Closing Night of LAGFF

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By Savas Abadsidis
Photo Credit: Alex Vacca

After five days, with an opening night gala at the Egyptian
Theatre featuring a fully restored version of Zorba the Greek, the 2nd
Annual LA Greek Film Festival came to a resounding and successful
close last night with a gala at the Pacific Design Center in West
Hollywood.

Attending the event last night was a who’s who of prominent
Greek-Americans most notably music superstar Sakis Rouvas. Frequent
television host and journalist Debbie Matentopolous introduced the
film, beginning with comments questioning why the very people who
invented show business, “Ever heard of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Homer–not
the one from the Simpons,” had to wait so long for a film festival in
the heart of the entertainment capital, “I mean, two thousand years
and this is only the second one?,” she added.

She went on to introduce the two people who made the film festival
possible in the first place, Program directors Ersi Danou and Angeliki
Giannakopoulos, as well as Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras, Consul General
of Greece in Los Angeles, and Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of
Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences among others. Other stars in
attendance included My Big Fat Greek Weddings’ Michael Constantine.

Featuring the film Little Greek Godfather, directed by Olga Malea and
based on a screenplay by Malea and Nicholas Papandreou, the crowd was
treated to one of the best films to come out of Greece in recent memory.
Based on the autobiographical short story by Nicholas Papendreou, son
of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Little Greek Godfather,
tells the story of young Alex, the son of a prominent Greek politician
who in the summer of 1963 is sent in lieu of his father to Crete to
baptize the daughter of a local Democratic party official and deliver
the speech his father was to give while his father heads to Paros to
stem party opposition. A funny, sentimental and moving film, Little
Greek Godfather was greeted with much praise by the audience and led
into the Orpheus Awards Ceremony which bestowed the best film award to
“Eduart” and the best documentary film award to “Resurface”.

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Gena Rowlands and friends pay tribute to John Cassavetes

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The 2nd annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival held a tribute to honor the collaboration between director/actor John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands on Friday, June 27 at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Director Peter Bogdanovich moderated a panel discussion which featured Gena Rowlands, actor Seymour Cassel, producer Al Ruban, and composer Bo Harwood. Following the discussion, there was a screening of “Faces”, the 1968 film directed by Cassavetes which starred John Marley, Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel.

John Cassavetes was a Greek American director and actor who is credited with inspiring the American independent film industry with the release of his film “Faces”, which was one of the first independently financed films to receive Academy Award nominations. Gena Rowlands explained that her husband’s interest in filmmaking was “in reality and what people say in their homes to each other.”
“Faces” explores the relationship between a married couple, played by John Marley and Lynn Carlin, who decide to separate after 14 years of marriage. Marley seeks the company of a young professional escort played by Gena Rowlands, and Carlin spends her time with a hippie cowboy played by Seymour Cassel. When Rowlands first saw “Faces”, she described it as “so stunningly different and honest… and not an easy picture to watch.”
The panel remarked that Cassavetes’ films were all personal and intimate stories about people. John Cassavetes himself said in a brief montage that was shown at the beginning of the presentation that he wanted his characters to “analyze love… the rest of the stuff doesn’t interest me. I have a one-track mind for love.”
In his own life, Cassavetes found love with Gena Rowlands. They met in New York City when they were both young actors in the 1950s. They married in 1954 and had three children, Nick, Alexandra and Zoe. Since Cassavetes passed away in 1989 at the age of 59, his film company, Faces Distribution, is overseen by Gena Rowlands and Julian Schlossberg. All three Cassavetes children are involved in filmmaking.
Director Peter Bogdanovich said Cassavetes had an “extraordinary understanding of women” as evidenced in many of his films including “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974) which Rowlands starred in and calls her favorite movie. Rowlands explained that just because an actor is playing a realistic role does not mean it is based on that person’s own life. She plays her characters as if she is their “defense lawyer”. Her acting on screen is driven by her need to defend her character no matter if they are right or wrong.
The panel agreed that in addition to all his talent, Cassavetes was a truly caring and compassionate person– a rarity in show business. Composer Bo Harwood said that when Cassavetes liked what you did, “he empowered you.” Producer Al Ruban, who worked on every film that Cassavetes made, said Cassavetes “changed my life. It was a privilege.” Actor Seymour Cassel, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in “Faces”, said “I was lucky to work with the best.”
Bogdanovich described Cassavetes as the “only director of his generation that could be called a poet”. A collection of five of Cassavetes’ independent films was released on DVD in 2004 called “John Cassavetes–Five Films” by The Criterion Collection.


