Gallery: The World’s 30 Top-Earning Musicians 2018
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Contrary to popular opinion, gold and silver are not hedges against a crisis. In fact, a crisis may cause all salable assets, including precious metals, to be sold in order to get cash.
At Dohmen Capital Research, we believe a good recent example is the 2008 global crisis. Gold plunged 31% as credit tightened, the crisis accelerated and a rush to cash from all assets commenced. That was painful for bulls who didn’t know that a credit crisis causes all assets to plunge. But it also created a great buying opportunity at the bottom. Here is the chart of the gold ETF during that time:
Gold investors must realize this to protect themselves in times of crisis. Cash in the form of a stable currency is the most desirable asset to hold during such times.
However, crises cause the central banks to step on the monetary accelerator, which then makes gold a great investment as you can see on the chart above. That bull market in gold went from late 2008 to late 2011, three years. As our motto says, “timing is everything.”
Gold has been widely ignored since 2011 as an asset class for institutional portfolios. However, that should change as most other asset classes deteriorate and become unattractive for a while.
What is bullish for gold? My opinion is that gold is primarily an inflation hedge, actual inflation or the perception of future inflation, as currencies are debased by governments that can’t pay their bills.
With long-term bullish sentiment on the precious metals so low until late 2018, and the gold price in terms of many foreign currencies already near or at new record highs, it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. dollar price of gold shoots upward. Although the very short term may see more of a pullback, the long-term factors are very constructive.
Gold’s Bullish Prospects For The Longer Term
In 2018, bullish sentiment for gold and silver was at a multi-year low. Very few people were interested. That’s usually the time to take a fresh look, technical and fundamental. If everything lines up, my analysis would go against the bearish majority.
The chart below shows the exposure to gold of managed money in gold futures and options (green line). It shows that the allocation to gold was at its lowest point on this chart in October 2018, at least since 2006. Also important is that in spite the extremely low interest in gold, the gold price (yellow line) in 2018 was higher than at the gold low in 2016.
I call this a very important long-term, bullish divergence.
Looking even longer term–20 years–the chart below shows the “non-commercial” short positions. These are the speculators who are usually wrong at the important turns.
The fact that speculators, i.e. non-commercials, had record short positions in 2018 confirms that a lot of short covering may occur, to be followed by actual buying. That would mean greater demand.
The bottom in the precious metals has been forming since early 2016. As you can see from the chart below of the ETF for the gold miners, VanEck Vectors Gold Miners (GDX), it had a quick rally that year and then went into another sideways pattern until January 2019. Now the chart appears to be getting ready for a stronger up-move
You can see that a long, bullish potential inverse “head and shoulder” pattern has formed. If a breakout occurs, it would mean that the early 2016 low was a false downside breakout on a major (longer-term) scale. Such breakouts usually have very strong moves in the opposite direction, in this case upward.
The chart below of the gold bullion price (monthly) is bullish. The bottom of the “cup” has been forming since early 2016.
Look at the long-term view of gold bullion since the year 2000. It had a huge rise from around $250 to more than $1,930 in 2011. That was followed by a substantial 50% correction starting in 2012. A 50% correction in a major bull market is not unusual.
Long-time Wellington Letter clients will remember the gold market peak in late 1980. The price of gold had soared above $800 in 1980. Many analysts were forecasting a rise to $3,000. I predicted a 20-year bear market in gold in the Wellington Letter in 1981 based on my cycle analysis. That was greeted with universal disbelief. But it happened.
As we now know, the bear market lasted until 2001, exactly 20 years, just as we had forecast in 1981. Usually, cycles are not that precise (see the chart below).
Just as important: The second part of our forecast in 1981 said that according to our very long-term cycle study, that bear market would be followed by a 30-year rise in gold. We even said we had no idea what would cause it, but the cycles said it should happen.
If the forecast I made in 1981 still holds true, gold could have a continued secular bull market until 2030 . That means the gold bull market could have about 11 more years to go. Historically, the final phase of a bull market is the most spectacular.
Of course, cycles can shift to the right or the left, but the bear market cycle was right on target.
For more vital information on gold, read Why Gold Could Rise for the Next 10 Years.
In 2011, Kanye West headlined Coachella and brought with him a spectacle the crowd couldn’t have been ready for. First, he arrived via a crane that brought him out of the audience, through the air above everyone, and onto the stage. The backdrop of the stage was a monstrous frieze, a replica of the Pergamon Altar in Greece. There were dancers dressed in phoenix outfits. Ballerinas. Pyro! And the whole performance was divided into three acts. The crowd didn’t enjoy a set. They were the lucky witnesses of a full-on creative flex.
Concert tours have always had their fair share of boldness and zaniness about them. Extended versions of fan favorites. Deep cuts you never thought you’d hear live. Unexpected covers. But some musicians bring more theatricality to the stage. Elton John glammed up his outfits and infused his piano numbers with a punk rock bravado. Madonna let loose on the Blond Ambition World Tour, involving full dystopian scenery, simulated masturbation, and a story. It helped pave the way for a new kind of cinematic concert experience. Today, you have Travis Scott and his Astroworld Tour including a full-blown roller coaster ride.
