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The whole picture business stank March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Spiro N. Taraviras’s ‘Buzz’ is an intimate portrait of Hollywood screenplay writer A.I. Bezzerides

A fitting homage to the late Hollywood screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, who passed away last January 1 at 98, the documentary written, directed and produced by Spiro N. Taraviras, “Buzz” currently playing at the capital’s Phillip and Mikrokosmos theaters, offers a bittersweet account of the life of a master “engineer” of words. It is also a lot of fun.

Filmed mostly at the Woodland Hills, California, home of the colorful Bezzerides, whose nickname was Buzz, the documentary takes us back to Hollywood’s golden years, but the veneer is quickly stripped by the elderly Bezzerides as he shuffles around his ramshackle home, trashing the giant film industry and its approach to the creators it employed, having them churn out material in assembly-line fashion.

The “dream factory” of the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood was the place for an engineer like Buzz, who worked tirelessly on creating his own original screenplays and on tinkering with those of others so they would “work” better.

Taraviras’s award-winning documentary reveals the duality of Buzz, the engineer who had a collection of rundown jalopies in his backyard waiting to be fixed and the mechanic of words to whom Hollywood’s greatest actors turned to give their characters real voice. It is an intimate portrait of this complex artist and man, following his life from 1999-2002, when the interviews with him were conducted.

Getting him to talk was no easy matter, says Taraviras. “Step by step we gained his confidence and he collaborated but he was never an easygoing interview partner. He was never a person seeking glamour and he was telling us, screaming to us actually, after few hours of our daily meetings: ‘You are stealing my time. I have to go to work.’ He was 92 by then and daily he was sitting in front of his typewriter writing scripts. After over 70 years of writing the typewriter was the extension of his fingers. He couldn’t live without writing. His favorite motto was: ‘I am not writing for money, I am writing to write.’”

Albert Isaac Bezzerides, who would later become known as “the first film-noir writer in the United States,” according to Francois Truffaut, after writing “Kiss Me Deadly”, was the son of an Armenian mother and a Turkish-speaking Greek father. He was born in Samsun, Turkey, on August 9, 1908. His family migrated to the United States when Buzz was 2 years old and settled in Fresno, California, where his father worked as trucker in the produce sector.

His experiences working by his father’s side while also attending school and the University of California at Berkeley provided the inspiration for the 1940 drama “They Drive by Night,” starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, and based on his novel “Long Haul.”

This novel marked the beginning of Buzz’s thorny relationship with the industry, when Warner Brothers offered him $2,000 for the rights to his novel and a $300-a-week contract as a screenwriter, after having produced a script based on his book without buying the rights.

For old Hollywood fans, “Buzz” is a trip down memory lane, with sexy trailers of classic films, as well as a fountain of gossip concerning the inner workings of the industry and juicy tidbits about some of its greatest stars. Bezzerides reminisces on his friendships with prized writers William Faulkner and William Saroyan, and actors Bogart and Robert Mitchum on “The Angry Hills” and, of course, his relationship with an industry he felt had repeatedly cheated him of his rights. “He was simply a bad salesman of his work but to me he was a great writer,” says Taraviras.

Buzz was also among hundreds of artists questioned by the McCarthy Committee over his so-called “un-American” activities. After being put on the “gray list” he fell out of favor with the industry and struggled to find work.

The documentary pauses on this controversial period of American history, with commentaries by film critic and historian Dan Georgakas, who also offers valuable insight on other aspects of Buzz’s life and work, and actress Gloria Stuart, who had worked closely with Buzz and was a personal friend.

One wonderful chapter of “Buzz” shows Bezzerides in his Los Angeles home and Jules Dassin, Buzz wrote the screenplay for his “Thieves’ Highway”, in Athens holding a dialogue via the documentary. The two associates comment on one another’s work and iron out an old misunderstanding that had eaten away at both for over 50 years.

