Low Key

A Society, Culture and TV podcast
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Horror. Science fiction. Non-fiction. Fantasy. Adventure. Coming of age. War. A lot of shows have a hard time executing any sole genre. Lovecraft Country, which just wrapped its first season on HBO, blends all of these together at once and still sticks the landing more often than not.On this week's episode of the Low Key podcast, we discuss all things Lovecraft Country, including the very mixed legacy of H.P. Lovecraft, whether contemporary music works for shows set in the past, and how unfinished character arcs kept this season from being an all-timer.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
The new British horror film Hosts seems designed to provoke people, with a mix of long, slow buildups and sudden, ghastly unpleasantness. This is never better exemplified than in a dinner scene that replaces Chekhov's gun with a hammer, very unsubtly. Hosts features a classic setup: a family invites a neighborhood couple over for Christmas dinner. But an unknown entity has taken over the neighbors' bodies and forces them to act out murderous violence. Hosts weaves together elements of several horror sub-genres, including home invasion, possession, familial violence, and supernatural mystery.Does it work? We discuss.Hosts is directed by Adam Leader and Richard Oakes and stars Neal Ward, Nadia Lamin, Frank Jakeman, Samantha Loxley, and Lee Hunter. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today we talk about The Boys, Amazon's anti-superhero story. Season 1 used superheroes to represent police, military, sports stars and Hollywood celebrities and explore blind hero worship. Season 2 delves into the dirty underside of manufactured heroism with a character named Stormfront (Aya Cash) who uses memes to gain fame and try to steal the superhero group The Seven from its leader, Homelander (Anthony Starr), a kind of demented cross between Superman and Captain America.There are Nazis, a BDSM relationship between Stormfront and Homelander that involves lasers, and so, so many exploding heads. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today's episode is about Residue, the impressionistic debut from Merawi Gerima. The award-winning film, which just premiered on Netflix, follows Jay, a young filmmaker who returns from Los Angeles to his hometown of Washington, DC and finds that white people are taking over his neighborhood, disrespecting the Black residents they're pushing out.We talk about the challenging pace of the movie, its unconventional use of offscreen voices, and its complicated presentation of Jay's motivations. Keith and Aaron also talk about their experiences with gentrification in Memphis, and Tim discusses his white interloping.We almost talked about Cuties this episode and decided to do Residue instead. You're welcome, everybody. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Hulu's new TV show 'Woke' follows the story of black cartoonist Keef Knight's "woke" awakening after a brush with police brutality leads him to re-evaluate his relationship with art and social critique. Also, inanimate objects are now talking to him about embracing his blackness.It's a weird concept with great ideas, but 'Woke' makes some of the same mistakes it means to shed a light on. Keith and Aaron discuss in one of the most contentious episodes of the pod yet. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
We talk about 1BR, the little horror movie that could... unseat Project Power as the top movie on Netflix. It's a story of utopian societies, utilitarianism, and keeping your cat close. Plus, Aaron and Keith recount their experience with a charismatic religious leader who eavesdropped on their conversation at the International House of Pancakes.f you like this episode, check out our interview with 1BR producer Alok Mishra and writer-director David Marmor. And read Alok's piece for MovieMaker about the insane misadventures that went into making the film. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
This episode, we talk about how Chadwick Boseman kept history alive with roles from Jackie Robinson to James Brown to Thurgood Marshall — and how Black Panther changed everything for movies. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Project Power, the latest Netflix action-adventure hit, has a new spin on super powers: What if a pill could make you outrageously powerful — for just five minutes?The film by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, written by The Batman co-writer Mattson Tomlin, stars a trio of stellar actors: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback.But it also raises a question about the current action movie emphasis on universe-building: How can a movie tell a self-enclosed story while also hinting at the endless sequels and spinoffs to come? Can a movie do too good a job of universe-building, to the point that its main story feels incomplete?We liked Project Power well enough, don't get us wrong. But we wondered at times if it was doing too much... or not enough. It definitely gave us a lot to talk about. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Shirley is about the brilliant American Gothic author Shirley Jackson, whose mid-20th century work has influenced many of the creators we admire today. Shirley specifically dramatizes the period that Jackson wrote the novel Hangsaman, by introducing a young, recently married couple into her home. Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, a literary critic and university professor, provide the couple room and board as the young husband seeks university tenure.In exchange, Rose, the young wife, acts as a daily helper to Jackson who is struggling to write her book or finish chores around the home, let alone come up with a galvanizing idea to write her next great piece of fiction.The set up is straightforward but the execution is anything but. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