Festival performances hadn’t evolved at the same rate. Logistically and financially, elaborate staging for a one-off show is a headache. The spectacle was the collection of artists that filled out the line-up. The many musicians over the course of a day or weekend made up for the lack of dramatic visuals. It was a trade-off. Until 2011.
Kanye’s creative flex had raised the bar for what it meant to put on a good show at Coachella. Extended versions of fan favorites weren’t enough. Deep cuts weren’t enough. Unexpected covers weren’t enough. Wild attire and a bold strut weren’t enough.
In the aftermath of “Ye’chella”, we saw Dre and Snoop bust out a Tupac hologram. Kendrick surprise-debuted almost the entirety of his eagerly-awaited album Damn. And then Beyonce. My goodness. The performance was so critically-acclaimed that it has its own Wikipedia entry. There was an on-stage 30-foot tall pyramid that consisted of 12 risers, each filled with a startling amount of dancers. Add in dynamic lighting, a walkway through the crowd that allowed for a completely different visual field and energy, and outfits changes, a marching band, and a mini Destiny’s Child reunion.
Why would Beyonce and Kanye go to such lengths? Because the creative flex isn’t just about entertainment. It’s a proclamation, no different than what artists display through their music and tours. “I can do this. I did do this. Who else is doing it better?” It’s become a means of challenging or establishing your place in the pecking order. How could someone of Beyonce’s confidence, who views herself as the best there is, not aim to deliver the greatest Coachella performance of all-time?
In the first weekend of 2019 Coachella the creative flex is already in full-effect. Billie Eilish had a floating bed she performed on. Donald Glover released an entire movie with Rihanna on Amazon. Jaden Smith—and this sentence will sound familiar—had a floating Tesla Model X he performed on.
And the second weekend will see Kanye’s first scheduled Coachella performance since 2011. Initially, he was to headline. But talks fell through when Kanye’s plans were so ambitious that Coachella had to tell him no, they couldn’t do that (coming for Beyonce’s throne, I’d assume). Lo and behold, talks resumed. While West won’t follow through with whatever he had initially planned, the forthcoming Sunday Service choir performance at 9am PST on Easter Sunday (April 21st) may be the creative flex of 2019. Will Ye top Bey? We’ll see soon enough.
Technology as infrastructure is rapidly emerging as both a sector and credit factor unto itself in the municipal bond market. Those states, cities, counties and towns applying technology to assess and deliver services more efficiently and effectively are positioning themselves to be future ready.
Actions speak louder than words; the number of municipalities around the nation implementing a wide variety of technology-driven projects are in the triple digits. Initiatives in the current top eight tech categories of hardware, software, data, systems, apps, sensors, blockchain and fiber optic broadband are underway, helping governments on all levels be successful in numerous functions, from civic engagement and financial transparency to mobility and public safety. Moreover, with each technological advance, governments gain new visibility and actionable insights into difficult problems. When these technologies are applied to governmental functions, they fall under the broad catchphrase “govtech.”
Credit and Investment Implications
The credit and investment implications are positive for those municipalities and public agencies engaging technological solutions. Time and again, these solutions are crucial in developing and implementing public policy to address ever-faster economic, demographic, environmental and technological changes. They lay the groundwork to be ready for next-generation infrastructure, ensure better educational outcomes, offer greater economic opportunity and output, and provide improved healthcare. In a world increasingly faced with a digital divide between the technological haves and have-nots, these municipal and public agencies are on the have side.
Those not embracing technology end up on the wrong side of the digital divide. They face the prospect of diminishing financial performance, declining credit quality, increased borrowing costs and perhaps even lowered access to financing.
GovTech At Work
This is the first in a series of four pieces on govtech’s influence in government and its credit implications for both municipal borrowers and municipal bond investors. Starting with a summary of the eight major technologies currently being applied, the series will go on to cover how technology is permanently changing how government itself is organized, show how sensors in transportation are solving a public health problem, and how a simple phone app is likely to bring faster internet connectivity to underserved rural communities.
Making Cities Smart
If the central component of government is providing essential services to the public, then it must be able to plan for and ensure its two key components. First, it has to be able to provide those services. Second, it has to provide people the ability to access and utilize the services. This is particularly true in cities across the nation. Many are experiencing unprecedented population growth that is not expected to abate any time soon. Correspondingly, many have embraced govtech to systematically approach in providing services to their swelling ranks of residents.
They have been dubbed “smart cities.” The U.S. Conference of Mayor’s President, Mayor Steve Benjamin (Columbia, SC) succinctly made the point. “The drive to make cities ‘smarter’ is all about harnessing data and digital technology to meet the challenge of doing more with less,” he said. Acknowledging that “technology alone can’t solve every urban problem” he added that “it’s a powerful and cost-effective tool for helping cities accelerate progress.”
Show Me The Data
To do some data-gathering of its own on this rapidly emerging trend of city-as-living-tech-lab-and-incubator, the U.S. Conference of Mayors teamed up with IHS Markit, a leading company for information and analytics.
In more than 122 cities, the collected data documented some 312 projects addressing core municipal service functions: energy and resource efficiency, governance, healthcare, mobility and transport, physical infrastructure and safety and security.