Red Carpet – Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

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Stars come out for the Opening Night of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

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Photo Credit: Alex Vacca
The 2nd Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday, June 25 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood with a first-time screening of a newly restored print of Anthony Quinn starring in “Zorba the Greek”. Many Greek celebrities in the entertainment business came to show their support.
Tony Thomopoulos, former head of United Artists, said he thought that a Greek film festival like this one was very important to allow “second, third and fourth generation Greek Americans to reconnect with their heritage.” Former Democratic nominee for the governor of California, Phil Angelides said the film festival was an opportunity to “enjoy our culture, history and cinematic achievements.”
Actress Molly Ringwald, former “Brat Pack” star of “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club”, attended with her husband, novelist Panio Gianopoulos. Ringwald said her Greek connection has come full circle, since the first movie she ever made, “Tempest” (1982), was filmed in Greece in Peloponneus, and then it turns out her husband’s family is from Peloponneus.
Greek pop singing sensation, Sakis Rouvas, was in attendance to promote the U.S. premiere of his movie, “Alter Ego”, where he plays a rock star dealing with fame and the struggles that go with it. “Alter Ego” was filmed in Greece and is the first acting role for Rouvas who plays Stefanos, the guitarist in a rock band.
Although not appearing in any films in the festival, actor Alex Lyras, starring in the upcoming film “Mona”, actress Marina Sirtis, Commander Deanna Troi from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, and Daytime Emmy Nominated actor Thaao Penghlis came to show their support for the Greek community as well.
Festival Directors, Angeliki Giannakopoulos and Ersi Danou, explain that the 2008 festival differs from 2007 with the addition of a fifth day of films. Giannakopolous added that this year the “documentary section is really phenomenal.” Topics of documentary films to be screened at the festival include the Greek fires of 2007, the history of Greek immigration to the United States, and the struggles of a paralyzed man.
The festival runs through Sunday, June 29, ending with a screening of “Little Greek Godfather”, based on an autobiograhical short story by Nicholas Papandreou, son of former Prime Minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou. For the LAGFF film and event schedule, visit http://www.lagreekfilmfestival.org/

The Comedy Stylings of Tina Fey

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By Jim Ballas

“30 Rock” will make its third season premiere on NBC on October 30, 2008. This television show has met with a lot of success, and it can be attributed to its talented writer, producer and star: Tina Fey.

Tina Fey was born in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a very Greek area, in 1970. Her father is German and Scottish, but her mother, Zenobia Xenakes, is of Greek descent. Fey credits her family for inspiring her to do comedy as they would watch countless comedy movies and television shows.

After attending the University of Virginia, Fey moved to Chicago to pursue a comedy career. In 1994, she joined the cast of “The Second City,” a well-known improvisational comedy troop that has other famous alumni such as Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Alan Arkin and Steve Carell.

In 1997, Fey became a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” and in 1999, she became the show’s head writer. She was the first woman to be the head writer of SNL. In 2000, she became a cast member, and she continued to write and act in SNL until she left the show in 2006.

While Fey was on SNL, she pitched a television show idea to NBC about the workings of a sketch comedy show. That idea would become “30 Rock,” which premiered on October 11, 2006. Fey is an executive producer, writer, and the lead actress of “30 Rock,” which takes a lot of inspiration from her days on SNL.

In the show’s short run, it has been given many awards. “30 Rock” won an Emmy in 2007 for Outstanding Comedy Series. Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey have both won Screen Actors Guild Awards and Golden Globe Awards for their performances. The show has also won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Series in 2008. The common thing in all these awards is Tina Fey.

“30 Rock” has been a great success for NBC and will be a staple of their new Fall lineup. Make sure to catch the series premiere, and our Greek girl Tina Fey, on October 30, 2008 on NBC.

Creece to Receive Entry Forms for2008 Foreign Language Film Oscar

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Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mailed Foreign Language Film award entry forms to 96 countries (including Greece), facilitating their submissions for the 81st Academy Awards®.

To qualify for the 2008 Awards, a film must be released in the submitting country between October 1, 2007, and September 30, 2008, and be publicly screened in 35mm or 70mm film or in a qualifying digital cinema format for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater.

The dialogue track must be predominantly in a language or languages other than English.  Accurate English subtitles are required.

