Watching Lawrence of Arabia on Your iPhone

August 23, 2008 by Thad McIlroy

I’m catching up on my old New Yorker magazines. I prefer the print version because the best articles are long, and, I think, far more enjoyable to read in print than on the Web (although The New Yorker has become increasingly generous in sharing most of its content on the Web). Today I read a March 31, 2008 essay by the always erudite and often hilarious film critic Anthony Lane examining the career of film director David Lean, who directed many fine films, but is probably best known for Lawrence of Arabia.

I do not watch the Oscars, as the pain outweighs the pleasure, and so missed the incident in this year’s affair, described by Lane as follows: “(The big screen)…That is (the film’s) natural habitat: the only place, you might say, where its proud and leonine presence has any meaning. Anything more cramped is a cage, as Jon Stewart showed during this year’s Oscar ceremony. At one point, we found him gazing at his iPhone. ‘I’m watching “Lawrence of Arabia.” It’s just awesome,’ he said, adding, ‘To really appreciate it, you have to see it in the wide screen.’ And he turned the phone on its side. Deserts of vast eternity, reduced to three inches by two.”

It was a great reminder to me than in this age of Kindles and iPhones and more, there remains an issue of optimal form-factor. I keep seeing comments on blogs from folks who insist that they get as much pleasure from reading an eBook as they would from holding and reading the book itself. I have no reason to doubt them, but they do not sway me. Why do people buy 42-inch plasma TVs if the iPhone is such a great way to watch video? I remain convinced that the best devices for perusing electronic content have yet to be invented, and the current mania for the mini is merely that, a mania (with the possible exception of music).

BTW: Later in the article Anthony Lane reminds us of the marvelous quip by Noel Coward after the premiere of “Lawrence”: “If Peter O’Toole had been any prettier the film would have been called ‘Florence of Arabia'”

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