Taking a step back to look at the big picture, the report demonstrated smart city projects are nascent, vast and ambitious. Maggie Shillington, one of the analysts with IHS Markit’s Internet of Things and Smart Cities Practice who worked on the Cities of the 21st Century report, observed that “with initiatives and goals as big as affecting climate change to as specific as generating revenues from smart parking applications, smart cities nationwide are active incubators in applying data and technology to address a wide range of important social and municipal issues. The results of the projects that have been completed created tangible improvements for those cities.” She went on to note that while many of the smart cities covered in the report just started their projects and are in the process of implementation, they remained optimistic about the final outcome.
But how, exactly, are governments using technology to assess and deliver municipal services?
Hardware and Software
Some initiatives are hardware and software upgrades. That used to mean buying a few new computers. Now it’s creating fully integrated technology systems. For example, Tamarac, Florida comprehensively revamped its entire resource enterprise planning system to become fully digitally integrated, including replacing every desktop, laptop and mobile device. It is a critical management tool to assess and deliver municipal services in an efficient manner.
Levent Sucuoglu, the director of information technology for Tamarac, noted that with the system in place, “everything we do, everything we manage, every service we provide, is measured and is tracked. We get this information from our technology, from our software.” Applying that data to accurately assess community needs makes budgeting and planning priorities more effective.
Because we interact with our smartphones, tablets and laptops so often, effectively we sometimes slip into thinking of technology as a bunch of rectangular gadgets with screens. We forget that the content driving much of what we see and use on those devices is derived from data technology. Governments have an enormous amount of public data collected from all the services they provide. Offering the public access, more than 85 cities have open data portals where citizens can access literally hundreds of data points on nearly any topic.
For nearly a decade, the City of Chicago has been a leader in this, creating the Department of Innovation and Technology and launching Data.CityofChicago back in 2010. From taxi trips and business licenses to crime and food inspections, there are several hundred data sets. The data can be mapped and graphed online or downloaded to mine, analyze and customize. Following suit are many other urban centers, such as Los Angeles and New York. It’s not just cities. The highly respected Rockefeller Institute of Government recently launched an interactive data portal offering information on trends in New York State.
In addition to devices and data, technology is integral to developing comprehensive solutions to many daily issues municipalities grapple with. Traffic is usually high on that list. Beyond moving people and things between point A and point B, the City of Columbus, Ohio saw transportation in its pure form—providing people critical access to opportunity, be it work, healthcare or education.
Additionally, transportation solutions could reduce adverse environmental impacts. To effect that, they are developing Intelligent Transportation Systems focused on host of outcomes, including connected vehicle technologies, electric autonomous vehicles and traffic management. With a wide array of partners, from Ohio State University and the Greater Columbus Art Council to Honda and ATT, the city is engaged in roughly 120 transportation projects.
We’re all familiar with the plethora of apps we can download on our devices, from Waze to Candy Crush. For municipalities, an app can be a simple but very powerful technology, creating multiple positive outcomes. Take the “311” application now used in nearly every American city. Boston’s BOS:311 is a good model. In spring, as the snow melts away, a fresh bloom of potholes planted by snowplows during the winter now blossom from the streets. When a proper Bostonian sees a pothole that needs fixing, they tap on the “New Report” button. A list pops up of common problems. No shock, “Get a Pothole Fixed” tops the list. Take a picture with the phone, upload it, and the GPS nails the location down to the exact spot. Another tap creates a time-stamped report, instantly categorizing, labeling, logging and sending it to a municipal-services responder.
It can be tracked from that point forward, including by that proper Bostonian who reported it. Yes, the pothole got fixed, proving the application’s effectiveness as a public services management tool. But the app didn’t just fill a pothole. It filled what is too often perceived—correctly or incorrectly—as a void in local government: transparency, accountability, citizen engagement and empowerment and trust. The app’s real function? Pure Jeffersonian democracy-through-technology.
For those who wonder what the “things” are in the Internet of Things (IoT), look no further than sensors. Sensors exist now that can detect any or all of the five human senses: scent, feel, sound, taste and sight. By lens and chip, they capture this sensory information, digitize it to transform it from unstructured information into structured, digital data, which then is able to be transmitted over the internet. The information caterpillar turns into a digital data butterfly.
Poetic analogies aside, the Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Living Lab saw what it could do in real life. The lab collaborated with AT&T, GE and Philips to install a smart streetlight system in the West End Historic District. In addition to better lighting, the system’s sensors collected and transmitted data on foot traffic and noise.
If it can be digitized—and if you can categorize it and assign a number to it, nearly anything can be digitized—it can be measured and the outcome assessed. The measured outcomes of installing just 11 of these units was unambiguously positive. In addition to the energy savings of an estimated 3,500 kWh (and the related cost savings for the city), the crime rate dropped 27% and business revenues increased nearly 17%. Revenues popped in large part because business owners, now able to tap into the foot-traffic data, could make more astute marketing and window display decisions.
Unfortunately, headlines have so often linked blockchain technology to cryptocurrencies that people think of them as one in the same. They’re not. Blockchain is the software technology; cryptocurrencies use the technology. But the definition of blockchain as a “distributed ledger technology” doesn’t offer much clarification. Instead of continuing through this looking-glass of tech-speak about tokenizing, proof-of-work algorithms and cryptographic hash-linked blocks, it’s much easier to understand blockchain by what it does.
