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Thousands of young Americans are in a deep hole because of student debt.  They are desperately trying to dig themselves out of the economic trap presented by the debt. It makes them a slave to their job and stops them from taking entrepreneurial chances, it effects whether or not they marry and start a family.  New families buy houses, furniture and lots of stuff, which puts money back into the economy. That was lost on Republican lawmaker Bill Posey of Florida when he questioned Hassan Minhaj, a comedian and Netflix host. Minaj explained that student loan debt is putting a “paywall” around young Americans, and that as a result, many are stuck on the sidelines. He went on the say that young people are asking celebrities to help pay off their student loans. Minaj asked Congressman Posey, “Are you a fan of Taylor Swift? Are you a Swiftie? Posey was lost.  Manaj continued, “Because even her fans have gone up to her and said would you pay back my student loans. That’s how desperate student borrowers are…They’re not even asking for selfies anymore.”  Minhaj’s testimony was done in good conscience and good humor, but it’s not clear how well it was received by Congress. The bottom line here is that student debt is a major issue for thousands upon thousands and is holding many back from making significant contributions to our society. America needs to take a hard look at this crisis to figure out how to better serve and educate the future of our nation.
The way people watch TV and movies has shifted dramatically away from following scheduled releases to on-demand and streaming and binge watching. Waiting for a week until the next episode of your favorite show airs is largely of the past. However, Netflix, the folks that brought us binge watching, recently showed some sympathy for the older way of doing things.  Starting with Rhythm the Flow, their new music competition series featuring T.I, Cardi B and Chance the Rapper, they have chosen a hybrid release schedule. Several episodes will be released each week over a couple months.  This schedule retains some elements of binge while building the anticipation for the next group of episodes. This hybrid schedule reflects a clever business sense.  It recognizes that this program may be best if the formula is adjusted.  Likewise, Disney, a future competitor in the streaming space, plans to release shows like Loki and The Mandalorian in the traditional weekly format. Lesson: No format, style or business practice is cast in stone – in the age of downloads, vinyl records are making a comeback for audiophiles, so anything is possible.
British actor Sacha Baron Cohen has been known throughout his career for playing silly, politically incorrect and at times extremely controversial characters. In his self-created films such as Borat and Bruno and in his role in Talladega Nights as well as in his TV work as Ali-G and on his recent show Who is America, his hilarious, yet slightly disturbing roles define Cohen. Resume aside, Sacha is returning in a new Netflix, 6-episode mini series, The Spy that is a very serious role. The series is based on true events.  Cohen plays the role of Eli Cohen (not related), an Israeli accountant who infiltrated Syria as a deep cover Mossad agent for six years in the 60’s. The older Cohen was behind enemy lines gathering information about Syria’s military plans while posing as Kamel Amin Thaabet, a patriotic Syrian shipping magnate. Like Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie characters, Eli Cohen got results by going deep into character, but for real.  Cohen playing the role of a undercover spy is rather poetic. The Spy is now available on Netflix.

Recommendation systems – the systems that help services from Amazon to Netflix suggest things you would might like based on your past choices – have a bias problem that is largely because the data comes from users who put their biases into action when interacting with streaming technology. To combat it, more than a decade ago, Netflix announced The Netflix Prize to attract scientists and programmers to write predictive algorithms with the goal of making the company’s recommendation engine 10% more accurate.  The winning prize was $1 million. Team Belkor was the winner due to their inclusion of new factors that recognized a film’s popularity might change over time and that users have certain biases causing them to rate movies differently at different times. The frequency at which people rate movies was also added as a factor. Addressing bias issues to make recommendations better will continue to be a major goal for many in the tech world as it has since The Netflix Prize was awarded.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, including good things like stunning movies on Netflix. September will see several great movies leave the service. Here’s a quick list of five great films to check out before they disappear.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The futuristic, dystopian crime film.  

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

About an LA cop struggling with his loyalties when he encounters the world of street racing.

3. Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

  A humorous, high-quality musical which follows a murderous London hair cutter.

4. The Dark Night (2008)

 A Joker centered movie about Batman’s worst enemy.

5. Carol (2015)

  Already classic drama about an aspiring photographer’s relationship with an older woman.

