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J.J. Abrams’ Comments About The Last Jedi Stir Controversy

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  • In a recent New York Times piece, J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s The Force Awakens and the upcoming episode The Rise of Skywalker, made critical comments about Rian Johnson’s Star Wars film The Last Jedi.
  • Actors from the film also gave remarks to the Times implying that they favored Abrams’ direction over Johnson’s.
  • This stirred a massive controversy online between a fandom already heavily divided on the latest trilogy, with some thinking that Abrams should not speak negatively about the film or Johnson.
  • Others thought fans should not attack Abrams for being critical.

Controversial Comments Made in New York Times Article

Stars Wars fans sensed a disturbance in the force after director J.J. Abrams criticized the franchise’s eighth episode, The Last Jedi.

The Last Jedi, which came after Abrams’ The Force Awakens and precedes his upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, divided many fans. While The Force Awakens, which was largely well-received, was criticized for staying too close to Star Wars tradition, The Last Jedi was criticized for the opposite reason. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the movie broke a lot of elements of the Star Wars mold. Because of this, some fans hail it as one of– if not the best– film in the franchise. Others felt about The Last Jedi the way Anakin Skywalker felt about sand in Episode II and were not pleased.

This stark disagreement is made apparent on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics give the film a 91% and the audience gives it a far less favorable 43%. This is the lowest audience score for a Star Wars film, including the prequels and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Some have accused fans of review bombing the film to tank the score.

While speaking with The New York Times in a Wednesday article, Abrams addressed the divide and criticism the film received. As writer Dave Itzcoff points out, Johnson’s film had an unconventional approach to the universe. 

“Each time [The Last Jedi] addressed one of several cliffhangers left dangling from ‘The Force Awakens’ — what would happen when Rey returned Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to him? who were her parents? who was the nefarious Supreme Leader Snoke? — Johnson’s movie seemed to say: the answers to these questions aren’t as important as you think,” he wrote. 

While Abrams did say he liked that The Last Jedi was “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices,” he also noted his issues with the movie. 

“On the other hand, it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story,” he said. “I don’t think that people go to ‘Star Wars’ to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter.’”

Abrams was not the only one from the franchise to make these kinds of remarks to the Times. Daisy Ridley, who plays the trilogy’s heroine, Rey, said she cried when she learned that Abrams would be returning to finish up the saga. 

John Boyega, who plays ex-stormtrooper Finn, also said that he was looking forward to seeing where Abrams’ storyline was going. In another profile, he said that he found The Last Jedi to be “iffy” and that he disagreed with some of the choices made in it.

Fans React Online

Because Star Wars fans are already split on almost every aspect of the franchise, perhaps with the exception of Baby Yoda’s cuteness, these remarks started a massive conversation online. Many of the thoughts shared stemmed back to peoples’ feelings on The Last Jedi, and the direction this trilogy is moving in as a whole. 

Some thought it was disrespectful for the cast to malign Johnson and his film in the press.

While others took to complement Johnson’s work, noting that Abrams is the one who handed him the saga in the first place.

Others found an element of hypocrisy in The Last Jedi fans so eagerly criticizing Abrams when they stood on the defense of Johnson for so long. 

Some thought it reflected the general problems in regards to the newest trilogy.

Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson, who has experience covering global pop culture phenomenons herself, said that that the press has to walk a very thin line when covering things like Star Wars. In this case, that line ended up steering in a wild direction. 

Yahoo Entertainment writer Kevin Polowy worked to settle some tensions by sharing positive comments Abrams has made to him about Johnson and The Last Jedi. 

“I don’t think [Rise of Skywalker] would’ve been nearly what it is without the choices that Rian made, so I’m nothing but grateful,” he said. 

Boyega’s Comments About Social Media

This was not the only Star Wars-related controversy fans were discussing. Variety published an interview with Boyega on Wednesday that caused backlash as well. In the interview, Boyega, a frequent user of sites like Twitter and Instagram, discussed his relationship with social media. The reporter notes that his co-star, Kelly Marie Train, who plays Rose Tico, quit social media after being repeatedly harassed online. He was asked how he handles the positive and negative sides of the Internet. 

“Being in this position, you just understand the masses, how the masses think, you know. Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun,” he said in response. “But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read. That’s, you know, it is what it is.

Many fans saw this as a dig to Tran, thinking he was specifically calling her weak.

Boyega went to Twitter to clear his comments up, saying they had nothing to do with Tran and were “badly worded.”

He also referenced his previous comments about online harassment that he made back when Tran left social media. “Harassing the actors/ actresses will do nothing,” he said at the time.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Nerdist) (Esquire)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”

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  • Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
  • It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music. 
  • After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed. 

“driver’s license” Breaks Records

At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.

On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.

As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service. 

Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site. 

Song Goes Viral on TikTok

Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.  

The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio. 

Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts. 

Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”

See what others are saying: (Teen Vogue) (CBS News) (Billboard)

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