The one thing blockchain does exceedingly well is create immutable records which, for government, is a near perfect fit. Keeping records is a core function of government, from driver’s licenses to real estate transactions.
To explore if blockchain technology could help simplify and manage the land records in Cook County, Illinois John Mirkovic, then the deputy recorder of deeds, prepared a Blockchain Pilot Program Report. Thorough and very readable, the report was quick to emphasize blockchain provides “a method of recordkeeping that is resistant to alteration, even by government officials.”
The report also noted that the cryptocurrency blockchain model would not be economical for the real estate transactions; the “massive amounts of electricity” necessary to confirm each transaction make it uneconomical. However, various components of blockchain technology could be readily applied to certain aspects of land conveyance. The participants in the study designed a real estate conveyance software workflow “that can be a framework for the first legal blockchain conveyance in Illinois (and possibly the U.S.).”
Moreover, the report found that “if the use of blockchain were to be extended to the maintenance of the [Illinois’ land] records system [it would allow] economies of scale and the ability to create true distributed consensus.” The public record at that time had over 190 million data points. In 2018 alone more than 166,000 homes were sold in Illinois, each generating its own set of documents and data. Even with an online option, the majority were paper filings. Blockchain could lower the costs of transactions and subsequent record keeping, but wouldn’t eliminate Illinois’ land offices. It would make them more efficient, secure and transparent.
Fiber Optic Broadband
Fiber broadband networks are the most important foundation for every future-ready community: the key to better educational and telehealth outcomes, greater economic opportunity and output, and all next-generation infrastructure. High-speed fiber optic broadband is the bridge connecting communities now at risk of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide.
In Utah, a group of communities comprising Salt Lake City’s suburbs and exurbs saw this divide developing in their area. The population swelled 10% since 2010 to 461,000. But there was no high-speed broadband.
To get that high-speed broadband, they created the Utah Infrastructure Agency to fund, build, own, and manage a fiber optic broadband backbone “last mile” infrastructure. Now communities are connecting to qualified internet service providers offering voice, video streaming, data services, and future content and device services.
Given there is no part of our lives, personal or professional, that aren’t influenced by (or dependent on) internet connectivity, the beneficial impact of fiber optic broadband on communities is immediate. Today, every business is a technology company in one form or another, from the local dentist office to the manufacturing plant. For each and all, high-speed and reliable internet connectivity for fast uploads and downloads is essential.
What This Means To The Municipal Bond Investor
In a world where most municipal credit analysis is forensic, driven by ratios derived from stale financial reports disclosed in unstructured data, having quantifiable, forward-looking indicators of credit drivers are essential to make sound investment decisions.
Consistently, government engagement in technology, and the level of that engagement—both in applications and within their own organizational structure—is one of the best indicators of a stable to improving credit. It is at the core of providing essential public services. Note that 49 of the 50 cities awarded recognition as digital leaders are also rated double-A or better by either Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s. Govtech makes communities better places to live.
That’s about all the data you need.
Next In The Series
Fiber broadband networks are an essential public purpose, assuring communities stable, reliable internet connectivity. However, in many areas across the nation, that connectivity is spotty and slow, served by either old copper wires or wireless systems with limited ranges.
Moreover, many of these areas are in rural counties that cover vast expanses. How can internet connectivity speeds be measured in these regions to demonstrate the need for fiber? Enter the National Association of Counties, who came up with a technological solution for this technological problem. Find out how they did it….
This past Friday, K-pop vocal group BTS made their new album Map of the Soul: Persona available across all platforms, but they singled one song out as the proper lead single, pushing a video at the same time the song was first shared. It seems with every passing day, the visual makes history, and it’s only just getting started.
A representative for YouTube has confirmed that the Korean musical superstars have just made history by breaking the record for the fastest climb to 100 million plays on the Google-owned video hosting site. The band’s music video “Boy With Luv” managed to hit nine digits when it comes to its play count in under two days, an incredible feat for any act.
BTS’ “Boy With Luv” snatches the record for the fastest video to accumulate at least 100 million plays from another K-pop favorite, Blackpink. The all-female quartet nabbed this spot in the history books about a week ago when their new music video “Kill This Love” racked up at least 100 million views in under three days. The song has gone on to become a charting hit in many territories all around the world, even giving them a new peak position in the U.K. (and perhaps in the U.S., but that will be revealed at a later time).
The song and video for “Boy With Luv,” which both feature American pop singer Halsey adding some English to the bilingual smash, is on track to become a huge hit for the group. In fact, there are already a number of factors that suggest it may become BTS’ biggest success on the Hot 100 yet.
At press time, “Boy With Luv” was already up to 131 million plays on YouTube alone (that’s to say nothing of the millions of streams it has also earned on audio-only platforms like Spotify and Apple Music), and the EP it is featured on has likely been selling well at the same time.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker DBA Skywalker Ltd, originally founded on the desert planet of of Tatooine, has this past week secured $9 million Series A venture funding. Skywalker Ltd (formerly Jedi Order Amalgamated) currently operates a network of “The Force”, a mystical energy that flows throughout the galaxy. This Series A funding round will close on December 20th, 2019.