Entry forms and film prints must be received at the Academy by Wednesday, October 1, 2008.  Only one picture will be accepted from each country.

In 2007 the Austrian film “The Counterfeiters” won the Oscar over a field of nominated films from Israel, Kazakhstan, Poland and Russia.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Unfortunately during the past years Greece had sent films that either were not in the finalists or were not complying with the academy’s rules in regard to the foreign film category.

LAGFF: Orpheus Award Presenters and Recipients Announced

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This year’s Orpheus Award presenters and recipients

Debbie Matenopoulos – Orpheus Awards Host

logoHost of E!’s “Daily 10”

Gena Rowlands – Honorary Orpheus Award Recipient

RowlandsAcademy-Award® nominated actress (GLORIA, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE)

Peter Bogdanovich – Orpheus Award Presenter – Honorary Award

Bogdanovich
Academy-Award® nominated filmmaker (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW)

Sakis Rouvas – Orpheus Award Presenter – Audience Choice (Documentary)

Rouvas Greek pop-star and star of ALTER EGO


Nick Cassavetes – Honorary Orpheus Award Recipient
(on behalf of Phedon Papamichael Sr.)

CassavetesAcclaimed director (THE NOTEBOOK, ALPHA DOG)

George Chakiris – Orpheus Award Presenter – Best Short Film

ChakirisAcademy-Award® winning actor (WEST SIDE STORY)

John Aniston – Orpheus Award Presenter – Audience Choice (Feature Film)

AnistonLegendary actor (DAYS OF OUR LIVES)

Barbara De Fina – Orpheus Award Presenter – Best Direction

De FinaVeteran producer (GOODFELLAS, CASINO)

Kary Antholis – Orpheus Award Presenter – Best Screenplay

Academy-Award® winning filmmaker (ONE SURVIVOR REMEMBERS) and HBO Executive


Lanie Kazan – Orpheus Award Presenter – Audience Choice (Short Film)

Golden Globe and Emmy award nominated actress (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, ST. ELSEWHERE)

Dimitris Gontikas – Orpheus Award Presenter – Best Documentary

General Director, ERT

Elementary, my dear… Stavros: The Greek Connection to TV’s CSI

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By Lia Karidas
The TV series, “CSI:Crime Scene Investigation” debuted in 2000 on CBS. On each episode, a team of police forensic experts work to solve a crime using scientific evidence. By 2002, “CSI” was the most popular show on TV which spawned two spinoffs, “CSI: Miami” in 2002 and “CSI: New York” in 2004.
From a Greek entertainment perspective, we have solved our own CSI mystery to reveal that each CSI series has a Greek member in the cast– George Eads on the original “CSI” (set in Las Vegas), Melina Kanakaredes on “CSI: New York”, and Sofia Milos on “CSI: Miami”.
George Eads (left), an actor from Texas whose mother is of Greek descent, plays Nick Stokes on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”. He is a member of the original cast and has appeared in every episode to date. An alumni of Texas Tech University, Eads moved to Los Angeles in his 20s and got his first major role on the series “Savannah”. He also guest starred on three episodes of “E.R.” (1997-1998) as the paramedic who kisses Nurse Carol Hathaway.
Since 2000, Eads has starred on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” alongside William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger playing the empathetic hair and fiber analyst, Nicholas Stokes. He won the Screen Actors Guild award in 2005 as a member of the cast for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series”. He also starred in the TNT movie “Evel Knievel” in 2004. Like his character on “CSI”, he’s currently a bachelor.

Melina Kanakaredes (left) gained primetime television fame first as Dr. Sydney Hansen on the NBC drama “Providence” for five seasons from 1999-2002. Kanakaredes started her television career in daytime and was nominated twice for a Daytime Emmy Award for her role as Eleni (1991-1995) on “Guiding Light”.
In 2004, Kanakaredes took a leading role in “CSI: New York” as detective Stella Bonasera playing opposite Gary Sinise. A native of Ohio, she is fluent in Greek. She studied music, dance and theater at Ohio State University. In 2003, she appeared on Broadway as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.” She is married to Peter Constantinides and they have two daughters.

Born to a Greek mother and Italian father, actress Sofia Milos was born in Zurich, Switzerland. She studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse under Milton Katselas. She has appeared in many TV shows including “Caroline in the City”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Sopranos”.

