Category Archives: Tribeca TV Festival

Tribeca TV Festival Q & A: ‘GOLIATH’ the Amazon Prime Series Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Dennis Quaid, Amy Brenneman

GOLIATH, Tribeca TV Festival, Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios

Tribeca TV Festival, ‘GOLIATH’ starring Billy Bob Thornton, directed by Lawrence Trilling for Amazon Studios (Carole Di Tosti)

After the screening of two dynamic episodes of GOLIATH Amazon Prime’s Season 3 award winning web series at Tribeca TV Festival, some members of the cast sat down for an enjoyable Q and A along with the director Lawrence Trilling. GOLIATH, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro is a tour de force with superb cinematography that feels more like a film than a TV web series. Season 3 opens on October 4th.

Billy Bob Thornton, GOLIATH, Lawrence Trilling

Billy Bob Thornton (right) and moderator at Tribeca TV Festival Q and A after the screening of Amazon Prime’s web series ‘GOLIATH’ (Carole Di Tosti)

The actors discussed their experiences working with director Lawrence Trilling (all prefer having one director for the entire series) and the enjoyment of working with each other. They also discussed the water crisis of Central Valley California the location of the setting where many of the scenes were filmed. Central Valley is around two hours outside of Los Angeles. It is the agricultural center of the state and globally important for producing nuts, fruits and vegetables for the U.S. and world-wide markets.

GOLIATH, Tribeca TV Festival, Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios

Amy Brennenman at Q & A, Tribeca TV Festival, screening Amazon Prime web series ‘GOLIATH’ starring Billy Bob Thornton, directed by Lawrence Trilling (Carole Di Tosti)

Trilling and the others stated that the scenes related to the small town in the Central Valley represented what is happening to the townspeople who have no water coming from their public water supply taps. So when we note in the series someone driving up with cases of water to deliver to various households, this bottled water must be rationed out. They must use bottled water for showers, to wash dishes, for drinking and all their household needs. Water is a precious resource that they don’t have. It’s being diverted to wealthier land owners, corporate farmers and ranchers. It came out in the discussion that so much of it is wasted and the landowners are overpumping to get more water, sometimes to no avail and certainly to the detriment of the land. At the least, it weakens the ground structure and creates sinkholes.

A statistic that seems amazing in this dearth of water for households was quoted during the Q and A. It takes two gallons of water to grow one almond. Meanwhile, households in the area are starved for water and little farms get just a trickle to irrigate their crops, mostly having to depend on rain and good weather. Since almonds are the staple crop that the billionaire Blackwoods Wade, played by Dennis Quaid and Diana, played by Amy Brenneman, are growing out in Central Valley and the trees require a tremendous amount of water, who gets to determine the allotment of water? Is it based on need, money, fairness, greed, equity, decency?

Indeed, the Blackwoods have a tremendous need for water to irrigate their trees. Diana is using the almonds additionally for her own skin care line and medicinal products like milk baths to soothe and relax from the pressures of the water crisis. In a tense, wild scene, Diana has breakfast with brother Wade as he chills out in a milk bath. Amy Brenneman joked about her character’s relationship with her brother which appears untoward and eerie. As the series continues how their relationship evolves is superbly drawn.

Nina Arianda, GOLIATH, Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling

Nina Arianda at the Tribeca TV Festival Q and A after the screening of the Amazon Prime web series ‘GOLIATH’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Billy Bob Thornton has worked with Dennis Quaid before and they have known each other for years and are buddies, relaxed and comfortable with each other. Thornton admitted that working with actors you’ve worked with before and with a director you have an established relationship with is the best. You have a kind of shorthand you use based on previous knowledge with each other.

Shamier Anderson, Lawrence Trilling, GOLIATH, Tribeca TV Festival, Amazon Studios

(L to R): Shamier Anderson, Lawrence Trilling, Tribeca TV Festival Q & A after the screening of Amazon Prime’s web series ‘GOLIATH,’ starring Billy Bob Thornton (Carole Di Tosti)

This is something which I’ve heard actors and directors discuss is the reason why they enjoy working with the same individuals. Robert Di Nero and Martin Scorsese work with a shorthand, also.

Billy Bob Thornton, Tribeca TV Festival, GOLIATH, Lawrence Trilling

Billy Bob Thornton at Tribeca TV Festival Q & A after the screening of ‘GOLIATH,’ the Amazon Prime web series beginning October 4th (Carole Di Tosti)

Thornton admitted that when he read the script it was natural and easy and he knew he could play the character who felt like him. The first season out he won a Golden Globe and part of that is due to his understanding and familiarity with the character whose dialogue the writers have kept authentic and viably sincere.