Former Skywalker Ltd CEO and primary shareholder Ghost Luke Dobbu Scay stated in a press release, “We’ve passed on all we know, one thousand generations live in you now, but this is your fight. We’ll always be with you. No one is ever really gone.” Current CEO Rey followed that up saying that Luke was using too much of the Force and had to be forcibly removed from the rhetorical island in order to move the company forward.
The $9 million in funding was led by Solo Venture Partners and supported by its co-founder Leia Organa. “We believe in the Force,” said Organa after floating mysteriously through space then returning to her ship. “This is the kind of business my founding partner [Han Solo] reluctantly wanted our investments to support. The Force flows through all of us and anything we can do to financially make sure it continues to produce positive results is a no-brainer.”
The new $9 million in funding will be used to further expand Skywalker Ltd infrastructure to meet rapidly growing rebel forces demand, expand its member portfolio and increase its Dark Side penetration. The Force patented technology is solving a critical problem for the universe cause by an imbalance in current Force offerings between the Dark and Light sides.
The Series A funding is meeting some market opposition however, as current Dark Side acting CEO Kylo Ren released a statement over the weekend addressing Skywalker Ltd’s funding search and name change. “The Jedi Order is a dead business model. Re-branding as Skywalker Ltd is not going to save them, they don’t own the Force. They don’t! It’s not fair!” Ren also addressed questions surrounding the Dark Side’s inability to maintain a standing CEO. “Snoke served his purpose, but we all know I’m the real boss over here at the Dark Side. Who is laughing? What is that laughing? The Jedi don’t own the Force. This is ridiculous. Join us. Who is laughing?”
The will they won’t they branding agency Finn and Poe released a statement supporting the decision of Skywalker Ltd to seek further funding. “It’s a great opportunity to work with a company dedicated to bringing about peace in the universe,” said Poe Dameron of Finn and Poe of the partnership opportunity. “Finn and I look forward to assisting Rey in finding her place as CEO of Skywalker Ltd and securing a future for those who work on the light side of the Force.”
In order to clean up its balance sheet in advance of securing funding, Skywalker Ltd forfeited a number of key assets in order to clear up capital depreciation. One of those assets was the Milenium Falcon, transferred to Lando Calrissian of Cloud City Space Transport and Party Supplies. Said Calrission of the acquisition, “I told Han I’d get this ship back and thanks to its built-in Wookie, I feel that it will be a great help to the development of Skywalker Ltd and all its future endeavors. And smuggling sh*t across the universe.”
Rey and Skywalker Ltd are not phased by the opposition raised by the Dark Side and optimistic for the future of the Force. “Even though Luke never really left the island,” Rey told key investors at a recent funding meeting, “I believe that Skywalker Ltd has the potential to change the outcome of the entire universe. With the help of my new CTO who is a soccer ball that beeps, and our partnership with the marketing team of Finn and Poe, we can take Skywalker Ltd to heights never reached by its predecessor(s).”
Yesterday, we got our first look at the last Star Wars movie for a good long while, the end of the Skywalker era, but not before putting the name in actual title of the movie for once.
The film is called Star Wars Episode 9: Rise of Skywalker, which has led to a flurry of speculation about what exactly that means. The immediate theories that first leapt to everyone’s mind are all, no doubt, wrong. They include:
All of these theories were encapsulated in a single tweet from Mark Hamill, which is the final nail in the coffin that should tell you that none of them or true, or he wouldn’t be egging people on with potential spoilers.
Once you move past the idea that anyone is a secret Skywalker or reclaiming the family name, a second theory forms. I thought of this on my own, until I went on the internet and saw that roughly a hundred million people had come up with the same idea.
The theory is that ‘Skywalker’ is going to replace the term ‘Jedi,’ as Luke gets his wish when he said that the Jedi must end. As in, you can now train to become a Skywalker rather than a Jedi, and hopefully it comes with some important distinctions.
While the Jedi were not flat-out evil like the uber-facist Sith going around torturing people and destroying planets, they were not exactly great either. They effectively created Darth Vader by ripping Anakin away from his mother, not allowing him to visit or bring her with him (leading to her death) and forbidding love so he had to keep his relationship with Padme a secret (leading to her death as well). The Jedi’s rules about attachment to family or significant others are ludicrous, which leads to a bunch of lonely force hermits who become at best, members of the Jedi council who are dumb enough to be blind to a galaxy-wide conspiracy to wipe them out, or at worst, actual Sith. Luke, when he was in full Jedi teacher mode, was the one who ultimately caused Ben to fully flip to the Dark Side, leading to that cascading chain of horrible events.
The point is, Luke is right, the Jedi should end. Not that everyone has to stop using the force and throw away their lightsabers, but if Rey becomes the first of a new order of Skywalkers that truly brings balance to the force and bridges the divide between creepy arrogant monks and murderous tortured souls, that would probably be better for the universe at large.
Episode VIII has already set this up to a certain extent. The idea is that a Skywalker can come from anywhere. Rey’s parents are no one (and they will stay no one), and the final tease of the film is some random stable boy showing force prowess. This pulls away from the idea where fans are desperately searching for someone, anyone to be a secret Skywalker offspring because that overlooks the point that the family name and genetics shouldn’t matter. Skywalker is not heritage, it’s a philosophy that is hopefully better than anything the Jedi or Sith came up with for thousands of years which resulted in endless wars as miserable warriors on both sides.
