- Author Stephen Graves
- Published July 15, 2014
The six best films to watch on your smartphone
We’ve all taken to watching more films and TV shows on our smartphones. No one’s going to argue that you’re getting a better viewing experience on a phone than in an IMAX cinema – and you’d be a mug to watch Gravity on a 5.5in screen – but some films lend themselves to the small screen – because of either cinematography, sound or even their narrative structure. Stuff‘s Stephen Graves picks six…
A giant monster terrorises New York, King Kong-style – but where previous monster movies gave us a birds-eye view of the action, director Matt Reeves places us on the ground, among survivors desperately trying to outrun destruction. Like Godzilla, Cloverfield is a convulsive response to a national trauma; where Japan’s rampaging lizard was a reaction to the atomic bombs, Cloverfield harks back to 9/11 – the frantic panic, the snatches of information, the imagery. That imagery is found footage – we’re seeing one character’s camcorder record the action. Found-footage movies are appropriate for phone viewing; a camera viewfinder is closer in size to a smartphone than a cinema screen, you’re getting a more authentic view on a smaller screen.
Gene Hackman plays a surveillance expert who’s hired to follow a young couple – but when a fragment of conversation leads him to suspect that they’ll be murdered, his conscience nags at him. Francis Ford Coppola’s psychological thriller is particularly suited to small-screen viewing because it focuses on sound. When you watch a film on a phone, it’s with a pair of headphones. Sound designer Walter Murch won the Oscar for his work on The Conversation; the opening scene alone is a masterpiece of audio editing, as we pick up half-heard fragments and struggle to piece together meaning. With quality headphones, you’re plunged into the film’s sound mix, isolated in its world – and it’s fitting to watch a film about a surveillance expert wearing a set of on-ears.
A shock jock DJ finds himself on the front lines when his small-town radio station comes under attack by infected, cannibalistic neighbours. No, this isn’t just another zombie film; it’s cleverer than that. Pontypool’s killer virus is one of the mind; it travels through language itself and corrupts our understanding of words. With its focus on speech and language, Pontypool lends itself to listening on headphones. It’s suited to the small screen in other ways; its confined setting and claustrophobic feel means that cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak focuses on expressive close-ups – you’re not squinting to pick details out of an expansive vista. And it’s short, too; at 95 minutes you’re not going to be getting earache from your headphones.
Much Ado About Nothing
Following the blockbuster shoot for Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, director Joss Whedon was clearly in need of a palate-cleanser – so he swapped superheroes for Shakespeare, gathering a group of actor chums in his house to shoot the Bard’s sparky comedy. Shot in two weeks, the film shows exactly where Whedon gets the inspiration for his snappy, witty dialogue – though he’s not averse to making a few changes, swapping the gender of one character and adding a prologue that adds new layers to the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. Short and sweet, its black-and-white cinematography pops on your mobile’s screen.
While you wouldn’t want to watch the sweeping landscapes of, say, Lawrence of Arabia on your smartphone, the stark, black-and-white visuals of this comic-book adaptation lose nothing on the small screen. Director Robert Rodriguez brings Frank Miller’s artwork to life in the most literal way possible: he uses the comic book panels as storyboards for the film. A hard-boiled cast of hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold and down-on-their-luck barflies spit dialogue ripped straight from the pages of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler – including a career-best turn from Mickey Rourke as the battered bruiser Marv. The film’s anthology structure means that it’s ideally suited to viewing in short bursts – and with a sequel set to hit cinemas this year, it’s the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the mean streets of Sin City.
Yeah, we know – Quentin Tarantino’s war film isn’t exactly short – you wouldn’t want to squint at a 5.5in screen for 150-odd minutes – but who said anything about watching it all in one go? Tarantino’s genius is in writing self-contained scenes that sit independently; he’s even generous enough to preface them with inter-titles. So you can savour the mounting tension of Christoph Waltz’s interrogation of a luckless French farmer on your journey into work, before picking over Brad Pitt’s scenery-chewing performance as Aldo Raine on the way home.
Stephen Graves is online deputy editor of Stuff.tv
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