Friday, January 29, 2010

The Hellenic Hollywood Minute

Zach Galifianakis Going Strong!
This month, Zach Galifianakis will jump onto the silver screen in the upcoming independent feature, “Visioneers”. He stars in this film along with Judy Greer, best known for “27 Dresses” or from her recurring role on the television series, “Arrested Development.” Galifianakis plays George Washington Winsterhammerman, an employee at a successful company where his coworkers begin to spontaneously explode from stress. Afraid he is next to explode, he begins to take steps to ensure his survival which leads him to question the life he is fighting for.

“Visioneers” is a dark comedy that will make its world premiere on June 12 and June 14 at the Seattle International Film Festival. Following the world premiere, the film makes its Las Vegas premiere on June 18 and June 19 at the CineVegas Film Festival.

Zach will also co-star with Robert Downey Jr. for the new upcoming comedy "Due Date", directed by "The Hangover’s" Todd Phillips. Both men did a fabulous job in recent comedies (Tropic Thunder and The Hangover respectively). The story follows a father-to-be (Robert Downey Jr.) racing across the country to witness the birth of his child. Galifianakis will play a travel companion. The film is expected to go into production later in the year with a 2010 release date in mind.

Galifianakis, 38, was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. His mother, Mary Frances, ran a community center for the arts, and his father, Harry Galifianakis, was an oil heating vendor who immigrated from Greece at the age of three. Galifianakis was raised in his father’s Greek Orthodox faith, but now says he “isn’t sure” on the subject of religion.
His fathers family comes from the island of Crete and Zack has passed many summers there as a teenager. He attended North Carolina State University, although he did not graduate. He is the nephew of a former U.S. Congressman, Nick Galifianakis, as well as the cousin to cartoonist Nicholas Galifianakis.

Galifianakis is an experienced stand-up comic that has been in several movies, including “Out Cold,” “Bubble Boy,” and “Into the Wild.” Recently, he was featured on the “Funny or Die” stand-up comedy tour, along with comedians Nick Swardson, Demetri Martin, Andrea Savage and Will Ferrell.


Maria Callas & Aristotle Onassis Come to the Big Screen
The story of Maria Callas, renowned Greek opera singer, and Aristotle Onassis, the richest man of his time, will be brought to life on screen in 2011. The film is based on the book, Greek Fire by Nicholas Gage, a Greek author who’s family comes from Epirus. The script has been developed by Jullian Fellowes, and will star Eva Mendez as Maria Callas.

The book, and soon to be film, unveils the scandalous love affair of Callas and Onassis and the significance the relationship plays on their lives. Gage is credited as one of the first investigative reporters and was the first to work on the Watergate scandal. He also reported for the NY Times. Through Gage’s expert eye, and extensive research we discover shocking information about Callas and Aristotle’s story. Now, to be translated onto film.

Gaumont, France’s leading film production and distribution company has paired up with producer, Nick Wechsler behind the movie. Gage will also be co-producing.
Gaumont CEO, Cristof Riandee explains the interest in working on this project, “This is a story of the impact that love can have on a star, Maria was so in love with Onassis that when their affair ended, she began to lose her voice, and there is a famous moment in Paris where she could not sing the third and fourth acts of an opera. Nick wanted to be more international, and we want to produce more U.S. movies. We have the same taste and have developed a very collaborative relationship, which is very important.”


Greek-American Betty White Wins!
This year, the Screen Actors Guild Awards granted the six-time Emmy winner, Betty White with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
Eighty-eight year old Betty Marion White is a Greek American actress, comedian and former television host. Her career has blossomed for over sixty-five years. Her television roles include Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and of course Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls.

The former Golden Girl is the daughter of Tess Cachikis, a Greek American, and to a German father.

According to a USA Today article, when announcing the award, president Alan Rosenberg said: “Betty White has entertained audiences with her impeccable comic timing and remarkable wit for more than 60 years. Her life-long devotion to the welfare of animals, manifest in her work as an author, producer and philanthropist, and is further evidence of her tremendous humanity.”


