Monday 18 December 2017

I'm watching big screen movies on my little screen

Film critic Paul Whitington, on the films you should – and shouldn't – watch on your phone

If you're lucky, someone will be giving you a fancy new smart- phone or tablet for Christmas. And while traditionalists might use their iPhones and androids for making phone calls, there's so much more you can do with them than that.

These days, more and more of us are watching films on our phones and iPads on planes, trains and buses. Which is all to the good of course, as movies are a great way of passing the time, especially on long flights.

However, I was rather taken aback last year when I saw someone in front of me on a flight to London watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on their iPod Touch.

Now I'm no rabid fan of 2001 – I think Kubrick made several better films – but I would question the merits of watching it on a screen roughly 5x2.5in in diameter. Kubrick's film is told in big, bold strokes, and depends hugely on its vast space-scapes and groundbreaking special effects for impact.

Most of that would be entirely lost on a tiny screen, and even an iPad, which boasts a 10x7in screen, would hardly do it justice.

It made me think that there are some films which should never be watched on small, portable devices, and some that suit the format perfectly.

Generally speaking, comedies and script-heavy dramas are great, because they're easy to follow and don't depend so much on widescreen pyrotechnics.

Sci-fi and special effects are problematic, because they just don't work on the small formats. And high, wide and handsome epics like Ben-Hur are definitely out, and don't even look right on television.

Movies like that were made for massive movie screens, but here are some suggestions for films that work on portable players, as well as some that don't.

Five that work on iPads and iPods

Annie Hall

Woody Allen's 1977 comedy is less visually ambitious than the likes of Manhattan, but is consistently funny and perfect small-screen entertainment. Allen plays Alvy Singer, a stand-up comic who falls in and out of love with Diane Keaton while uttering such memorable witticisms as "don't knock masturbation – it's sex with someone I love".

Little Miss Sunshine

In Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's delightful 2006 comic drama, a lovably dysfunctional Albuquerque family set out for a California beauty contest they know their seven-year-old daughter stands no chance of winning. Perfect iPad fodder, but watch for the emotional ending if you don't want to get caught weeping in public.

The Social Network

Though a little murky for the small screen in places, David Fincher's Oscar-winning movie is a gripping drama about Mark Zuckerberg and the origins of Facebook.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, a technology-friendly character if ever there was one. It's brilliantly written by Aaron Sorkin, and can easily be dipped in and out of.

Jane Eyre

Cary Joji Fukunaga's brilliant 2011 adaptation is admirably faithful to Charlotte Bronte's novel, and stars Mia Wasikowska as the unfortunate Miss Eyre, whose life changes forever when she takes the post of governess at Thornfield Hall. Mostly shot indoors, which works well on smaller screens.


A witty, crass and gleefully vulgar comedy, Paul Feig's Bridesmaids has absolutely no cinematic pretensions and can be watched anywhere on anything. It's co-written by Kristen Wiig, who plays Annie, a lonely Wisconsin woman who gets it all wrong when her best friend asks her to be her chief bridesmaid.

... and Five that don't

Lawrence of Arabia

It would be hard to imagine a less phone- and iPad-friendly film than David Lean's 1962 epic. Based on the life of legendary war hero TE Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia is three and a half hours long and was shot in the Jordanian deserts in glorious Panavision. A new print has just been released in cinemas. Do yourself a favour – go and see it there instead.

The Searchers

John Ford's 1956 masterpiece is considered by many to be the greatest western ever made, but would be pretty underwhelming on anything smaller than a television. John Wayne's avenging character Ethan Edwards is often intentionally dwarfed and made to seem petty by the magnificent landscapes behind him. On an iPod, he'd disappear altogether.

Blade Runner

A nightmarish vision of the future based on a story by Philip K Dick, Ridley Scott's visionary 1982 science- fiction adventure stars Harrison Ford as a cop hired to hunt down rogue robots. The film may be packed full of unforgettable scenes and images, but most of them would be pretty meaningless on a small screen.


They don't make films on this scale any more, and Ben-Hur's widescreen format and vast, extra-filled scenes would be perfectly ridiculous on your iPad. All the grandeur of Ancient Rome would be lost, and just imagine trying to make sense of that famous chariot scene. You'd go cross-eyed.

Citizen Kane

There ought to be a law against trying to watch this one on your phone. Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in this 1941 drama about Charles Foster Kane, an orphan who inherits a fortune and never recovers from it. The whole point of the film was that he gets lost in his wealth and his cavernous mansion: on an iPod he'd just get lost.

Irish Independent

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