Is this theory true? We have no real way of knowing for sure until Episode 9 gets here, but I am 20x more likely to believe it than the idea that Rey’s parentage is being retconned or Kylo Ren is going to be going by Ben Skywalker by the end of the movie. It may not play out exactly like this, but I think there’s a reason everyone jumped to this theory immediately.
Bob Iger confirmed yesterday morning that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is both the end of the ongoing Skywalker/Solo saga (which began, obviously, in 1977 with Star Wars) and the last theatrical Star Wars movie for a while. That’s not news in-and-of-itself since we knew that the Star Wars Story movies were on the backburner after Solo earned just $394 million worldwide. While we know that there are two stand-alone Star Wars trilogies in development, one via Rian Johnson (who directed The Last Jedi) and another from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (two of the creators of the just-about-to-end Game of Thrones show), it’s not like those movies are gearing up to shoot anytime soon.
So unless Kathleen Kennedy has the Time Stone (or a time-turner), new Star Wars filmed content will be found exclusively on Disney+ (The Mandalorian, Clone Wars, etc.) for a while. There’s another perfectly logical reason why The Rise of Skywalker is going to be the last theatrical Star Wars movie for a while. In short, there’s no place to release it. Presuming that Disney intends to keep Star Wars as an end-of-year Christmas cash cow, and frankly, they should, then this will be the last Christmas at least until 2023 that isn’t otherwise occupied. Since Disney now owns Fox, Disney now owns James Cameron’s four planned Avatar sequels, the first of which will debut on December 18, 2020, or one year and one day after Rise of Skywalker.
Presuming Cameron sticks to his schedule (and Avatar 2 performs at least well enough to avoid panic over Avatar 3), that third installment will open on December 17, 2021. And then we’ll get a two-year break from Avatar sequels before Avatar 4 opens on December 20, 2024 and Avatar 5 seemingly ends the saga on December 19, 2025. But wait, there’s more! Because Warner Bros. saw an opening in mid-December of 2022 and scheduled James Wan’s Aquaman sequel for December 16, 2022. Presuming Disney would rather keep Star Wars in the same slot where they’ve been kicking butt since 2015, the first opening would be December of 2023. That would actually be a pretty appropriate four-year-gap between Rise of Skywalker and whatever else comes next.
You may be asking why can’t Disney just slate a new Star Wars movie outside of December. Of course, they could, but would they want to? The MCU already has the summer kick-off date sewn up and Memorial Day seems downright cursed for the Mouse House (pray for Aladdin). They’ve usually got a Pixar movie in mid -June and then another Marvel movie (even if it’s a Sony Spider-Man flick) in early July. So either they plunge into unknown waters and drop a Star Wars movie in the pre-summer offseason, they drop it around Thanksgiving and hope it can coexist with Avatar, or they hold their cards until they have another December opening. And with the MCU, Pixar and Avatar hopefully cleaning up, Disney can afford to wait.
A four-year-gap would give Johnson, Benioff and Weiss plenty of time to A) figure out which trilogy goes first and B) just what those movies will be about. It would also indeed be something of a breather from Star Wars movies, even though once upon a time a four-year gap between regular sequels (The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc.) was almost par for the course. Heck, we only got ten years between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, even if it (arguably?) felt like longer by virtue of the new hyper-frenetic news cycle. By comparison, it’ll be 11 years between installments by the time we get Avatar 2 in two Christmases from now. Point being, a four-year gap sounds about right.
Yes, some of this is merely Disney wanting to maintain at least some “specialness” of theatrical Star Wars movies, especially as the next batch isn’t connected to the George Lucas movies. A good way to make a brand feel special is to take it away for a while, as Disney learned with The Force Awakens in late 2015. The Fox deal gives Disney some breathing room in terms of holding back on Star Wars movies, especially if Avatar 2 delivers accordingly. I would argue the biggest reason we won’t get new Star Wars movies for a while is the simplest reason. If Disney wants to drop a Star Wars movie at Christmas, they have to wait until December of 2023 due to Avatar and Aquaman.
Have you ever played “Consequences?” It’s an old parlor game, the kind of thing you do when you’re young, bored, deprived of electrical entertainment. The gist of the game is that each player takes turns to write lines of a story, folding the paper to hide the previous line before passing it on to the next player.
Then, you all laugh at the inevitably mismatched, nonsensical story, before asking if there’s any alcohol in the building. I bring this up because, judging from the way The Last Jedi veered away from plot points clearly set up in The Force Awakens, like Rey’s parentage and Snoke’s …. purpose, The Rise Of Skywalker looks to be going in a very different direction from The Last Jedi.
At least, that’s what the marketing seems to be communicating. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” has been quietly forgotten, as the (ghostly?) return of Luke Skywalker, and even Emperor Palpatine, are the highlights of the new teaser trailer.
Palpatine was never a part of the sequel trilogy, his death being a major plot point of the original films, Darth Vader’s redemption and sacrifice, so it seems strange to bring him back again.