Since 2003, Milos(left) has played the recurring role of Colombian detective Yelina Salas on “CSI: Miami” which stars David Caruso. She also is appearing in the new Canadian TV series called “The Border”. In the future, she hopes to develop her skills as a director.
These three actors of Greek descent will continue investigating crimes and solving mysteries during the 2008-2009 television season since all three CSI shows have been renewed by CBS.

Island Idol: Greek Islands in Hollywood Films

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By Lia Karidas

As a Greek living abroad, it is always satisfying to see visions of Greece’s natural beauty displayed on the silver screen. The islands, in particular, are a force to be reckoned with in terms of Greek settings represented in Hollywood films. But which island does Hollywood love the most? Follow down the list as GHR recaps the Hollywood films that take place in the Greek Islands…. This, is Island Idol.

Boy On a Dolphin (1957)- starring Alan Ladd, Clifton Webb & Sophia Loren

Starting with an oldie, this 20th Century Fox film took place amongst the islands of the Aegean, but was filmed predominantly on the Greek island of Hydra.

Zorba The Greek (1964)- starring Anthony Quinn

Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek tells the story of an English writer who meets a free-spirited peasant on the island of Crete.

For Your Eyes Only (1982)- starring Roger Moore

The twelfth film of the James Bond franchise was partly set (and filmed) in Corfu, another island beauty of Greece. The film entails James Bond kicking butt, as always, but this time, the antagonist is a deceptive Greek businessman.

Summer Lovers (1982)- starring Peter Gallagher, Darryl Hannah, and Valerie Quennessen

While the film was critically snubbed, there is no doubt about the beauty of it’s settings. Taking place in Santorini, Crete, Delos, and Mykonos, the tag line, “this is one summer you’ll never forget”, is quite fitting.

High Season (1987)- starring Jacqueline Bisset

An English photographer, living on the island of Rhodes, deals with the unexpected appearance of her ex-husband, an old friend, and unresolved issues from the past.

Pascali’s Island (1988)- starring Ben Kingsley, Charles Dance, and Helen Mirren

The film, set in 1908 on an island under Ottoman occupation, chronicles the experience of an Ottoman spy who reports on the actions of the local people. This film was shot on location in Rhodes and Smyrna.

Shirley Valentine (1989)- starring Pauline Collins

When her best friend wins a trip for two to Greece, Shirley Valentine sees a perfect opportunity to escape her redundant life and take some time for herself. She finds romance and a new sense of self on the Greek island of Mykonos, where the movie was also filmed.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)- starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz

An Italian invasion of the Greek island of Cephalonia brings together an italian soldier, Captain Antonio Corelli, and a Greek peasant woman, Pelagia.

The Bourne Identity (2002)- starring Matt Damon

While the film only lands us in Greece at the very end, we still have to give a point to Mykonos for making a blockbuster appearance.

Swept Away (2002)- starring Madonna

While a commercial and critical failure, this modern-day remake of the 1972 Italian film, features a planned trip from an unnamed Greek island to Italy, that takes an unexpected turn when the passengers end up shipwrecked on another Greek island.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)- starring Angelina Jolie

This sequel to the 2001 film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, takes place in several Greek locations including the island of Santorini.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005)- starring Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively, and America Ferrera

This feel-good tale of love and friendship takes place (a quarter of the time) on the Greek island of Santorini. The sequel, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 (2008), is due for release this summer and will also feature footage taken on this island.

Mamma Mia! (2008)- starring Meryl Streep

The film based on the world famous musical is set to be released next month, and also takes place on an unnamed Greek island. While the name of the island is never mentioned in the play, the film was shot in Skopelos, and Skiathos, two of Greece’s lesser known islands.

Now, for the results. Tied for first place, with three films each, are Santorini and Mykonos! But in all honesty, the beauty and history of all of these settings are too great for competition. In fact, the real winners here are probably the viewers of the films!

Papamichael is filming Oliver Stone’s “W”

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Phedon Phedon is the director of photography for the “W”, the new movie that directs Oliver Stone. The film is described as “a chronicle on the life and presidency of George W. Bush” played by actor Josh Brolin. Papamichael’s recent credits include “The Pursuit of Happiness”, “3:10 to Yuma” and “Walk the Line”. According to HollywoodReporter.com, “W” is one of the few productions that was guaranteed a completion agreement even in the case of a strike so Oliver Stone and Papamichael won’t have to rush in order to finish filming. The movie will premiere in Paris on October 22nd 2008.