Start a series of Silicon Valley sagas with 7 stories of tech visionaries
Ahead of three new limited series on controversial startup CEOs (Showtime’s “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” on Sunday, February 27; Hulu’s “The Dropout” on Thursday, March 3; and Apple’s “WeCrashed” TV+ on March 18), we recommend streaming the following movies and shows about tech visionaries.
In the interest of further research, let’s start with the documentaries related to the new shows.
“The Inventor: Searching for Blood in Silicon Valley”
The best resources on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ real-life journey are John Carreyrou’s 2018 book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” and The Chronicle’s coverage of her lawsuit. This 2019 HBO documentary is a close third.
Interviews with former employees, archival video of Holmes and a fascinating facsimile of the inner workings of the company’s malfunctioning ‘Edison’ blood-testing machine provide a fuller picture than most accounts. of the Theranos experience. This doc paints Holmes as less of an evil mastermind than overly dependent on the first part of the “fake it until you make it” philosophy.
Look at this: Available to stream on HBO Max and other major platforms.
“WeWork: or the making and destroying of a $47 billion unicorn”
“WeCrashed,” the precursor podcast to the upcoming AppleTV+ limited series, is ideal for an outline of the story of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann. This 2021 Hulu documentary tops this podcast simply because the visual element is so critical to Neumann.
“Once you choose to enter a WeWork, you choose to be part of something more ‘us’ than me,” Neumann told The New York Times, grossly exaggerating the emotional appeal of coworking spaces with foosball tables. But Neumann’s statements don’t seem quite so grandiose when you see him spouting them in the archive footage of this doc. You get the call.
The 6-foot-5 Neumann takes up a lot of space, and his abundant charisma and boyish cheer fill what’s left. When a former WeWork employee says in the doc that she had to be out of his presence to think clearly, that makes sense.
The spell wears off when we see footage of WeWork company retreats — booze-soaked, hype-soaked events that resemble what would happen if someone yelled “Fyre” at a volleyball game NXIVM.
Look at this: Available to stream on Hulu.
‘The social network’
Even before the current Facebook controversies, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t inspire the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs-level adulation that his success seemed to justify. That’s partly because this 2010 Oscar-winning box office hit — written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher and released early in Zuckerberg’s rise — portrayed the Facebook co-founder (played by Jesse Eisenberg ) as mean-spirited and insecure. The film also casts Zuckerberg as extremely funny, but that wasn’t the takeaway.
The film traces Facebook’s origins at Harvard and early legal battles. Filled with intrigue and directed by Fincher with a razor-sharp precision that pierces Sorkin’s more flowery instincts, “Social Network” should have won the Best Picture Oscar in 2011 over “The King’s Speech.” It’s the most indelible film: it forever colored the views of not just Zuckerberg but also Eisenberg, who is always hard to imagine without a hoodie; and he launched Andrew Garfield, who played Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and is currently up for the Best Lead Actor Oscar for “Tick, Tick…Boom!”, into movie stardom.
Look at this: Available to stream on Netflix and other major platforms.
Screenwriter Sorkin’s 2015 follow-up to The World of Tech screams “You think my dialogue is scenic? I’m going To display you make scenes. Directed by Danny Boyle and shot at the Flint Center in Cupertino, the War Memorial Opera House and Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, this is true behind-the-scenes drama.
It focuses on three key product launches during Apple Jobs co-founder’s career – the Macintosh computer, the NeXT computer and the iMac – and focuses on Sorkin’s walking and talking scenes. starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs and Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, the Chief Marketing Officer and CEO Consciousness.
It all works, as Fassbender, though naturally darker than Jobs, sells the tech giant’s perfectionism and ability to command a room, and possesses or can imitate great intelligence. You can see it, as Jobs, thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. Winslet plays Jobs’ right-hand man as an eye roller rather than a long victim: Joanna clearly believes in Jobs, despite his dismissive and insensitive behavior towards others.
Jobs is worse here than Zuckerberg in “Social Network,” but this film, released four years after Jobs’ death, only enhanced his legend as the demanding genius who inspired legions of tech founders full of ideas. hope to adopt his path or-the-280 attitude.
Look at this: Available to stream on Netflix and other major platforms.
This superb 2014 sci-fi film – but not all this fiction – about a megalomaniac tech CEO (a beautifully sleazy Oscar Isaac) working on a sentient robot (played by Alicia Vikander and many computer-generated images) is reminiscent of that regardless of the misdeeds committed by tech CEOs in real life, there could be worse. And perhaps easily, since the AI technology and data mining that powers the on-screen experiences here seem within reach.
Vikander’s curious and pleading expressions give the robot a sense of humanity that the inventor could not have foreseen. But it’s Isaac’s movie. His tech brother, Colonel Kurtz, wanders through his mid-century modern lair, tucked away in the forest, sweating sloppy, beer in hand, marbles mostly lost but a sliver of self-satisfaction intact.
Look at this: Available to stream on Showtime and other major platforms.
“Stop and Catch Fire”
Set in Texas and Silicon Valley (but mostly filmed in Atlanta), this 2014-17 AMC series follows four tech entrepreneurs (the excellent Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé, who is also in “Super Pumped”) from the The personal computing revolution of the 1980s through the web communities and search engines of the 1990s startups.
The show’s rise, fall, and comeback narrative is repetitive, but not to the extent that it was in HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” The four characters’ complex interpersonal relationships held “Halt and Catch Fire” together, with Pace and Davis particularly good as prototypical tech visionaries who lack the time or emotional gear for a romantic relationship but try one anyway. The final season’s emphasis on the friendship of female characters was unexpected – and delightful in its emphasis on creativity and entrepreneurship as the primary bond.
Look at this: Available to stream on AMC+ and other major platforms.
In this extended limited series from Shonda Rhimes Netflix about real-life fake heiress Anna Delvey (played by Julia Garner) is a more compact and intriguing story with Anna Chase’s (Saamer Usmani) boyfriend, a fictional tech entrepreneur which would be based on a real handsome Delvey.
Usmani goes against the Shondaland brand acting style favored by his castmates for a more authentic, or at least authentic, approach to tech entrepreneurs. Chase’s energy and sincere belief in a whimsical idea – an app that analyzes dreams – and her little lies seem benign in the context of Anna’s long scam.
Look at this: Available to stream on Netflix.