The lead for a superhero film has to be in phenomenal shape, capable of imposing criminals with their physical presence - or do they? Robert Pattinson, the newest actor to take on the role of Batman in the upcoming 2021 film, adamantly disagrees. In an interview with GQ conducted in April 2020, Pattinson made the case that anyone advocating for working out at all times is “part of the problem.” Presumably, his conviction against exercise is about the pressure to have the perfect physique in a capitalist, image driven society that makes us obsessed with striving for unattainable goals. Detractors would say he simply doesn’t want to work out. This episode of the Low Key podcast begins with a rant arguing the latter.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today’s episode of the Low Key pod covers Beyonce’s visual album Black Is King, a re-envisioning of the classic Lion King tale through the talent and vision of black folks across the globe. In fact, each song for this project was part of Disney’s CGI-live action 2019 Lion King remake, but Black Is King adds additional layers and textures to each rendition by introducing a wide array of African people, tradition, and modern experience. Some audiences will be bewildered and others will not be able to find the words to explain why this is such an important piece of art beyond typical rating critique. Black Is King is streaming now on Disney Plus. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
At the end of the first episode of Netfix's The Business of Drugs, host Amaryllis Fox says to the camera:"Legalization may seem pretty extreme to most Americans. But as long as the demand continues to climb, and the prices remain astronomically high because of no legal competition, I can't help wonder whether legalization and regulation is the only real option, and prohibition is just an illusion to make us all feel good."Humans have used substances to induce soberless states since the beginning of time, but The Business of Drugs breaks down how our shared global habit is causing chaos for forgotten people. On this episode of Low Key, we talk about destigmatizing addiction, how poverty fuels drug markets, and whether legalization would help. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode we explore Netflix's Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, about a Puerto Rican TV astrologer who rose from humble beginnings to become a sequin-caped inspiration to millions.With his distinctive look, aura of mystery — especially about his sexuality — and ability to blend many religious beliefs into a medley of optimism, Walter Mercado gave hope to the hopeless — until an ugly legal dispute yanked him from the air and cost him control of his own carefully cultivated image.:45: Our late-night infomercial memories3:00: Is the Michael Jordan-approved The Last Dance real journalism? Is Walter Mercado getting the Michael Jordan treatment?5:45: "Celebrities nowadays are derivatives of celebrities back in the day."5:50: How Walter Mercado was like Michael Jackson and Prince7:05: About that psychic phone line...7:50: How is Walter Mercado different from a televangelist?8:50: "You just can't swindle a swindler"10:00: Let's talk about Walter Mercado and his manager's relationship11:45: Zodiac signs12:40: "What's the difference between a Walter Mercado and a Tony Robbins?"15:00: Tim has the same religious beliefs as Walter Mercado: "No one has a monopoly on God"18:00: "He had a much better life than most people have"24:00: A Billy Dee Williams story (and here's the background on the gender-fluid story)27:00: Another excellent famous-person story30:55: "The only person I ever saw solve racism was Prince"31:50: "Netflix, again, coming through on the diversity point before it was fucking cool. ... They've been on this train."33:15: Netflix's $120 million donation to HCBUs36:00: "I have an appreciation for any man that dresses up like a wizard"Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado is now streaming on Netflix. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Based on a comic book by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández,The Old Guard asks the question: What if the X-Men, but everyone is Wolverine? The new film from Gina Prince-Bythewood features four very old yet young-looking warriors led by Charlize Theron. All of them have Logan-like super-fast healing powers that we could all use about now. Netflix definitely intends for The Old Guard to be a hit ,given its star-studded cast featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kiki Layne. Is there room for a spinoff? Does a Wolverine kill dudes in the woods? See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
