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Low Key

What's behind the door?

Aaron Lanton, Keith Dennie, and Tim Molloy look at pop culture through a racial lens, focusing on the low-key things some people might miss to discuss their deeper meanings.
Latest Episode
2019-10-18

What Is 'Joker' Trying to Say About Poverty and Mental Illness?

Season 1, Ep. 44

What does "Joker" want to say about poverty, mental illness and other problems society has failed to solve? That's the subject of our latest "Low Key" podcast.


Every week on "Low Key," your hosts Aaron Lanton, Keith Dennie and Tim Molloy look into pop culture subtleties you may have missed. Well, except for this week: This week Tim is replaced (quite successfully) by special guest Sam Perrin of the “Sam Said It” podcast


Sam, Aaron and Keith go deep on "Joker," questioning how to interpret its ending, whether it wants to make political statements or avoid them, and where it stands on the divide between rich and poor. They focus especially on how the film deals with mental illness, and how to interpret director Todd Phillips' presentation of Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur losing his grip on reality.


Also: Do nice pearls really fall that way?

2019-10-18

What Is 'Joker' Trying to Say About Poverty and Mental Illness?

Season 1, Ep. 44

What does "Joker" want to say about poverty, mental illness and other problems society has failed to solve? That's the subject of our latest "Low Key" podcast.


Every week on "Low Key," your hosts Aaron Lanton, Keith Dennie and Tim Molloy look into pop culture subtleties you may have missed. Well, except for this week: This week Tim is replaced (quite successfully) by special guest Sam Perrin of the “Sam Said It” podcast


Sam, Aaron and Keith go deep on "Joker," questioning how to interpret its ending, whether it wants to make political statements or avoid them, and where it stands on the divide between rich and poor. They focus especially on how the film deals with mental illness, and how to interpret director Todd Phillips' presentation of Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur losing his grip on reality.


Also: Do nice pearls really fall that way?

2019-9-27

Is 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Something to F--- With?

Season 1, Ep. 42

Shimmy Shimmy Ya! On the latest episode of the Low Key podcast we talk about “Wu Tang Clan: An American Story,” brought to you by RZA -- the man who brought us “The Man With the Iron Fists.”


(Also: We just found out what RZA stands for “Ruler, Zig-Zag-Zig, Allah.” I don’t know what any of that means, but it sounds dope. Can you say new X- Box Gamertag?)

 

The series chronicles the formation and the rise of one of hip-hop’s greatest groups, The Wu Tang Clan. So far Hulu has six episodes available for streaming. We're not quite sure what it is just yet, and we discuss how the show works to create the mythos behind the Wu Tang, but seems to lack what we most admire about Wu Tang: the music.


We get a little bit of Bobby (aka RZA) laying down a track with Shotgun (aka Method Man), but we mostly get drug deals and drive-bys. That's fine when accompanied with music, but we want more music. (By the way, we don't endorse drug dealing or drive bys, kids).

 

During the episode, Aaron brings up the point that movies based on musicians' lives usually have songs that are incorporated into the story. We don’t get much of that here, but to the show's defense, this is a series, not a movie. The series is probably using the early episodes to introduce the characters and their circumstances, and will hopefully use the remaining episodes to show how they use music to overcome these circumstances.

 

We also never realized that the members of Wu had so many aliases. They seem to have three to five apiece. They're a whole team of superheroes, we're convinced. They are the Avengers… if all the Avenger were rappers, and black men from Staten Island.

 

Plus, Tim's still trying to figure out if Raekwon really shot up Ghostface Killah’s home back in the day.

2019-9-17

Let's Talk About the Joker and Chris Gaines (feat. Sam Perrin from "Sam Said It")

Will Todd Phillips' new "Joker" prove the exception to the rule that villains are best left mysterious? And also, did we ever figure out why Garth Brooks' adopted an emo R&B persona named Chris Gaines? These two equally relevant subjects are the focus of our latest "Low Key" podcast.


This week on "Low Key," we're joined by special guest Sam Perrin of the "Sam Said It" podcast. All of us are comic-book nerds, but despite that, we weren't necessarily desperate for a solo "Joker" film. 


As Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader can attest, sometimes it's better not to know a scary villain's entire backstory. But we're cautiously excited for Todd Phillips' highly praised "Joker," which stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Crown Prince of Crime in an homage to Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro classics like "Taxi Driver" and "King of Comedy."


[contextual-link post_id="4362781" title="Also Read" link_title="Let’s Discuss the Tricky Racial Metaphors of ‘Carnival Row’ (Podcast)" target=""]


Our discussion of the Joker leads us to speculate about what other comic-book villains deserve origin stories (looking at you, Doctor Doom), which leads into a discussion of fanfic, which leads into a discussion of "Twilight," which delves smoothly into some praises for Lil Nas X, and the oft-forgotten contribution that Nine Inch Nails made to "Old Town Road."


That in turn leads us into a lengthy discussion of the time Garth Brooks adopted a kind of emo R&B alterego named Chris Gaines, and the beauty of the Chris Gaines' single "Lost in You." It's really pretty. Have you listened to it? You should.


Anyway, given that Joker won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, we're prepared to be pleasantly surprised by Phillips dark vision. Also pleasantly surprising is the way Gaines' voice goes liltingly high at around the 1:40 mark of "Lost in You," before going into a delicate and impeccable guitar solo. Is "Lost in You" our favorite Garth Brooks song? Are we allowed to say that?

Needless to say, this is a wonderful episode, and you should subscribe to both "Low Key" and "Sam Said It."


Here are some of the key issues we talk about this episode, with timestamps:


3:40: Batman questions aside, could the Joker beat Superman?


4:27: "You tell 10-year-old me, hey, you want to hear about Darth Vader? The answer would be, 'Sure, why not? I would love to see how Darth Vader became evil.' And then we got it, and it was like, now I renege on that. I don't want that again."


7:19: "I think Doctor Doom needs a movie."


11:43: Some thoughts on Namor as a potential villain in "Black Panther 2."


15:10: Why you should keep writing all that fanfic.


16:30: The whitest thing that has ever happened on the podcast happens


17:13: Keith informs Aaron of the existence of Chris Gaines and the Chris Gaines phenomenon is discussed at length


21:44: "Jojo Rabbit looks incredible to me"


25:00: A confession about "The Dark Knight," and a lengthy discussion of that complicated scene with the two boats.


33:50: Let's talk about "The Killing Joke"


2019-9-6

Let's Talk About the Tricky Racial Metaphors of 'Carnival Row'

Season 1, Ep. 40

Fae! Pucks! Critches! This week on the "Low Key" podcast, we talk about these and other words we think might be racial slurs in the world of "Carnival Row," Amazon's unique take on bigotry and immigration.


The new series examines a star-crossed relationship between a human detective named Philo (Orlando Bloom) and a winged fae named Vignette (Cara Delevigne) that is filled with metaphors we're trying very hard to follow. The show creates a vast and complex fictional world, then populates it with storylines that seem oddly reminiscent of things happening in America today.


Every week on "Low Key," we look for pop culture subtleties, often through a racial lens, so "Carnival Row" was kind of made for us. It's filled with nuance, and rewards viewers for patience and close attention. Our favorite subplot involves the "there goes the neighborhood" arrival or the mysterious puck Mr. Agreus (David Gyasi), who draws the intense interest of privileged neighbor (and master to Vignette) Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant).


We're also caught very off-guard by a subplot involving fae fetishist Jonah Breakspear (Arty Froushan), son of the eminent Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris). Whether you like "Carnival Row" or not -- and we do -- it's a lot of fun to talk about.


Here are some of the main points of our conversation, with timestamps:


5:30: Apologies to Downton Abbey


7:05: Praise for Tamzin Merchant


8:45: “If you were to make like an eight-episode porn scene where sex only happened in the seventh episode? If you have the dedication to watch that kind of pornography, you’ve got it. ‘Carnival Row’ has it.” 


