iPad Air 2: This was supposed to be the future

  1. I think I’ve committed to something like a three-ish year cycle for buying these things, which is probably about the right length of time.
  2. Up until now, I’ve been using an iPad 3, which is not a bad device, though it should be telling of the iPad 3’s status as a stop-gap for Retina screens that it was phased out after only eight months—exceptionally short even by Apple standards. I suspect that I could have probably gotten away with using it for a year or two more; I generally used it for reading articles in Instapaper, flipping through comics, and doing some light text-editing. For these purposes, it certainly didn’t provide a bad experience; the jump to iOS 7 (and the myriad 3D animations and transparency effects therein) was not merciful to the A5X processor, and my favorite iPad text editor, Editorial, needed a patient hand while typing, lest the system start dropping keyboard taps. But the high resolution screen is still remarkable, and the vast majority of apps still support that system. For casual usage, it’s still a great device.
  3. Which is why I recommend that no one currently interested in an upgrade go for a test drive on an iPad Air 2.
  4. The number of improvements seems rather weak on a spec-sheet. Faster processor? Okay, sure. Better camera? My smartphone is better still (and less wacky-looking to use). It’s nice that it’s not as heavy. A laminated screen, whatever that means.
  5. And yet: I still had that same kind of sensation, using this new device, as I did when I first touched an iPad. Which is to say: this feeling that we’ve reached The Future, we’ve reached Peak Computer[1]; if it’s true that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then this thing is total wizard.
  6. It’s hard to sell short how light this thing is; my phone feels heavier.[2] Reviewers have mentioned that the using the improved touchscreen feels like directly manipulating pixel, and this is true, though I’d add that the new processor is a big factor in this too, eliminating virtually all lag from any gesture. Using a five-finger swipe to change between apps, for example, is instantaneous; I’m no longer waiting for the gesture to register, then for the OS to load the preview screenshots of other apps, then finally render the animation, all of which took a full two or three seconds[3] on my iPad 3. With this Air 2, it lacks any of that ceremony; I’m pushing and pulling pixels around, like they’ve just been sitting just behind the bezel, waiting for me to yank them into view. Which makes me feel like a total wizard.
  7. The speakers on this thing are pretty loud, certainly louder than they were before. I listen to a lot of podcasts while puttering around the apartment, so this is a welcome change. But I’m not a fan of how the whole case vibrates when you’re listening to anything at even moderate volume—it’s not comfortable to hold (unless you like giving your fingertips a light massage), and just because of that, I’ve found it fatiguing to hold while watching a movie with someone. I’ve taken to reaching for headphones when I’m by my lonesome.
  8. It’s also got a fingerprint sensor, which makes unlocking the device convenient. I use a Smart Cover, though, so it unlocking the device remains a two-step process for me. That said, I’m still digging the cover. I was a bit skeptical of the three-panel design, but it seems to fold up into a stand well enough: the magnets on the far left and right edges, which lock the thing into a triangle shape, seem sturdy, and in the low-angle typing arrangement, the iPad seems to lie a bit flatter than with the previous Smart Cover. I prefer this.
  9. Yet. And yet. I kind of need to temper all of this. I feel like I’ve been pretty effusive about this thing—and don’t get me wrong, it’s a marvel of engineering, and it’s still challenging my conceptions of personal computing. But in a really narrow-minded, rabble-rabble-Apple-isn’t-innovating kind of way, I have to wonder if this really is it—if this really is Peak Computer.[4] Because the iPad Air 2 is, in the end, just (“just”) another iPad.
  10. An exceptionally fast, light, elegant iPad. Which is nearly indistinguishable from magic and makes me reconsider what computers are supposed to look like. That’s all it is.
  11. The future is weird.

  1. I know this is not true, and the best days of our computing lives are ahead of us, but it’s still a hard feeling to shake.  ↩

  2. This is also not true, I’m pretty sure. (I’m too lazy to look up exact numbers.) And mostly it’s a function of the iPad’s weight being distributed across a larger volume. But again: still hard to shake the feeling.  ↩

  3. Cue small violin.  ↩

  4. For a second time: I know it’s not, but the feeling is, yet again, hard to shake.  ↩

Lightning round: SIFF 2014 remainders

Two weeks later, it’s time to call it. Here’s everything that didn’t seem to deserve a full post.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

Women are terrifying, apparently, or so one might believe from this giallo-inspired horror flick. Probably? about a woman’s sexual awakening (?), The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears plays its strong cards too early, building up a lot of Hitchcockian tension but failing in the payoff. The film moves through flashbacks and stories told by the exceptionally unreliable residents of a beautiful French apartment building.

Suspense aside, the wild color palettes and off-kilter soundtrack (songs that wouldn’t feel at all out of place in a ’70s young-romance movie) alone are enough to sustain things for, like, the first hour. But the movie loses its footing when knives start going into people; between gratuitous murder sequences (resulting, obviously, in wounds resembling female anatomy) and increasingly hallucinatory/nonsensical scenes,[1] it’s hard to feel like the movie isn’t just jerking you around. Which, really, it is, because it ends up feeling like an exercise in form,[2] containing everything necessary to be a giallo film (goofy title, killer in black gloves, woman named Edwige, &c. &c.) but nothing else.