In not trying to reveal too much of the future episodes, Shamier Anderson who plays a twin who is deaf mentioned that it was enjoyable to come up with differences in his twin’s characters with specificity. He had fun working on their ethos. He gave them different clothing and changed the voice, their gait and all the other elements so that tech folks were surprised that the same man was playing two different characters. He also discussed how director Trilling shot the scenes with the twins.

Amy Brenneman joked that in the later episodes Shamier’s characters are like her sons. The irony is that both Diana, Amy’s character, and the twins resemble each other in their manner. They have the same insidious smile that bodes ill, though it is a come on that all is fine. The characters are sinister and scary. For his part Billy Bob as Billy McBride takes all in his stride in his wry, ironic manner which heightens the humor.

Nevertheless, the series is  darkly ironic and is filled with menacing, atmospheric shadows and weird tensions due to Trilling’s superb direction and the choices he makes convey the malevolent severity of the water crisis and the billionaire family that is behind it.

Nina Arianda who plays the humorous, wacky Patty Solis-Papagian shared the backdrop of a scene when she blows a tire and is waiting for Triple A to come and repair it. She and Trilling decided to include what happens in the scene that took place realistically. A bee flew in and was harassing her. Other spontaneous occurrences happened as they always do on shoots. Arianda and Trilling came up with a few more of which we’ll look for during the series season.

GOLIATH opens on October 4th on Amazon Prime. Don’t miss it. For my review of the first two episodes of the series, go to this link: https://caroleditosti.com/2019/09/15/tribeca-tv-festival-continues-its-2019-series-reveal-goliath-starring-billy-bob-thornton-nina-arianda-dennis-quaid/

 

 

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Tribeca TV Festival 2019 Premiere: ‘Evil’ A Hybrid Psychological, Supernatural, Crime-Drama Thriller on CBS

 Michael Emerson, Katja Herbers, Mike Coulter, Aasif Mandvi, Tribeca TV Festival, Evil, CBS TV pilot, Robert King, Michelle King

(L to R) Michael Emerson, Katja Herbers, Mike Coulter, Aasif Mandvi, Tribeca TV Festival screening of the CBS TV pilot of ‘Evil,’ directed by Robert King, created by Robert and Michelle King on CBS, Thursday at 10 pm beginning 26th September (courtesy of CBS)

In an intriguing World Premiere screening at the Tribeca TV Festival, the pilot of the TV series Evil, directed by Robert King and created by the writing team of Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife, The Good Fight) focuses on the terrifying manifestations of evil in a hybrid genre show which is part mystery-crime drama with sardonic humor and supernatural, mystical elements. The Kings delve into what constitutes the nature of evil. Each Thursday beginning on September 26 and extending into 2020, Evil examines issues and case studies where evil or its opposite goodness presents itself in human or spiritual form while linchpin investigators, a skeptical psychologist, a priest and a pragmatical empiricist go head to head with explanations during their intense, thrilling adventures to solve cases.

Dr. Kristen Bouchard (portrayed with vitality and nuance by Katja Herbers-Westworld) is the skeptic whose dreams become haunted by a demonic presence that she initially determines to be a convincing night terror, but which the series suggests may be more than just a bad dream. She is intrigued by David Acosta (the attractive Mike Coulter from Marvel’s Luke Cage) the neophyte studying to be a priest who becomes her side-kick offering a preternatural view and suggesting that there are other realms operating that Dr. Bouchard may not be aware of. Women at the screening were practically drooling over Coulter. His sophistication and solid, calm, spiritual demeanor are a tremendous lure to Dr. Kristen Bouchard (married to a thrill-seeking, absent, adventurer husband). There is a budding sensual tension between Bouchard and Acosta that is all the more enhanced by the Catholic Church’s command for Acosta’s sexual abstinence.

 Michael Emerson, Katja Herbers, Mike Coulter, Aasif Mandvi, Evil, Tribeca TV Festival, CBS TV, Robert King, Michelle King

(L to R): , Katja Herbers, Mike Coulter, Tribeca TV Festival screening of the CBS TV pilot of ‘Evil,’ directed by Robert King, created by Robert and Michelle King on CBS, Thursday at 10 pm beginning 26th September (courtesy of CBS)

These two are joined by a third investigator, the scientist/atheist Ben Shroff (comedian Aasif Mandvi- The Brink on HBO) who rides both of them and is the counterpoint when either goes too far afield in his or her area of expertise. To round out the weekly cast are Kristen’s children played by Brooklyn Shuck, Skylar Gray, Maddy Crocco and Dalya Knapp, and hot, rockin’ grandmother Sheryl Luria (Christine Lahti-the accomplished actress who has conquered stage, film and TV). Lahti recently was lauded for her portrayal of Gloria Steinem in Gloria: A Life by Emily Mann directed by Diane Paulus which ran from October 2018 to March 31, 2019 at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York City.