I May Destroy You, the new series created by and starring Michaela Coel, probably will destroy you. It's about consent, double standards, and justice—and that's just the start.Also: Tim misremembered the college that helped pioneer the "yes means yes" standard of consent. It was Antioch. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today’s episode revisits the 1989 classic that put Spike Lee on the map, Do the Right Thing. Over 30 years later, the film’s raw depiction of racial relations in Bedstuy remains controversial - every group feels aggrieved, lashing out with both words and actions. By the time the film is over, one could make a strong case that no one did the right thing. The bubbling tension under the surface during the hottest day of the summer explodes into a riot that feels unavoidable once 911 is dialed.Lee refused the urge to give the audience simple good versus bad character depictions. Singular characters act on their righteous impulses but are often guided by misplaced, unspoken misunderstandings. By the time Mookie throws the trash can through Sal’s pizzeria, his actions are about more than simply the death of Radio Rahim. The audience is given several reasons Mookie could be at the end of his rope with Sal and his family from Pino’s liberal use of the n-word to Sal’s supposed flirtation with his sister - Mookie’s frustration is macro and micro, legitimate and illegitimate. Although Do the Right Thing takes place almost entirely on one neighborhood block in 1989, it represented situations happening nationwide. Gentrifying neighbors and passersbys still have the same tense interactions with the black and brown youth today.. No wonder the film continues to resonate in the summer of 2020 as Black Lives Matter protests continue. Do the Right Thing is available for rent today on several streaming platforms.Episode Breakdown0:48 - Where did ‘Sweet Dick Willy’ get his name from?1:50 - Themes echoing in the modern day  5:05 - Is Mookie a passive character?11:36 - Does anyone do the right thing?16:50 - Radio Rahim’s intimidating presence and killing21:00 - Real life police brutality comparisons23:15 - The shock of police brutality, camera phones, and Black Lives Matter31:40 - Mookie’s future and parenting in the film35:50 - Closing thoughts See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
A simple question: Would you go to a movie theater now? Your hosts weigh in from three distinct states with three distinct COVID-19 situations: Texas (Keith), Tennessee (Aaron) and Massachusetts (Tim).We also get into whether our minds would change if Tenet were playing.And there are questions about COVID-19 etiquette, whether the theatrical experience can ever be reproduced at home, and why contact tracing is difficult for strip club patrons. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today’s episode covers Spike Lee’s new film Da 5 Bloods which follows four black GIs returning to Vietnam nearly five decades after their tours ended to recover gold and the remains of their former captain. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and chaos ensues.The film releases with impeccable timing as the nation continues to grapple with social unrest in present day. The war scenes take place during 1968’s “Summer of Love” when all Hell broke loose for Black Americans after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Lee uses that eerie parallel to show that things have not changed as much as would like to believe. Da 5 Bloods is available now on Netflix.Episode breakdown, with timestamps:0:42 - Initial thoughts 4:46 - Themes and the leading character, Paul as played by Delroy Lindo10:10 - Vietnam War footage and previous Hollywood war films16:22 - What is the purpose of the gold?19:30 - The ‘mythic’ Stormin’ Norman, ‘Black rage’ in 2020, and Black Lives Matter25:00 - Dodging the Vietnam War26:50 - Character arcs for the the Black GIs36:20 - The choice not to de-age characters during Vietnam War scenes42:10 - Additional strengths and weaknesses of the film44:16 - Stormin’ Norman’s fate51:15 - Give Delroy Lindo all the awards See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Just Mercy, starring Michael B. Jordan as a lawyer who defends a wrongly accused death-row inmate played by Jamie Foxx, is one of many films made available for free in response to the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide. In the latest Low Key podcast, we talk about what the film gets right about racist policing, and what changes we'd like to see in real life.The discussion of the movie leads to some comparisons of our own interactions with police. Would you believe your two black co-hosts and one white co-host have had very different experiences? Note the extremely long silence when Keith asks Tim at the 34:13 mark in the podcast if a cop has ever walked up to him and asked for ID for no reason.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