I think it’s fair to assume that Snoke’s untimely death took J.J. Abrams by surprise, subverting expectations the way the twist was designed to do, and perhaps Palpatine was chosen as a replacement, seeing as Snoke was essentially Diet Palpatine anyway.
It was a completely unknown scenario. I had some gut instincts about where the story would have gone. But without getting in the weeds on Episode VIII, that was a story that Rian wrote and was telling based on seven before we met. So he was taking the thing in another direction. So we also had to respond to Episode VIII. So our movie was not just following what we had started, it was following what we had started and then had been advanced by someone else.
Abrams also confirms his initial reluctance to direct Episode IX:
I wasn’t supposed to be there …. The whole thing was a crazy leap of faith. And there was an actual moment when I nearly said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this.
The original plan for Episode IX was to have Colin Trevorrow write and direct the film, but Trevorrow was discarded, along with his script, after his film The Book of Henry bombed, failing to impress both critics and audiences. That abrupt shift didn’t leave a great deal of time for Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio to work out a new script, as talented as the two storytellers are.
To have no script and to have a release date and have it be essentially a two-year window when you’re saying (to yourself), you’ve got two years from the decision to do it to release, and you have literally nothing . . . . You don’t have the story, you don’t have the cast, you don’t have the designers, the sets. There was a crew, and there were things that will be worked on for the version that preceded ours, but this was starting over …. the lack of absolute inevitability, the lack of a complete structure for this thing, given the way it was being run was an enormous challenge.
That’s not a particularly reassuring statement. The original trilogy (and even the much-maligned prequel trilogy), had a wonderfully structured story arc that perfectly unfolded across their three films. George Lucas may have tweaked his initial structure along the way, adding and subtracting ideas here and there, but his iconic space opera felt wholly organic, a perfect example of The Hero’s Journey.
The sequels took the opposite approach, using three different storytellers to craft an interconnected trilogy, lacking an overarching blueprint. It’s the polar opposite of how Marvel carefully constructed their films, never straying from the grand plan; a decade later, it’s clear that Marvel’s structured approach paid off.
The dramatic contrast between the nostalgia-tickling Force Awakens and the intense subversion of the Last Jedi was jarring; even the hopeful shot of Luke Skywalker at the end of Force Awakens clashed bitterly with the scene where Luke tossed the lightsaber in Last Jedi. It was intentional, of course, but that doesn’t mean it worked.
There’s likely to be another awkward tonal clash in The Rise Of Skywalker – in fact, it’s already there, in the title. Abrams certainly had his work cut out for him in this film, having to please a (largely) disappointed fanbase and wrap up the unexpected loose ends.
Despite the overwhelming odds, however, the story could end up a success. Abrams believes so, stating:
I feel like we’re in a place where we might have something incredibly special. So I feel relief being home, and I feel grateful that I got to do it. And more than anything, I’m excited about what I think we might have.
Hopefully, he’s right; I don’t think I’m ready for another fan rebellion.
The Force was with fans today during the annual Star Wars Celebration at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, as Disney-Lucasfilm revealed the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (formerly known as Star Wars Episode XI). Today’s trailer drop also came with the shocking revelation Emperor Palpatine, the evil Sith Lord who ruled over the galaxy in the original trilogy and who rose to power in the prequels, will return in the latest and final installment of the Star Wars saga. But does Palpatine really play a role in the film, or is it more his memory and history that bear on the story? Read on, dear readers, and find out…
First, watch the trailer for yourself and see the clues about the Emperor’s inevitable return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker…
Notice Luke’s voiceover at the end of the trailer says, “No one’s ever really gone,” repeating the final words he spoke to Leia in The Last Jedi after she says her son (Kylo) is gone. Luke’s words were comforting at the time, and he gave her Han’s dice from the Millennium Falcon for added subtext to his words. This time, however, Luke utters the phrase just before the trailer reveals the shattered remains of a Death Star, crashed among an ocean on an alien world, as the maniacal laughter of Emperor Palpatine echoes over the images.
So that’s an obvious hint of the Emperor’s return in the film. Likewise, the other footage in the trailer frequently reflects The Return of the Jedi, including Lando flying the Millenium Flacon with Chewbacca and letting out an enthusiastic laugh as they fly through hyperspace, similar to the scene of the narrow escape from the Death Star moments after Lando delivers the killing shot into the space station’s reactor core. So the trailer has lots of callbacks and implications tying it to the film in which Emperor Palpatine supposedly died and the final Death Star was blown to bits.
That makes the final shot of a ruined Death Star and Palpatine’s cackle seem tied into the climax of Return of the Jedi, with this being the rubble that film’s Death Star on which the Emperor was supposedly killed. Which, in turn, hints at Palpatine’s presence in the film.
If all of that weren’t enough, at the Star Wars Celebration today with the cast and filmmakers in attendance, actor Ian McDiarmid walked out on stage to join the cast after the trailer ended. McDiarmid, of course, portrayed Palpatine in the prequel trilogy.
The implication, then, is that the Emperor either survived after all, or his evil spirit — a Sith equivalent of a Force Ghost perhaps, retconning the pre-Disney era’s expanded universe concepts which claimed Sith could not become Force Ghosts — haunts the remnants of the Death Star.
