Rider

We saw Whale Rider last night, and I was pulled into it from the very beginning. There were few big surprises, but the story was moving, especially for all of us with daughters. It was told in a uniquely honest way that made the whole feel special. The scenes had a thoughtful timing and flow to them that really worked, and you could tell each shot was carefully composed. As Traci said as we left the theater, it was one of those rare films that you want to see again soon.

Awaiting The Two Towers

A couple of hours from now I should be firmly planted in my seat with popcorn and drink for The Two Towers. I didn’t get to finish re-reading the book this week as I had planned, but from what I’m hearing there are enough differences that maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. These films have a way of intruding on our own version of the story. After seeing the film, it’s sometimes hard to remember how you first imagined things.

Not to mention the plot changes. There was one subtle change that annoyed me about Fellowship, and as far as I can tell there was no reason for it. In the last chapter of Fellowship and the opening of Two Towers, Aragorn is busy running around and makes a crucial decision as the Orcs attack to not continue to find Frodo, and so Frodo and Sam leave unnoticed with the ring. By the time Aragorn realizes what has happened, he admits to himself that it’s probably best for Frodo to go the rest of the journey alone, and he can focus on rescuing the other hobbits.

But in the film, Aragorn and Frodo have a little talk, and Aragorn lets Frodo go to Mordor alone. This is definitely wrong for Aragorn’s character, since after Gandalf disappeared he was responsible for seeing the journey to it’s conclusion. He would never have willingly let Frodo go alone, and my guess is that Tolkien spent some time crafting the right situation that would allow Frodo to go by himself.

Meg: “I’m most looking forward to seeing the Ents.”

I’m both looking forward to and dreading the Ents. In the early trailers, there was no sign of Treebeard or his friends, so I assumed they had been given the ol’ Tom Bombadil (cut). Of course it will be computer animation, but I wonder if they can pull it off in a believable way.

I saw Enigma a week

I saw Enigma a week ago. We’ve seen many movies about technology come and go, but so far only Enigma deserves a place next to Sneakers as one of the best ever. Some may be bothered that the characters are fictional, but the rest of the movie was so true to the spirit and technology of the time that I easily fell into the story without a thought to Alan Turing’s absence until I left the theater. From the dials and plugs on the Enigma machine, to the explanation of cryptanalysis and the handwritten notes as the code breakers worked out a problem — it all felt real, a refreshing break from the fake computer interfaces usually designed by Hollywood.

That Turing’s story could be great on the big screen, I have no doubt. But Enigma’s story — romance, cryptography, war — also has its place. The look of the film is perfect, and with dialogue to match. You might recognize Tom Stoppard in the screenplay credit; his other credits include Shakespear in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Empire of the Sun.

When I got home, I searched my bookshelves for other crypto books to supplement the film. Here’s a paragraph from The Code Book, detailing the “weather report” code which was referenced in the film but not entirely explained:

“…experience showed that the Germans sent a regular enciphered weather report shortly after 6 a.m. each day. So, an encrypted message intercepted at 6.05 a.m. would be almost certain to contain wetter, the German word for ‘weather’. The regorous protocol used by any military organisation meant that such messages were highliy regimented in style, so Turing could even be confident about the location of wetter within the encrypted message.”

You gotta love this stuff.

I saw Revolution OS at

I saw Revolution OS at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin on Saturday. A really great film, and very approachable — it doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Richard Stallman or don’t know what a kernel is. Certainly the filmmakers didn’t entirely know the culture before starting the documentary, and I think that’s what makes the film work: It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s not invested in the open source movement’s success or failure. They’re just showing a slice of time in which the landscape of server operating systems was completely changed, and having some fun in the process.