There is also a good deal of information on Buzz’s personal life, with commentaries offered by his son Peter and daughter Zoe, as well as by Philippe Garnier, a journalist and film historian who worked closely with Bezzerides. The documentary also shows Buzz’s profoundly naive side, best illustrated by a story about his inadvertently driving a pair of robbers to the sites of their heists.

The two-hour documentary, the result of four years of work and hours spent at Bezzerides’s home, talking with him and following his daily routines, treats us to a lot of interesting material.

“I was never a part of the motion-picture life,” says Buzz, sitting in his favorite armchair dressed in his trademark lumberjack shirt, wool cap and worn beige corduroy trousers. “I think the whole picture business stank,” he says later.

The documentary ends beautifully, with Buzz walking out of the same door he came in at the beginning.

“Writers are not considered to be very important in pictures,” he says. “What do writers do? They take a blank page and put something on it… If the page is bad, the picture stinks. If it’s a good page, the picture doesn’t stink. And the reaction I’m getting today might mean my pictures said something: reality.”

“Buzz” is in English with Greek subtitles.

The Acropolis first among first March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums.
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President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias along with Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and his French counterpart Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres attended a ceremony at the Parthenon yesterday after the announcement that the Acropolis is being placed at the top of the European Cultural Heritage list.

The preparation of a heritage list is an EU initiative that aims to conserve and safeguard cultural heritage sites of European significance.

Epic sequel resurrects the Pantheon of Ancient Greece March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Games & Gadgets.
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God of War II > Platform: PS2 > Rated: Mature 17+

God of War II is a champion among games of its kind, one worthy of being hailed as a masterwork.

When the original GOW was released two years back, it flew in under the radar but quickly became a huge hit, and has remained a big seller among PlayStation’s Greatest Hits line-up.

This time its central figure, the mighty Kratos, is flying higher. Literally. He’s tied the wings of a gryphon to his own arms and cruises amid the towering columns of mythological Greece. The story in GOW II picks up moments after Kratos’ victorious battle over Ares. Reigning as the new war lord, Kratos seems to have something stuck in his craw. He’s cranky, and sends his Spartan army on repeated rampages through towns and villages everywhere on the mortal plain.

His disregard for people’s lives doesn’t sit well with the other gods,who decide to send him a message. Kratos is nearly done in by the bearded leader of the gods, Zeus himself, before being betrayed by Athena, the civilized one of the bunch.

While putting his gigantic boots to some Greek architecture one day, Kratos is shrunk down to average size and becomes the target of every enemy soldier’s wrath. Now on the outs with those sitting atop Mount Olympus, he is left to defend himself from endless waves of military men and even statues that suddenly come alive. While fighting for his life, he learns he can change his lot by getting to the Sisters of Fate, who live in a remote temple.

Kratos’ journey is the soul of the game. It is also the reason for the mature rating, which cautions of “blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, and sexual themes.”
At the same time, it’s the reason GOW II will go down as the greatest action-adventure game in the history of the PlayStation 2.

Rife with puzzles and action and unbounded beauty, epic and extraordinary, the game will lead you through the pantheon of ancient Greece. When you arrive on the other side, you will know why a third GOW is in the works.

CTC Argosy to represent Chino in Cyprus March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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CTC Argosy Operations, a member of Cyprus Trading Corporation Public Ltd listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange and the Shacolas Group of Companies announced that it has reached an agreement with immediate effect with XUXA Ltd for the exclusive distribution of CHINO products in the Cyprus market. 

CHINO is an iced fresh coffee and iced fruit drink, which is very popular among Cypriot consumers. It is sold in café-restaurants, café, bakeries, kiosks etc. 

CHINO will enrich the wide range of products that CTC represents in the Cyprus market and is expected to contribute more than CYP1 million to its turnover. 

Secret deal on Nicosia’s Ledra Street crossing? March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied.
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The Turkish Cypriot side yesterday denied media reports in the north that an agreement had been reached for demilitarisation in the area of Ledra Street in Nicosia and that the crossing point would be ready to open in July.

Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika said that an understanding was reached during discussions carried out under UN auspices between the Turkish armed forces and the military authorities of the Republic of Cyprus for the opening of the crossing. The paper said that General Ilker Basbug, the commander of Turkey’s Land Forces, had last week secretly visited the island to conduct a site examination of the work being done in the area.

However a top Turkish Cypriot political source denied yesterday that a military withdrawal was taking place in the buffer zone at the proposed Ledra street crossing, telling that: “A withdrawal is not on the agenda”.  He added, however, that Turkish Cypriot military officials had met with UN officials to discuss the “practicalities” of opening the crossing, and that he believed discussions would be fruitful.

The proposed crossing point was quiet yesterday, with one of two uniformed Turkish Cypriot police on guard on the occupied northern side of Nicosia, saying that military was still in place in Ermou Street. “Our soldiers haven’t moved,” he said. Other eyewitnesses said they had but the official side is being tight-lipped.

Earlier this month, the Greek Cypriot government dismantled the wall at the end of Ledra Street in a surprise move late at night. The removal of the wall however was not designed to automatically open Ledra Street but as a means of furthering discussion with the Turkish Cypriot side on the issue. The Greek Cypriot government has set a number of conditions for the opening, which include securing the old buildings and the pulling back of military personnel.

On Sunday Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat criticised Parliament House President Demetris Christofias for saying the preconditions had not yet been met by the Turkish side. “At least Mr Christofias accepts the fact that the Greek Cypriot side has put forward preconditions,” Talat said. “We do not want preconditions, we want for any gate to be opened without any provisions,” he said. Talat also said the opening of Ledra Street was a priority over the opening of other crossing points.

History book set for correction March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Education.
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The controversial junior high school history book will be reviewed and altered but not withdrawn, officials said yesterday as academics called for an end to the fuss over the textbook.

Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday handed the book’s authors a report by the Academy of Athens, a research and scientific organization that advises the government. The report, which has not been made public, suggests some changes be made to the textbook but does not advise the government to replace it completely, sources said.

This position appears to be confirmed by Maria Repousi, a Professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University who headed the team that compiled the textbook for 12-year-olds. “The book will not be withdrawn,” she said. “The authors will meet and examine the proposals that have been submitted.”

Critics of the book, which include the Church of Greece, believe that the authors have not provided enough information about key moments in Greek history and have played down the suffering of Greeks at the hands of Ottoman rulers.

In a statement, Giannakou said that she has asked the book’s authors to “take into account” the points made by the Academy of Athens as well as the Cyprus’ Education Ministry, which rejected the book outright. The Minister has also asked some 200 schoolteachers who have used the book to submit their comments.

The government wants any revisions to the book to be made this summer so it can be reissued in time for the new school year, which begins in September. In a bid to stave off criticism, the Education Ministry yesterday also sent junior high schools CDs with more information about the subjects covered in the book to be used as teaching aids.

Meanwhile, academics have called for the criticism of the book to be toned down. “The book has to pass through various stages of approval… it is absolutely necessary that it be evaluated by teachers,” Christina Koulouri, a history professor at the University of the Peloponnese, said. “I am against extreme and fanatical views and those that act in the heat of the moment.”

Greek Titan Cement buys US concrete firm March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Listed Greek cement firm Titan will pay $235 million (177 million euro), plus working capital, to buy US concrete company S&W Ready Mix as part of plans to expand further into the North American market, Titan said yesterday.

Titan agreed to buy 100 percent of S&W, which generated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of about $48 million for 2006, Titan said in a statement. S&W operates 26 ready-mix plants in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, boosting Titan’s expansion program in North Carolina, it said.

Titan already operates a cement plant in Roanoke, Virginia, a cement import terminal in Norfolk, as well as other ready-mix concrete plants and fly ash processing businesses in the US. It also has operations in Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Egypt.