People often watch films for more than just the entertainment value. In a world with all the eye candy on the big screen that one could hope for, sometimes it is wonderful and uplifting to feel inspired by a realistic movie. Biographies offer the opportunity to learn about some of the most transformative people in our culture and to see what events and choices led to the acts that made them famous. Several recent films should fit the bill for those seeking a bit of a history lesson on a personal level.
Go inside any coffee shop in the United States and look around; chances are you’ll see people typing on Mac laptops, using iPads, and speaking on iPhones. Apple is one of the most successful technological firms in the United States and the world. Many people were introduced to personal computers due to the proliferation of the Apple II computer. As such, few Americans have never heard the name Steve Jobs. The founder of Apple Inc. is the subject of “Jobs,” a film which opens August 16, 2013. Ashton Kutcher (“Two and a Half Men” and “That ’70s Show”) plays the technology mogul in a serviceable manner. The movie starts with Jobs’ fateful decision to drop out of college in order to form a company with his friend, Steven Wozniak (Josh Gad). However, this film doesn’t completely sugarcoat this businessman’s rise to power. Jobs had some dark moments in his life and made some decisions that have led to others calling him a cutthroat and even more colorful terms not appropriate for a family audience. In the end, the film shows that his genius could not be denied. Even so, the audience is left to wonder about the choices that must be made in order to become the absolute best.
While Steve Jobs was a major contributor to the age of personal computing, one could argue that Mark Zuckerberg is one of the largest influences on the popularity of social media. His Facebook application is tremendously successful across the globe. Zuckerberg, much like Jobs, dropped out of college to pursue his tech-start-up dream. In this Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing” and “Charlie Wilson’s War”) penned account of the rise of Facebook, you get a glimpse of how a romantically scorned young man’s initial launches into Internet retaliation ended up leading to the development of the most-social-of all Internet platforms to date. “The Social Network” deals with Zuckerberg’s deception of the trusting Winklevoss twins. These entrepreneurial siblings recruited Zuckerberg to work on their own competing application, but he sabotaged them while he completed his product, Facebook. They sued, alleging that Zuckerberg stole their ideas. Of course, Zuckerberg won and the rest is history. In today’s fast-moving information age, it’s Zuckerberg who brought about the rise of fast trends and of oversharing. This film is just as quickly paced, with sharp wit and crackling dialogue.
In the realm of sports, many consider the African American baseball player Jackie Robinson to be a hero. Many sports films tend to mix fact with legend, with the latter being more prevalent in the script. However, director Brian Helgeland’s (“A Knight’s Tale”) account of the star’s first two Major League Baseball seasons, “42,” is much more of a history film with a sentimental slant. The film is set in the period shortly after World War II. Although African Americans served their country during the war, Major League Baseball didn’t allow black players to play. That is, until Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited a minor league player for his team. Chadwick Boseman (“Fringe” and “Lincoln Heights”) plays a very sympathetic Robinson, using a subtle performance to portray his life as a family man and as a gentle agent of change. Racism is rampant in this film, and the words and attitudes of the time are realistically portrayed. This film is by no means edgy but possesses a simple eloquence that gets its message across. People like Rickey and Robinson were willing to cross the line, so the sport of baseball changed forever, and the acceptance of colored athletes rippled into other sports as well. Americans were exposed to heroes through sports decades before the civil rights movement.
While these films are not summer blockbusters like “The Avengers” or “The Wolverine,” they do offer a glimpse of humanity in more realistic ways. This quality is attractive because people like to see themselves in others. Seeing the dreams of others come to life onscreen often give impetus to members of the audience to change the world, even if it only is in small ways.