The nerd nightmare is over: the badgering has paid off, and the Synder Cut of the DC Extended Universe’s Justice League will be released as an HBO Max exclusive sometime in 2021.In the latest Low Key Podcast, we talk about what it all means, and what we want from the Snyder Cut. And great news: This episode features Sam from the Sam Said It! podcast.The corporate overlords have bowed to the overbeating might of tweets and petitions to remake the underwhelming November 2017 release into Zack Snyder’s intended glory. The remake will be released as either a four-hour epic film or a six-episode miniseries with enhanced CGI, new character designs, and additional scenes to flesh out the story. This is the sort of thing that would normally only happen in a comic book and yet here we are.So how did this happen? A group of executives from HBO, Warner Brothers, and DC decided to move forward with the project after viewing an unfinished version of the Synder Cut back in early February 2020.This cut was based on post production work by Snyder that was unfinished when the director had to step away because of a family tragedy. The film was later completed by Joss Whedon and, understandably, had some mixed issues with tone and plot that audiences didn’t enjoy.Despite grossing $658 million worldwide, it is considered a missed opportunity by avid comic book fans, casual viewers and business people alike. The Synder Cut could alleviate some of the issues around Justice League and become a huge part of HBO Max’s arsenal as the streaming wars continue to heat up.This episode of the Low Key pod features special guest Mr. Sam P of the Sam Said It podcast (please check him out!) and follow us on Instagram.1:00: Sam Returns!1:42: Wearing a mask during COVID-19 pandemic in Texas and Tennessee5:00: Timeline of Justice League and the Synder Cut 8:30: Why did audiences not gravitate to the Justice League theatrical release?11:15: Limitations of the current DCEU compared to the CW Arrowverse15:22: The problem with creating the Snyder Cut and the R-rated Batman v. Superman.18:10: Why is the Snyder Cut happening?21:50: Superman’s insane power level in Justice League24:00: How the DCEU attempted to mimic MCU’s apocalyptic prophecy and hero relationships.30:20: DCEU standalone films work better than the team movie.33:36: “Marvel doesn’t make superhero movies”38:18: DCEU and latest Star Wars trilogy had no plan41:20: Should fan criticism lead to massive changes for a franchise’s direction? (listen to this episode of the Movie Maker podcast to hear from the director about changes to Sonic the Hedgehog based on fan feedback)44:36: Examples of screenings leading to a different final cut.46:45: Changes to other mediums after a final release (video games, music, etc.)48:06: Is a four-hour Synder cut too long?   See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Netflix does not shy away from distributing stories that give voices to the voiceless - the recently released documentary Murder to Mercy is no exception. The doc shares the story of Cyntoia Brown, a woman who was sentenced to prison for life at the age of 16 for killing a man when she was being sex trafficked at the Nashville, Tennessee area in 2004. Brown told police that she feared for her life and shot the man with a gun inside the house when she believed he was going to violently attack. Fifteen years later, she was granted clemency by the state governor and now works as works as an advocate for helping vulnerable young people who are survivors of sex trafficking. The film contains footage from initial arrest up until her release from prison which demonstrates a positive example of what’s possible when rehabilitation resources are available. On the other side of the coin, interviews with the women in her biological family are present, each of whom are survivors of sexual abuse by men in their lives whom they trusted. The generational trauma experienced by each of these women is given room to be explored and considered without a political bend which undoubtedly will bother some critics and viewers. A takeaway that hopefully hits home is that more can be done to help create more accountability from how the justice system responds to the issues of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. The lawyers who fought to secure Brown’s clemency mentioned that the case was having an impact on both a domestic and global scale. Stories like these are difficult to watch but they are worth our engagement given their common occurrence. Give the Low Key podcast a listen for our full thoughts. Murder and Mercy is available on Netflix now.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