Along the journey in their show, the Kings raise many pertinent questions and bring in topical themes, for example highlighting that there are secret communities of perpetrators of horror and terror on Social Media who are unified together in their own philosophical and behavioral nexis of a variety of isms and hatreds: i.e. racism, anti-semitism, Nazism, misogyny, xenophobia and more. The writers posit intriguing questions.

Are these groups influencing each other in what are evil acts? Are they guided by spiritual entities? What behaviors were nurtured in their family lives? The show raises incredible issues and places the very serious social/cultural mores of the nation at the forefront. And in the background there is the everpresent current administration which may inspire, provoke and enable such evil actors who, in the traditional, scriptural, Biblical purposes of the Wicked One known as Satan, come “to kill, steal and destroy.” But then what of the alleged Christian evangelicals who align themselves with political leaders who provoke such evil actors to commit crimes like those committed in Charlottesville, Virginia, The Tree of Life Synagogue and Parkland, Florida?

Mike Coulter, Katja Herbers, Aasif Mandvi, Evil, CBS TV, Tribeca TV Festival screening

(L to R): Mike Coulter, Katja Herbers, Aasif Mandvi in ‘Evil, CBS TV series on Thursday evenings at 10 pm beginning 26th September, Tribeca TV Festival pilot screening (Michele Crowe/ CBS)

In the show Evil, be prepared to see twists and turns and the upside down viewed right-side up. Evil is all about angels of light (Lucifer is an angel of light). And it is about discerning truth from lies and not allowing oneself to be susceptible to human “powers of suggestion” that have a hidden rational explanation in a time of fakes, frauds and charlatans who sport their own hidden agendas. But on the other hand, when miracles do happen, and real angels do appear and save lives, should we not be able to recognize these as a singular truth as well?

In the pilot premiere we get a taste of a few of these issues as Dr. Bouchard is called in as an expert witness to provide testimony after interviewing a serial killer who slaughtered a family. Initially, she determines that the killer was not insane though he blacked out and doesn’t remember the murders. As the show progresses, frighteningly, his behaviors shift and when Bouchard produces a crucifix upon the suggestion of Acosta, the killer transforms.

Is this insanity? Is this demon possession? Is demon possession a form of insanity? Or is there some amoral impulse at work in his bloodthirsty behavior and psyche which promotes harm and death to others? Is it an inherent condition which each human being harbors and must expiate in his or her life by evolving into a kinder, gentler, generous, loving human being? Or is it evil spirit based in the supernatural realms of other consciousness where demons, incubui and sucubui hover commanded by powerful wicked spirits of Baal, Legion, Moloch, Mephistopheles, et. al who infiltrate our dreams and unconscious if we are susceptible to them as Dr. Bouchard and David Acosta may be?

Dr. Boggs (Kurt Fuller) Bouchard’s therapist and Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson) an expert witness for the defense provide grist to engineer the eventual solving of this dire case. However, some questions, some mysteries have no explanations. And these questions float throughout the series which promises to be both profound and timely in an era of psychological influence, bullying malevolence and abuse as individual cowards behind a social media avatar upload untoward and violent pictures reinforcing a communal experience of death and abuse via 4Chan, 8Chan, Reddit or private, secret sites. As these isolates band together as terrorizing predators to strengthen their psychosis with other cowardly invisibles, they justify and normalize their behaviors. Thus, they create their own morality of correctness and righteousness as their base seeks to grow. Is this the work of evil entities or the evil DNA of human beings who are past all hope of change or rectitude?

You can catch Evil on CBS Thursdays at 10 pm beginning the 26th of SeptemberCheck online for additional viewing opportunities.

 

Tribeca TV Festival Continues its 2019 Series Reveal: ‘GOLIATH’ Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Dennis Quaid

Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, GOLIATH

Billy Bob Thornton in ‘GOLIATH,’ directed by Lawrence Trilling, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, October 4th, Season 3 presented at Tribeca TV Festival (courtesy of Amazon Studios)

The premise of the TV series GOLIATH about Billy McBride, a former high powered lawyer who built his own successful law firm then crashed and burned into drinking and depression after an attack of conscience, cannot help but be alluring in the time of Trumpism. GOLIATH created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro stars the superb Billy Bob Thornton (the first season out he won a Golden Globe) as the “David” who stands against various Goliaths (one each season) defending the “little guy” against money, class privilege, corporatism and impossible odds.