It’s also possible Palpatine is really the unnamed Sith apprentice who slew Darth Plagueis and stole the secret of cheating death. Remember, this is a story Palpatine tells to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, tempting Anakin to join the Dark Side in exchange for knowledge that will help Anakin save Padme from her from her foreseen death.
But regardless of how Palpatine returns, one thing is now officially beyond debate — Palptaine is definitely returning in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. This was confirmed by none other than director J.J. Abrams himself , per Empire Magazine’s James Dyer, who said the following via his Twitter account…
In case there’s any lingering ambiguity from the trailer (and McDiarmid’s appearance at the panel!), I can 100% confirm that Palptatine is back in The Rise of Skywalker as I just asked JJ. He’s thrilled – and slightly incredulous – that McDiarmid’s presence on set didn’t leak.
So there you have it, confirmation that even if it’s just for a few scenes, and/or as an evil Sith ghost of some sort who haunts the world on which his Death Star’s broken pieces crashed and burned, Palpatine is destined to appear in The Rise of Skywalker.
The other big question is, who is the Skywalker referenced in the film’s title? We know this film brings the Skywalker saga to an end, and we know actress Daisy Ridley has stated publicly that The Rise of Skywalker will be her final appearance in the franchise. So will she be revealed as a Skywalker after all? Did Kylo lie to her when he claimed her parents were “nobodies?” Was he perhaps simply mistaken, due to either being lied to by Supreme Leader Snoke, or tricked by whomever might’ve hidden Rey on Jakku? Or is Kylo himself the Skywalker of the title? Is he “rising” to a position of power as the evil leader of the galaxy? Or will he “rise” as a hero who turns against the forces of evil, similar to Darth Vader’s own redemption in Return of the Jedi? Or will it be Luke or Leia who “rise” in the film and help bring a final end to the conflict of the Skywalker saga?
Those are questions to explore at a later date, when we have more information to help us make logical guesses. For now, know that whatever else is in store for our heroes in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, they will face the return of the franchise’s most evil nemesis of all — Emperor Palpatine.
Well, the title of the next Star Wars movie is The Rise of Skywalker, and it now has a trailer. The tease and title drop comes just after Disney’s big “Here’s what Disney+ will have” presentation yesterday. And yeah, at just $6.99 per month (or $70 for the whole year), the Mouse House isn’t messing around in terms of challenging Netflix and Amazon Prime. Also of note, we got word yesterday that The Mandalorian (created by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal) will be available at launch time, along with a new season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the other Star Wars movies. So, in that sense, this ninth “episode” is somewhat bittersweet.
It is the final chapter in the Skywalker/Solo saga. It is also the final chapter in the sagas of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo. Moreover, it is probably is the last time that a major theatrical Star Wars movie will be this big of an event. The Rise of Skywalker represents the last time that a Star Wars movie will be the only place to get top-tier Star Wars adventure in the live-action format. This isn’t Return of the Jedi, which ended the original trilogy or Revenge of the Sith, which closed the book on the once entirely theoretical prequel trilogy. This is merely the last Star Wars movie before the next batch of Star Wars movies.
There will surely be other Star Wars movies, be they the alleged Rian Johnson trilogy or the new trilogy crafted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss or whatever else we get. But from here on out, we know full well that there will be regular Star Wars movies and TV shows for as long as Disney needs theatrical and streaming content. Disney will indeed slow down in terms of theatrical releases, but that we’ll be getting (allegedly) high-quality Star Wars adventure via live-action TV will automatically make the movies less unique. Sans a direct connection to the George Lucas saga, these new Star Wars projects will merely be sci-fi action shows or movies with the words “Star Wars” stamped on.
Moreover, presuming The Mandalorian or the planned Rogue One prequel series (co-starring Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk) feature comparatively theatrical production values, and with the likes of Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow and Dave Filoni set to direct episodes of Favreau’s Pedro Pascal-starring show that’s entirely possible, then Star Wars will further become less of an event and less of a pop culture touchstone. That’s more of an issue for the theatrical films, as we all know how “unknown” sci-fi action spectaculars have fared of late. The mere notion of Star Wars TV shows and the new Star Wars movies presumably being available pretty quickly on Disney+ may make those theatrical inherently less special overall.
But even if Disney does use their streaming service to actually extend the theatrical window (which isn’t outside the realm of possibility, since the subscribers will be there whether the movie drops four months or six months after theaters), these post-Episode IX movies will exist in a world where Star Wars is just another huge franchise. Existing as they will in a time where Star Wars TV shows are about as good as Star Wars movies and in an environment where the films are merely connected to the core saga by name, will these post-Skywalker/Solo Star Wars films have anywhere near the impact of the last three direct sequels to Return of the Jedi?
Probably not, which is why this ninth “episode” does feel like a real finale of sorts. Unlike in 1983 and 2005, we know for sure that Star Wars will continue. But that guarantee arguably makes this new installment that much more of an event. For the last time in forever, Star Wars will be special and a god among insects. J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will open December 20, 2019. It looks great, it will hopefully be good and either way, it marks the end of an era. From now on, Star Wars will be just another piece of IP, a giant among giants, intended to entice folks to pay $7 a month for Disney+.