Netflix is always bolstering its content and widening its audience.  A new series called Rhythm + Flow does both.  It’s a music competition program aimed at finding hip-hop’s next big stars. Similar to America’s Got Talent and American Idol of old, there will be a three judge panel that includes Chance the Rapper, T.I. and Cardi B.   The latter two have experience in the TV world, with T.I. has worked with MTV while Cardi B starred in Love & Hip-Hop: New York, before becoming the famous artist she is today. The first four of ten episodes will drop on October 9th featuring auditions in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The next three episodes will be released a week later on October 16th. Rap battles, music videos, and ciphers will be used to narrow down the field. The final slate of three episodes will drop on October 23rd with a winner being declared at the end. This is the first music talent competition hosted by a streaming service.  If successful we can expect it won’t be the last.  Rhythm + Flow has been critically acclaimed as “hip-hop’s first legit TV competition,” which throws a little shade on Diddy’s Making The Band.

In a significant increase, Netflix has announced that it will release ten films in theaters this fall with the intention of competing for the Oscars. The service has made movies for the Oscars before including well respected films Beasts of No Nation in 2015, then Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mowgli in 2018.  The schedule for 2019 follows (First Date is Theatre Date, Second Date is Netflix Date):

  • The Launderette with Meryl Streep  – Sep 7  | Oct 18
  • Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy – Oct 4  | Oct 25
  • The King with Robert Pattinson – Oct 11 | Nov 1
  • Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with Robert de Niro – Nov 1 | Nov 27
  • Earthquake Bird with Alicia Vikander –  Nov 1 | Nov 15
  • Marriage Story with Scarlett Johansson – Nov 6 | Dec 6
  • Klaus -animated – Nov 8 |Nov 15
  • I Lost My Body – French animated – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • Atlantics – French drama – Nov 15 | Nov 29
  • The Two Popes with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce – Nov 27 | Dec 20

 

With Fox being bought out by Disney in 2018, the rights to the Marvel franchise went to Disney. At the time, Marvel still had shows like Luke Cage, Daredevil, and the Punisher among others streaming on Netflix. Disney had only just announced at the time that they were going to start a streaming service of their own (Disney+), and it’s unclear whether or not this announcement triggered Netflix to pull the plug on the Marvel series shows. Regardless of why Netflix pulled the plug, Marvel was not expecting it, or at least not expecting it so soon. Marvel TV boss Jeph Loeb had this to say. “The hardest part was while the situation at Netflix, which I really can’t go into other than to say that we were blindsided and the things that were to come weren’t finished yet. We weren’t ready to announce that, so there was this space in between it, so it did look like maybe we were going to go out. Then suddenly, we were arising again like the Phoenix.” The Marvel shows will land back on Disney+ when it drops this November, however it doesn’t seem like they’re thrilled about how it all ended with the streaming giant Netflix.
Real Madrid is one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, with a tremendous amount of pedigree, history, and money. They are known for purchasing the best players in the world, in their prime, for enormous fees, and it’s paid off with titles over the years, especially during the Christiano Ronaldo era. While this strategy has paid off with silverware, it hasn’t always left their financial situation in great standing, or their image for developing players. Like Real Madrid, Netflix is looking to buy up all the best players as well. It is just a different kind of player, the best titles and producers for streaming. In 2017 Netflix paid $100 million dollars for Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes who left ABC. They paid $300 million dollars for Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story and American Crime story, and now they have signed Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss for $200 million dollars. Their offseason signings over the last few years have commanded big money, and it is bad news for regular television. If Netflix continues to pry away the best talent from the TV world to the streaming world, the TV companies will struggle to fine adequate talent and while being able to compete with the deals Netflix is dishing out. We may be starting to see a shift away from the top shows airing on network television or subscription services such as HBO, and more of the big action taking place on streaming services such as Netflix.
Facebook is set to launch a new service this fall codenamed ‘Catalina’, which will serve as a larger version of their current Facebook Portal. Portal is like an iPad that primarily serves for making video calls and listening to music. Catalina will essentially be a bigger version of Portal. It will connect with your television, enabling video calls on a massive scale. The device will come with a remote and will steam to other boxes within the household much like Apple TV. Facebook has approached some of the big names in tech and entertainment – Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO – to discuss the prospect of having their services streamed across Catalina. Imagine video chatting with your friends while you are all watching the same movie.  FB is apparently not looking to create content, they seem happy to leave it to others in hopes that major streaming services sign on.  One notable exception is Google’s YouTube, which has apparently not been asked to join the party.  More specifics are expected as we approach this fall’s release date