Bite Sized

You can now watch movies on tiny devices, but some classics are less filling when viewed small

December 23, 2008|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Seeing big-screen movies on small-screen TVs has always been a dubious proposition - make the image so small, and why even bother?

Recent history had that problem of scale becoming less and less of a concern, thanks to the popularity of big-screen televisions and home theaters that rival in size, as well as picture- and sound-quality, what some commercial movie houses have to offer. But now, run-amok technology is making size an issue once again. Several online sites, including Hulu (Hollywood films) and YouTube (mostly independent fare), offer movies that can be screened onto laptops or even cell phones.

Imagine! Movies that can be watched on a screen roughly the size of a TV dinner - or, in the case of a cell phone, a matchbook. Where's the fun in that? And people say technology is making our lives better. ...

For those who insist on frittering away their optic nerves on such tiny screens, there may be no dissuading you. But at least listen to reason: Here are 10 films where size really does matter.

Lawrence of Arabia

(David Lean, 1962): Lean's desert epic deserves an epic presentation, certainly not on a screen where people are reduced to the size of grains of sand. That famous scene, where Omar Sharif's Sherif Ali seems to materialize out of the desert like a mirage? On a small screen, it just looks like empty space. Besides, staring at a computer, much less a cell phone, for the film's four hours simply can't be good for you.

Jaws

(Steven Spielberg, 1975): The film works because that is one darn big fish. Cutting it down to guppy-size just isn't right. Instead of a bigger boat, what they really need is a bigger screen.

The Magnificent Seven

(John Sturges, 1960): Half the fun here is watching rising star Steve McQueen and established screen presence Yul Brynner try to out-act each other, often through nuances of body language that are lost on the small screen.

T-Men

(Anthony Mann, 1947): Or just about any film noir, for that matter. A genre shot largely at night, in dim corners of the city, needs all the size and definition it can get. On low-definition laptop and cell phone screens, a movie like T-Men, shot using as little light as possible, just looks like one dark glob.

Ben-Hur

(William Wyler, 1959): The chariot race, on an 8-inch screen? You're kidding, right? These are mighty horses running around the Circus Maximus, not Chincoteague ponies.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

(Michael Schultz, 1978): Some movies should not be seen by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.

West Side Story

(Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961): Dancing gang members, jumping around and clicking their fingers, can actually look menacing. But not when they're reduced to the size of crickets.

Stagecoach

(John Ford, 1939): All of Ford's Westerns demand the big screen, if only to appreciate those magnificent Monument Valley vistas.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

(Edward D. Wood Jr., 1959): Much of the appeal (if you can call it that) of this mythically bad film comes from watching what goes on in the periphery - like the cardboard "tombstones" that wobble when cast members accidentally bump into them, or the flaming Sterno can that doubles for a flying saucer. Such details can easily be missed on a too-small screen.

Them!

(Gordon Douglas, 1954): A horror movie about gigantic insects attacking mankind kinda loses its punch when the ants are reduced back down to ant-size.

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