Sporting  a fine cast with Nina Arianda as the wacky DUI lawyer Patty Solis-Papagian, Tanya Raymonde as Brittany Gold and Diana Hopper as Denise McBride, Billy’s daughter, each season has been sprinkled with veteran greats like William Hurt and guest actors like Maria Bello, Molly Parker (season 1) and Ana de la Reguera and Mark Duplass (season 2). With a heady selection of actors in the cast of Season 3 (Dennis Quaid, Amy Brenneman, Griffin Dunne, Beau Bridges, Graham Greene, Shamier Anderson, Illeana Douglas) it is clear that the series, which is edgy, darkly ironic, humorously wry and loaded with suspense and intrigue, has made its mark for Amazon Studios. This year the television web series opens on Amazon 4th October.

GOLIATH, Tribeca TV Festival, Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios

Tribeca TV Festival, ‘GOLIATH’ starring Billy Bob Thornton, directed by Lawrence Trilling for Amazon Studios (Carole Di Tosti)

I had the opportunity to screen the first two episodes of GOLIATH and catch the Q and A with director Lawrence Trilling and principal members of the cast Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda and others who discussed the journey of this powerful, well-written, dynamically acted and excellently directed GOLIATH. This season’s focus is gravely current and its urgency is not to be underestimated.

The background subject is water, the foreground is corruption, corporate hegemony, power politics, money. Trilling and the writers chose an ongoing crisis that has global implications and reflects the current nightmares coming out of the White House with themes beautifully threaded by smiling, affable characters like billionaire Wade Blackwood (Dennis Quaid is a joy to watch) and his eerie, possibly insane and brother-lusting sister Diana Blackwood (Amy Brenneman). The Blackwoods are billionaire owners of a corporate, industrial sized farm.

Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, GOLIATH

Billy Bob Thornton in ‘GOLIATH,’ directed by Lawrence Trilling, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, October 4th (courtesy of Amazon Studios)

The setting of this season is the present. Though the California drought has been declared at an end, its aftershocks have multiplied for one of the richest areas of California in the agricultural Central Valley whose massive land area is sinking because there has not been enough water to supplant what was lost. In an attempt to recover, area landowners dig deeper and deeper wells to draw out the water. This overpumping damages land sustainability and adds arsenic to the water supply.

Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid, Amy BrennamenLawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, GOLIATH

Dennis Quaid, Amy Brennamen in ‘GOLIATH,’ directed by Lawrence Trilling, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios, Season 3 Episodes 1 & 2 at Tribeca TV Festival (photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

These effects threaten homeowners and farmers alike as rivaling needs for clean, available water increase and power struggles manifest over who gets the water and how much of it should be allotted. The focus of this season’s series is doubly prescient given the full frontal attack by Trumpism and the Federalist Society’s conservative push to relax/eliminate environmental protections. Clean air, clean water and clean soil as precious resources are under siege. Homeowners and little farms run up against powerful politically tied-in globally-minded corporate farmers whose billion dollar industry supplies fruits, nuts, vegetables to this nation and world-wide markets.  Which stakeholder is more important? Can billionaires sit back and share water or is the “greed is good” attitude the only sustainable policy?

Enter legal genius and astute investigator Billy McBride. Billy is called in by long-time friends who own a small vineyard. When the Bennets are forced to confront a weird, horrific accident, Billy’s services are paramount. The incident they confront is irrevocably tied-in to the water supply in the Central Valley.

Billy Bob Thornton, Lawrence Trilling, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, GOLIATH

Billy Bob Thornton in ‘GOLIATH,’ directed by Lawrence Trilling, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime, October 4th (courtesy of Amazon Studios)

The opening scenes of Episode 1 are mysterious and foreboding as Trilling establishes the conflict with atmospheric lighting design and cinematography that builds to an intense climax of the tragic event that kicks off the plot. As a coda Trilling’s grand use of the natural landscape to full effect in night and day scenes that vie with sometime sterile interiors provide an interesting contrast of living and non-living elements and heighten the accuracy of what is currently happening to the farmers, homeowners ranchers in the Central Valley.  Replete with supernatural, spiritual symbols are zany characters who menace and smile with insidious intent (Quaid, Amy Brenneman, Graham Greene, Shamier Anderson) but they are only pursing what’s in the best interests of the country and their workers. So, is that a problem?

The stakes are high. Billy’s life is endangered on this wild ride down a diminishing river that eventually will run dry due to a scorched-earth policy which has no vindicators, no redeemers. Whose policy is it and can they be held accountable? Who are these people that Billy, Patty and his friends and assistants are up against? Clearly, Billy must piece together the intricacies of the Bennet’s case then step back and consider the best way to litigate if he ever makes it to a courtroom.

This promises to be a terrific Season #3 of a creatively dramatized and near flawlessly executed story for our time. October 4th is the opening. Watch it for your edification and pleasure. The performances are spot-on great.

 

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