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Sufficiently thrilling, probably one of the slickest police procedurals I’ve seen. There’s some fairly clever use of flashback to set things up and inject some much needed tension. And that’s fortunate, because protagonist Carl Mørck is totally wooden. (Actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas does the best with what he can, but still.) His partner, Assad (played by the charming Fares Fares), injects some much needed character warmth as well. But maybe I’ve been spoiled by True Detective; for a few hopeful opening scenes, The Keeper of Lost Causes looks like it’s pursuing the same thing—i.e. character study dressed up as police procedural—but eventually settles comfortably into the latter. Still, it’s pulpy and gripping, with stylish lighting and a soundtrack that knows when to sting and when to back off.

Night Moves

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As always, Jesse Eisenberg is a twitchy ball of nerves, which works perfectly for this slow-burn ecoterrorism thriller adjective adjective thing. I’ve only seen Wendy and Lucy from director Kelly Reichardt, and while the subject material of the two movies couldn’t be any different, they feel very similar: sparse, paranoid, rural.

Patema Inverted

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I went through a pretty serious Sake Period as a teenager, and having grown out of it in college,[3] I tend to approach anime with caution. Miyazaki films still get to me—The Wind Rises is a hell of a thing—but the truth is that Miyazaki’s style is pretty far removed from the anime that tends to have the most cache with typical anime fans in the West. So despite an open heart and fascinating sci-fi/fantasy setting, Patema Inverted falls into regrettable anime tropes. There are moments of delight—the (wholly unexplained) mechanical city in the sky, the “other surface” of the planet we see in the ending—but really none come from the characters. The villain is over-the-top villainous, so much so that he’s impossible to take seriously—but of course his right-hand man has a heart of gold. Protagonists Patema and Age show a little more promise; but Patema has little to do except get damseled to hell and back, while her love interest, Age, follows the well-worn path of “young man discovering his resolve,” with few twists or turns on his character arc. Weirdly, considering her name is in the title, Patema Inverted spends a surprisingly small amount of time actually tracking Patema; Age ends up being the disruptor and motivator of the plot, and it’s (literally, disappointingly) from his perspective that we see things. Patema is the one standing on the ceiling,[4] because it’s not actually her story.

So much for titular princess characters with interesting stories. Luckily, once again Miyazaki provides.

Calvary

A couple of movies I’ve watched over the festival have, basically, a “spiritual bent,” so it was a welcome relief that Calvary mostly didn’t, despite its focus on a Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson). Aidan Gillen deserves some…praise? for somehow managing to reach new heights of smarm and sounding totally unnatural in the delivery of his Irish accent despite being Irish. (But heck, I dunno, do some people actually talk like that?) Anyway, there’s a neat trick, here, where Father James knows who’s going to kill him from the start but the audience obviously doesn’t—the type of plot gimmick that sounds like it might try to point out how clever it is, but is actually (like the most of the movie [although there is is a lot of messiah imagery, but I guess you could have guessed that]) subtle and even-handed in its execution. Heh. “Execution.” Get it?

Cannibal

Okay, so one might assume that a movie about a cannibal would suggest some amount of grotesquery and/or body horror, but Cannibal has little of that. It’s a beautifully shot film, and I totally wish I could dress as well as Carlos. But the whole premise—prestigious tailor is also a cannibal—really doesn’t have a whole lot of weight behind it, and the whole “eating people” bit doesn’t add any additional depth to Carlos’ character except being this thing that he has to hide from everyone. Honestly, he could have been the regular (“regular”) kind of murderer; or even just had some particular trait that leaves him feeling alienated from everyone else. (Drug addict, maybe? I dunno.)

Our Sunhi

You know how I said Patema Inverted wasn’t actually about Patema? Our Sunhi isn’t about Sunhi, kind of, and it plays with this expection. One might be deceived by an opening scene in which Sunhi convinces her college professor to write her a letter of recommendation, but quite a lot of the movie follows three of Sunhi’s would-be suitors (professor incl.) as they drift around the city, talking to each other about their love life. The setups are pretty funny and don’t rely overmuch on awkward situational humor. And underneath the quirky humor is a surprisingly potent statement on Sunhi’s identity wrt. these three men, with the three talking in circles about Sunhi, and each individually arriving at the same vapid/self-contradictory/positive-but-probably-not-totally-true-and/or-accurate description of Sunhi. The final scene is fantastic: as the men wander around Changgyeonggung Palace looking for her, Sunhi quietly exits the area—of course, the idea that she is nowhere to be found never crosses the men’s minds. As if to say, “Don’t take it personally, boys, it just ain’t your story.”


  1. Incl. an overly long dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream that surely drew more than a little inspiration from Triangle.  ↩

  2. And it really feels like exercise by the end.  ↩

  3. My final-ish anime being Gurran Lagann, after which I decided that no other show would ever top in terms of anime-ness.  ↩

  4. I mean, predictable, given the title, but not very interesting, thematically.  ↩