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The 25 Most Powerful TV Shows of the Last 25 Years


TV doesn’t get much respect. It rots your brain and grows couch potatoes. But the so-called idiot box also swings elections, rewires brains, snares criminals, and even sways the Supreme Court. The following may not be the best shows of the last 25 years—in fact, some are among the worst—but their impact reaches far beyond the living room.

1. Tropikanka: The Show That Won a Presidential Election

As Russians were gearing up to go to the polls in July 1996, Boris Yeltsin was nervous about his job. The weather gave him additional reason to panic. With the sun shining and the temperatures pleasant, Yeltsin fretted that his city-dwelling supporters would decamp to their dachas, or country cottages, instead of staying home and voting. Russia’s president needed a way to keep his base from traveling.

His solution: a cunning use of soap opera. No show was more popular in Russia than the Brazilian morality soap Tropikanka, which regularly drew 25 million viewers to the state-owned network ORT. With the election looming, ORT made a surprise announcement: The show’s finale would air as a special triple episode on election day between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

More amazing was the fact that the scheme actually worked. Because most dachas didn’t have televisions, viewers stayed in the city, glued to their sets. When the episode ended, it was too late to trek out of town, but voters still had time to get to the polling station. Yeltsin’s soap opera strategy helped him prevail by more than 10 million votes. Meanwhile, The Young and the Restless can’t even sway a lousy Senate race.

Mental Floss | Read the Full Article

How to Make a Monster

Witney Seibold takes a comprehensive look at the history of movie monsters to discover what makes them tick.

Seeing as it’s October, and the film world is abuzz with all manner of horror films (check your local listings for what horror movies are playing at your local movie theater or art house), I thought I would let this week’s lecture be a brief and fun musing on something I think we all can enjoy: monster movies. More specifically, what makes a good movie monster and what makes a bad movie monster. I’ll be pointing to some good and bad examples, and will spitball a bit on how a movie monster should be filmed. This is not necessarily a very intellectual exercise, this musing on monsters, but it’s certainly fun to ponder, and I think any ambitious young filmmakers interested in starting out in the horror genre would be doing an important practice in thinking about what kind of creature they want rending their cast into pools of red Karo syrup.

What makes a good movie monster? Well, to be perfectly basic right up front, I would say the monster has to look right. Now, to be sure, there are plenty of great horror films wherein the evil malevolent ghosts and monsters remain largely unseen (Val Lewton’s classic Cat People famously never shows the monsters at all, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has its ghosts focused through Jack Nicholson’s awesome performance, The Blair Witch Project angered some fans by not showing a money shot of the titular witch), but these are certainly exceptions to movie monster rules. If we are to abide by the old film school adage of “Show, Don’t Tell,” then we’re going to want to eventually show the film’s monster at least once, and, as such, it’s going to have to look nice.

Crave Online | Read the Full Article

How Accurate is Argo?

Ben Affleck’s Argo tells the real life story of a CIA plot to free six American Embassy workers from Iran who were not taken as part of the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis. But how much of it is fact and how much is Argo-style fiction?  Does it matter if film takes historic liberties for the sake of drama?

Argo, the new movie from actor-director Ben Affleck, has mostly been getting raves—including a qualified but fairly strong endorsement from Slate’s own Dana Stevens, who calls it “a rollicking yarn” and “easily the most cohesive and technically accomplished of Affleck’s three films so far.” But several reviews have also noted just how far the movie departs in certain respects from the historical record. In the movie’s dramatic climax, Stevens writes, the “broadly accurate retelling of real events” gives way to “some fairly whopping dramatic license.” Similarly, New Yorker critic Anthony Lane—who also enjoyed the film—found it a “bit rich” that the movie pokes so much fun at “Hollywood deceitfulness” only to end “with an expert helping of white lies.” Former Slate film critic David Edelstein goes even further: NPR headlined his review “Argo: Too Good To Be True, Because It Isn’t.”

So just how accurate is Argo? And what are the white lies and dramatic whoppers the movie indulges in? We’ve tried to break it all down below. While it seems odd to offer a spoiler alert for a movie based on historical events, be warned that the rest of this post will discuss the movie in some detail. But you should also know that a lot of the most interesting details below aren’t in the movie at all—because, it turns out, much of the stuff Argo leaves out is even better than what made it in.

The Premise

Argo’s central, nutty storyline—in which the CIA establishes a fake movie production, complete with a full script and ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, in order to rescue six Americans stranded in post-revolutionary Iran—is 100 percent true, and pretty incredible. The movie is largely based on a terrific article by Joshuah Bearman published five years ago in Wired, which you should read. (The script also draws on a memoir by Antonio Mendez, the man that Affleck plays in the film.) As Bearman explained in a chat with Gawker readers yesterday, the person who first told him about the story was an independent movie producer named David Klawans, who hoped that Bearman would report it out and write up a “nice yarn” that “might help kickstart a movie.” “Shockingly,” Bearman said, “it worked.” (Klawans is an executive producer of Argo.)

Slate.com | Read the Full Article

Dealing With Foliage: Green and Yellow Saturation

You want to capture the beauty and splendor of the great outdoors but when you load up the photos, something’s just not quite right about the greenery. Whether your shooting DSLR or the Black Magic Cinema Camera (that we just talked about) it’s a matter of mastering the greens and yellows.