Maria Menounos Just Getting Started!
Maria Menounos is producing “Serial Buddies” a serial killer “buddy” film – think Dexter meets Napolean Dynamite. The actors starring in the film are Hal Rudnick, Paul Ashton, Gina Molina, Richard Christie, and Todd Wilson. Menounos, who also has a role in the movie, commented about her cast that “They are so committed, complaint free and talented”. Keven Undergaro, who has collaborated in the past with Menounos, is the director and writer of the comedy which is currently filming in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Menounos has produced movies since her teens when, at age 17, she was also working as an employee at Dunkin’ Donuts with aspirations to be something more. And she did it. The same year she produced “In the Land of Merry Misfits”, an independent film fairy tale. The 35 mm feature film was produced by Menounos while she was attending Emerson College and directed by Keven Undergaro, then the head writer for MTV’s Singled Out. Unfortunately, the negatives of the film were stolen and the film was never completed. But her work on the film, and the film’s director, helped her land a reporting job at Channel One News and at MTV. Menounos, however, never forgot the film or the film’s director. In 2005, Menounos personally funded the recovery and restoration of the film, which was narrated by John Waters and starred an eclectic group in the Waters vein – including former WWE champion Bob Backlund, actress Josie Davis from the TV show “Charles in Charge” and B-movie icon Randal Malone. The film premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Menounos also directed “Longtime Listener” starring Wilmer Valderrama.

Thanks to the Greek Hollywood Reporter for sources.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sparkling Wine Comes to Greece

We’ve all had our share of sparkling wine during toasts at weddings, at Valentines Day dinner, at the countdown of New Year’s Eve, and probably offered at a social gathering. But how often do we order a glass or a bottle of sparkling wine as our choice of beverage? Recently, sparkling wine sales have been steadily increasing with creative marketing and trend setting approaches amongst various demographics. This refreshing and effervescent delight has been in production for centuries dating back to the 1600s when wine that was being shipped, accidentally went through a secondary fermentation creating a bubbly effect. This pleasant accident caught on quickly and became popular instantly.

This phenomenon captured the interest of two monks, Dom Perignon and Frere Jean Oudart who were from the region of Champagne, France. They were the first to discover a methodical way of capturing the bubbles and creating quality and handcrafted sparkling wine. The secret of creating sparkling wine is to add the right amount of sugar and yeast to create carbon dioxide that results into tiny bubbles while the wine is fermenting in the bottle. The news spread fast within the region of Champagne about sparkling wine that its popularity wiped out the production of non-bubbly wines. The region of Champagne opened the doors to sparkling wine production throughout Europe and eventually around the world. Keep in mind that Champagne, is sparkling wine produced within the region of France. Any production outside of this region can only be labeled as sparkling wine or the local term. For example, sparkling wine from Spain is called Cava and from Italy is called Prosecco or Spumante.

The success of sparkling wines has also made its way to Greece. According to wine enthusiasts and reputable critics, some of the best sparklers are produced from two of Greece’s natives grapes, Athiri and Moschofilero. The variety Athiri is commonly used in the production of blended wines in Greece, but it is the ideal grape for producing an aromatic and refreshing sparkler. One area that is famed for its Athiri grapes is the island of Rhodes. The island’s unique climate and soft breezes allow the Athiri grape to reach its distinct maturity needed to give its pleasant qualities. Aside from becoming the most popular white grape variety in Greece, Moschofilero makes a great sparkling wine. Sparklers produced from Moschofilero give off immense floral aromas with lemony and citrus flavors. What a great addition to a beautiful hot summer day in Greece.

Restaurants have already begun to take advantage of the sparkling wine trend. You should begin to see a larger variety of sparkling wine offerings, especially by the glass. A great way to start any dining experience is actually with a glass of sparkling wine that actually stimulates a healthy appetite. It is also a great pairing with light foods such as lightly grilled vegetables and seafood. Wine shops have also expanded their sparkling wine sections with very creative placements to create interest amongst consumers.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's in Greece

Like most nations on earth, Greece celebrates the start of the New Year on January 1st. This date is the Name Day of Vassilis (Basil) and persons named Vassilis will receive a gift and congratulations on this day. All churches or monasteries named for this saint will offer special services and a celebration including food and drink.

Quote from the Liturgy of St. Basil

The bread which you use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

New Year's Day Customs

In Greece, it is considered lucky to gamble on this day, whether you win or lose, and traditionally, people would gather to play cards on a table covered with green felt. Since Greece has opened up its casinos to locals, this custom makes sure it's a busy day at the official gambling palaces throughout Greece.
The herb basil is connected to this saint and day, and is believed to have both healing and protective powers.

On this day, any vessel of water is emptied and filled with fresh water, an echo of ancient New Year traditions.

But the biggest part of the day concerns the special cake, the vassilopita, which is prepared with a small coin concealed in it. Whoever gets the piece with the coin can expect especially good luck in the coming year.