Steve Jobs and James Bond are larger-than-life film characters

Photo Courtesy MGM

Filmgoers have their choice of two hit movies playing Thanksgiving weekend at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven. Computer visionary Steve Jobs is the subject of the biopic named after him, and Daniel Craig plays the indomitable James Bond in “Spectre.” The two films couldn’t be more different.

In “Steve Jobs,” director Danny Boyle of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire” fame paints a portrait of the legendary Apple co-founder and CEO that, like its subject, is equal parts brilliant and challenging.

The portrait of Jobs picks and chooses from Walter Isaacson’s biography, but screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and director Boyle have created a film that soars well beyond the conventions of most biopics. It is powerfully original, but not easy to digest. Each of the film’s three parts is structured around an Apple product launch, and Boyle has filmed each in a different format: the Mac at a Cupertino, Calif., community college in 16 mm; the NeXT at the San Francisco Opera House in 35 mm, and the iMac at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in digital. The imaginative format changes may not be that noticeable to viewers, but they illustrate how Boyle and Sorkin have approached the story of one of our era’s greatest innovators.

The film is built around conversation, most often argumentative and, in Jobs’s case, combative and downright nasty. Not all of the debates are easy for a layperson to parse, but the actors carry the day. Irishman Michael Fassbender inhabits Jobs down to his wire-rim glasses and black turtlenecks. The same can be said for Kate Winslet in her role as Joanna Hoffman, the Apple marketing director who was Jobs’ confidante and the one person who could stand up to his egomaniacal assaults. So deep into her role is Winslet that she literally becomes unrecognizable, with a dumpy period haircut and clothes. Seth Rogen plays the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who actually built the computers Jobs is famous for, and Jeff Daniels does a turn as John Sculley, Jobs’ father figure and Apple’s corporate leader.

The product-launch framework allows the director to illustrate Jobs’ public persona with packed audiences cheering him on. It also provides room for abrasive views of Jobs’ private self. In each section, Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) shows up in her former lover’s dressing room with her daughter Lisa, for whom Jobs denied paternity despite hard evidence to the contrary. Girlfriend and daughter start out in the first section on the verge of welfare, despite the fact that Jobs is a billionaire. In each section, Jobs’ relationship with his daughter is shown as contentious and rejecting. Colleagues like Wozniak and Sculley also appear in the dressing room or backstage, attempting to reason with Jobs and instead getting insults and short shrift. In pure cinematic terms, “Steve Jobs” is powerful and important, worth the patience necessary to absorb its message about the disconnect between celebrity and private behavior.

‘Spectre’: as delicious as a hot fudge sundae

Director Sam Mendes inserts “Spectre” hero James Bond, played with gritty finesse by Daniel Craig, into Mexico City on the Day of the Dead for a slam-dunk, dazzling start to the film. Returning to London with an octopus-insignia ring, our longtime hero gets chastised by M, now played by Ralph Fiennes in place of Judi Dench, for operating on his own. He’s suspended, but not for long.

“Spectre” is the 24th Bond movie, and the ingredients haven’t changed much. This time Bond’s gadgets don’t always work, adding a little humor, but he still lands in multiple international cities, consorts with glamorous women played by the likes of Stephanie Sigman and Monica Bellucci, and outraces the villains in planes, trains, and automobiles.

Unlike “Steve Jobs,” “Spectre” is a beautiful-to-watch spectacle from the elegant or exotic locations like Rome and Tangiers to the high-octane chases. His support team of Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) supplies the gadgets and data he needs to pursue Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the evil leader of a mysterious international cooperative. It isn’t very clear what the villains are up to, but that’s a minor detail. Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) clues Bond in to what he needs to know about Oberhauser’s terrorist organization, Spectre.

It doesn’t give too much away to say that “Spectre” ends with a nod to a more independent female presence than usual when Bond tosses away his gun and walks off with Dr. Swann.

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