The new documentary Feels Good Man explores how racists, trolls and incels turned an innocuous cartoon character named Pepe the Frog into a symbol of hate. On the latest Low Key podcast, we talk about how the situation epitomizes many of the problems of the internet, where misinformation and propaganda choke out facts and helpful information. Feels Good Man, directed by Arthur Jones, goes deep into the backstory of Pepe. Once he was a simple creature drawn by artist Matt Furie, known by the dorky catchphrase "Feels good man," which Pepe used to explain why he pees with his pants down.The document shows how this innocuous creature was soon embraced by a depressing online community of do-littles who identify as "NEET" — an abbreviation for "not in education, employment, or training."When "normies" — including women — invaded their world by starting to embrace Pepe, the social outcasts rebelled, trying to make Pepe as repugnant as possible by affiliating him with Nazism, misogyny, and other repellant ideologies. To Furie's dismay, Pepe and hate soon became inseparable. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Netflix's trippy The Midnight Gospel, from comedian Duncan Trussell and animator Pendleton Ward, might be a model for pandemic era TV shows: It asks the big questions in life without requiring any actors to get too close to each other.The series is about a scamp named Clancy Gilroy (voiced by Trussell), who uses a butt-shaped simulator to travel to different worlds and interview people for his "spacecast," which is basically a podcast, about questions like what happens when we die, why death is so essential to life, and what it means to be enlightened. You can appreciate it for the deep, philosophical conversations Trussell has with the other beings he encounters (voiced by guests as varied as Dr. Drew Pinsky, Damien Echols, Anne Lamott and Ram Dass), or you can enjoy the insane animated shenanigans, such as the zombie war in the first episode. Or you can enjoy both. The show mixes high and low.Its formula — interesting conversations brought to vivid life through animation — seems like a very intriguing answer to the question of how to make a TV show at a time when so many of us are in quarantine. Innovative moviemakers could easily script and voice their stories separately, and then unite them through animation.Does The Midnight Gospel work? We discuss. But there's no question it's thought provoking — The Midnight Gospel inspired us to think about real v. simulated reality, and our tendency toward self-destructiveness. By the end of the episode we've covered everything from Animal Crossing to the Michael Jordan doc The Last Dance to, of course, COVID-19. Stick your head in the simulator and join us. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Netflix's The Platform has drawn plaudits as the perfect film for the age of hoarding. But is it, really? In one of our most divided episodes, we go deep — Level 333 deep — on whether the main metaphor in the film makes any sense at all."The Platform," directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, takes place in a multi-level prison where the inmates are fed via a platform that is initially filled with sumptuous dishes — which the inmates pick clean as the platform descends. Those in the lower cells get less and less, until they get nothing at all. Adding to the fun is the fact that the inmates are switched around, apparently at random, so that they are sometimes on good, high-level floors, and sometimes in the deeper ones, where starvation is a very likely fate.Tim had big problems with this one; Aaron and Keith saw some merits. Overall, we got very philosophical in trying to decide how, if at all, The Platform relates to the way we live now. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Memphis is well known mostly for its music and food, rarely getting a chance to branch out beyond that common framing. Netflix’s ‘Uncorked’ is going for something a little different as it follows the story of a young 20-something guy hoping to accomplish his dream of attaining the title of Master Sommelier. His father wants him to stay over the family business, a BBQ joint first started by his grandfather who bootstrapped his way to entrepreneurial success. Go for your dreams or take over the family business with regrets - it’s an age old tale with a Memphis twist. And because two of Low Key’s host are from the Bluff City, a review was bound to happen no matter what.Among the actoral talent are anchors of black cinema such as Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash provide FOILs for each other - accepting a child’s dream (however fickle it may be) versus taking the mantle (and responsibility) chosen for them. Relative newcomers Mamoudou Athie and Sasha Compère have an undeniable chemistry that ebbs positively and negatively in a way that feels genuine on the screen. From the music to the choreography, there’s a lot to like about this music. It’s not perfect as we discuss over an hour but it is worth your time.And don’t forget to follow us on @thelowkeypod!Episode Breakdown2:39 - Overall impressions9:20 - Does Elijah appreciate his family’s sacrifice?11:50 - Elijah’s vibe and Mamoudou Athie;s performance13:00 - A discussion on “nice guys” and “cool guys”22:40 - How the films handles racial dynamics26:38 - Memphis representation (city sights, music, and culture)38:00 - What is the purpose of Elijah’s sister?41:15 - Covid-19 implications46:40 - Netflix’s continued commitment to diverse stories50:23 - ‘Tiger King’ appreciation 53:30 - Covid-19 impact on Hollywood and celebrities57:30 - Keith’s birthday and St.Jude donation drive See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Aaron Lanton
Podcast Status
Mar 29th, 2018
Latest Episode
Oct 26th, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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