16:38: Some thoughts on the precarious Spurnrose situation


17:10: “The only-person-to-survive thing felt unnecessary.”


30:00: A pretty big spoiler


36:51: Someone yells "YEAH!" a little too loud


If you like us, subscribe. If you don't, check out the "Shoot This Now" or "Meanwhile in the Multiverse" podcasts.

2019-8-30

Is David Oyelowo's 'Don't Let Go' About Time-Travel? Or Something Else?

Season 1, Ep. 39

"Don't Let Go" stars David Oyelowo as an LAPD detective who starts getting phone calls from his niece, played by Storm Reid -- after she and her parents are brutally murdered. Is it about time-travel? Parallel dimensions? God? We talk it out on the new "Low Key."


The Blumhouse film, from Jacob Aaron Estes, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival under the original name "Relive." It quickly sets up the plot before taking us through a series of twists that challenge everything you thought you knew about cell phone conversations between the living and the dead.


Is it a time-travel film? A story of crossed realities? We spend this episode puzzling it out, while praising the work of Reid and Oyelowo.


We also talk about how Estes and Oyelowo, a producer on the film, changes the setting from a farm in Ohio to the streets of Los Angeles, an especially intense scene late in the film, and the Zodiac killer.


Here are a few of our topics, with time stamps:


2:30: "I don't know if it's a time-travel movie, I don't know if it's a movie about parallel universes, I don't know if it's a movie where when you die you don't really die you're just transported to another world where you're actually living."


6:05: Has there been another movie quite like "Don't Let Go"?


11:30: Go watch "Jacob's Ladder"


16:30: “Hitman” is hard


17:37: This movie was originally set on a farm in Ohio with a bunch of white people


18:45: Props, Blumhouse


24:05: If someone was pointing a gun at you, would you rather run or ride a bike to escape?


28:35: The man-in-a-horror-movie dilemma


If you like us, please subscribe.

2019-8-23

'Cannon Busters,' 'The Witcher,' 'The Irishman' and More 2019 Projects We're Excited About (Podcast)

Season 1, Ep. 38

Usually on the "Low Key" podcast, we talk about pop culture moments we think others may have missed, often through a racial lens. This week, we just talk about some projects we're excited about, from "Cannon Busters" to "The Witcher" to "The Irishman" to "The Mandelorian," "Dolemite is My Name" and "Harriet."


Of all those films and TV shows, only one -- the Netflix anime series "Cannon Busters," has been released. Aaron, a hardcore anime fan, tell us how intrigued he was to see anime with black characters in key roles.


Keith, meanwhile, wonders if "The Witcher," starring Henry Cavill, can overcome the curse of many video-game adaptations.


And Tim is eager to see if "The Irishman" -- from the super team of Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci -- can win its big CGI gamble to become the instant gangster classic we hope it will be. 


We also talk about Kasi Lemmons' upcoming Harriet Tubman biopic "Harriet," Eddie Murphy in "Dolemite Is My Name," and Jon Favreau's mysterious "The Mandalorian."


Netflix is very well-represented on the list of projects we're excited about -- "Cannon Busters," "The Witcher," "The Irishman" and "Dolemite" are all Netflix projects. But we also talk about how Netflix may change in response to Disney+, future home of "The Mandalorian" and many more "Star Wars" and Marvel Cinematic Universe stories.


Here are some highlights of the episode and timestamps:


00:40: A quick recap of the great Tennessee Wing-Off (Congratulations, Sarah!)


2:15: The majesty of "Cannon Busters"


4:56: Why we think "The Witcher" looks good, and the risks of video game adaptations. We also try to name as many video game adaptations as we can, off the top of our heads.


7:59: How bad movies get made (featuring some advice by William Goldman)


10:44: Let's nerd out about "The Irishman" and digital de-aging


14:40: Speaking of de-aging... "Gemini Man"!


18:40: What would it take go get Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to play Goro?


22:00: Why it's hard to be the movie trailer before the one for "Harriet"


25:10: "Who's asking for this?"


37:30: Dolemite!


40:16: Don't forget to please subscribe and review us on Apple, please.