Do I smell popcorn?
Hey film fans, welcome to the first ever Publicious Movie Review. There aren’t a heck of a lot of movies that feature publishing technology, but last week I did catch one: Welcome to Macintosh.
Written and directed by Robert Baca and Josh Rizzo, this film is a documentary take on the history of Apple Inc., not just Macintosh, so the title is a bit of a misnomer.
I was really excited to see this film since I have been a MacHead for more than 20 years. My first Mac was a 512k-e in August of 1987, though I’m sure I used them briefly at school before that. The 512 lasted me until 1994 when I got a Performa 630 CD. CD-ROM baby, yeah! After the Performa came a parade of iMacs, a G5 tower, 3 laptops, and the current top dog in the household (more of a chihuahua), a 2.26 GHz 13″ MacBookPro. Since I use them at work too, I figure that for the last 15 years I’ve spent the majority of my waking hours sitting in front of Macs. So I was totally ready to love this film. But I didn’t.
Welcome to Macintosh felt like a TV special. And a missed opportunity. Apple is a huge subject to cover, with an impact on technology and culture that people are passionate about. Maybe the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew. Or maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I’m one of those hardcore Mac geeks that wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a Ken Burns 12-part Encyclopedia Macintoshia, complete with full-color booklet, and scratch-n-sniff pix of Woz’s garage.
The film starts out strong, with juicy details of the formation of Apple. Original logos. Lots of shots of ancient, wooden(!) hardware. But then it quickly dawned on me that the voices I most wanted to hear: The Steves, Jobs and Woz, were silent. There are no interviews with the two men who brought the Mac to life, and the film suffers as a result. It’s also missing input from lots of other folks who had a hand in the Mac magic. People like Susan Kare. She gave the Mac its face, designing the icons and graphics for the original Mac GUI. Susan designed the Mac city fonts, Monaco, Geneva, New York, Chicago, etc. and everything from the Happy Mac to the Command key icon. Wouldn’t you like to see her sketches or hear her stories and thoughts? BTW, Susan now does icons for Facebook. And you can buy sticky notes with her original Mac icons at MoMA store.org.
Another voice I want to hear is Jonathan Ive. He’s the principal designer of the iMac, Powerbook, iPod, and iPhone. He’s the guy who brought Jobs’ modern visions to life and helped resurrect Apple over the last decade. He’s responsible for Apple stores being mobbed with people who see little shiny things and must have them NOW.
Who we get instead are the affable Andy Hertzfeld, the BS artist/evangelist Guy Kawasaki, and Ron Wayne (the original 3rd co-founder of Apple) along with Jim Reekes (made the Mac startup chime) and Leander Kahney (author of Cult of Mac). They provide some interesting anecdotes, but in the history of the Mac, they’re the supporting cast. The stars are missing. Reekes is pretty entertaining, though. He comes across like Apple’s version of Dwight Schrute. Sardonic does not begin to describe this guy. He seems completely unimpressed by Apple and the people who love their products. He is the sour antidote to the saccharine MacWorship that is always lurking when Apple is discussed.
My other main problem with the film is that it’s too hardware focused. People love the Mac because of the experience of sitting down and using it. Since it’s inception, it’s been the coolest, most beautiful, most fun way of interacting with a computer. We love it mostly because of the operating system and software. What about MacWrite? MacPaint? What about System 7? Mac OS X? I don’t think the word “Finder” is never even mentioned in the film. With apologies to Mr. Ive, you could stick the Mac OS in a boring beige case, and I’d still use it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Ive makes it sexy, but I love this thing for it’s brains, cleverness, and sense of humor. Maybe the movie I’m looking for is Married to Macintosh.
Despite my objections, I’m still recommending anyone who likes and uses Macs to see Welcome to Macintosh. It’s worthwhile, but it could be soooo much more.
Welcome to Macintosh is available on DVD for $19.84. Cute.
So to sum up,
Pros: Great subject. Good early history of Apple. Reekes channelling Schrute.
Cons: No Jobs, Woz, Ive, Kare. No Mac OS!