I’ve also struggled with foliage and often still do. It’s a very complex pattern covering a fairly wide dynamic range and it completely changes colour, from orange to nearly blue, depending on the lighting conditions.

It seems to me that photographers go out to try to capture beautiful, sun-dappled foliage, or HDRs of green hills and open woods, or leafy forest streams. They get these shots back on the computer at home and somehow, they just don’t look like they remember.

They recall the mix of smells, loam, pollen and resins, the streaming sunlight and the gentle breeze, the singing birds and the tickling water. It all felt so alive, so green. In order to try to visually portray this emotional memory, they then ramp that saturation slider way up to match the heightened stimulation of the outdoors.

Saturation And Color

We all know tonal clipping, where the highlights or shadows exceed the recordable dynamic range of the sensor and are unrecoverable. Saturation clipping is similar, except that it’s usually recoverable as it’s introduced in the post-processing phase.

Photo Tuts + | Read the Full Article

Black Magic Cinema Camera Test sees the Trees AND the Forest

I really hate watching camera tests. After watching test after test you come to realize that it really matters more what you put in front of the lens than anything else. But this test is a little different in that it puts nothing of really great interest in front of the camera… it’s just trees.

That test looks really “life like” so you might be tempted to say “so what”? That is until you’ve ever tried to shoot in a situation like this. Being able to expose for the sunlight and still get details in the dark areas is a huge thing and that’s due to the 14 stop dynamic range this camera is being advertised with. If you don’t believe me, go out into the park at midday with your camera and try it.

This dynamic range gives the footage a certain “filmic” quality that will give some productions a great look.

Via: NoFilmSchool

The Sound of “Argo”

The SoundWorks Collection talks with Sound Supervisor and Sound Designer Erik Aadahl to discuss the sound of Director Ben Affleck’s Argo.

In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Islamic militants take over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and hold 52 Americans hostage. Six other Americans escape and hide in the Canadian ambassador’s home. The Central Intelligence Agency and its specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) put together a plan to help the six Americans escape Iran. With the cover of the 6 Americans being location finders for a movie called Argo, Tony must get the hostages to play the part of the Canadian movie makers, so they can escape Teheran.

An In-Depth Guide to Lighting People

Bridging the gap between photography and cinematography is the heart of truly good visual filmmaking. Here’s a tutorial about how to build your portrait lighting capabilities by Simon Bray

What Do You Want To Achieve?

The first thing to establish is what you want to achieve in your shoot as it’s important you know what techniques you need to employ in order to get the shots you want. Try gathering up a selection of images that you’d like to emulate and spend some time considering how those shots were lit.

Do they use natural light or studio lights, if so, how many and at what angles were they facing the subject? This will help you appreciate what is required for your own work and give you a far better chance of getting the results you want.

Natural Light

Utilizing natural light can be a very good option for achieving a more subtle and well, natural look to your portraits. One of my favorite natural light portrait techniques is to have the subject stand by a window and use the light coming in. You can control the amount of light by using blinds or curtains and also vary the proximity and angle of the subject to the window.

When working outdoors, you need to be careful that you pick the right time of day for your shoot as you want to avoid periods where the sun is high in the sky and the light is too bright and harsh to work with. Pick a time like early morning or later in the evening when the light will be warmer and not so bright and this will allow you to avoid over exposure and strong contrasts.

If need be, when working with natural light you can use a reflector to direct light. It will enable you to avoid having the subject facing the sun as you can bounce light from an angle onto their face.

PhotoTuts + | Read the Full Article

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts opens up about how the original script for Ridley Scott’s “prequel/reboot” dealt with the xenomorphs and David’s (the android’s) contempt for mankind.

Screenwriters largely labour in silent anonymity. No-one’s heard of the project you’re working on, and many of those projects vanish into the void the moment you’re done. By the time they do make it to market, you’ve moved on. But with Prometheus there was an avid, eager and pestering crowd, trying to find out about the project from the first moment it was announced that I would write it. This was the first time I’ve ever written something where there was an audience waiting for it.

There were so many people with opinions about how it should go. So many people who wanted to know what would happen. I was conscious of my laptop having a substantial news value if I were to leave it in a coffee shop. The leak would have been rather disastrous. I felt like a Cold War spy walking around with my briefcase handcuffed to my wrist.

I don’t believe my draft has been released into the world. There was talk for a while about my final draft being included in the Blu-ray release of the film. But I’ve recently heard that there are legal complications around that and it may not be happening. So I talk a bit on the Blu-ray about the creative process, but I’m not sure the draft is on there.

I had gone into Scott Free for a general meeting, because they’d liked a script of mine. Late in the meeting, the head of the company brought up the notion of an Alien prequel and asked if I had any thoughts on it. I hadn’t prepared for that and hadn’t developed a story, but I found in the moment that I had a lot of opinions about it. I thought there was only one way you could go. So I started riffing in the room and held forth for 30 to 35 minutes on what the shape of the story should be and what kind of things we could do that hadn’t happened before.

Empire Online | Read the Full Article

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