ARUN RATH, HOST:
It's time now for The New and The Next.
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RATH: Carlos Watson is the cofounder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos. Happy New Year.
CARLOS WATSON: Arun, Happy New Year to you. Always good to be back.
RATH: So this week, we're going to talk about some of the stuff you're excited about in the year ahead. One of those things, in a word, Japan.
WATSON: Indeed. It's funny. Japan was a big topic here in the States in the 1980s as they kind of surged economically. They were very integrated into the American conversation. They were ceded amidst some economic troubles, but they're back. Last year, Arun, what we celebrated a stock market recovery of some 30 percent here in the States, they were up by 50 percent. Not only that, you see them making major investments in clean tech and even getting a little more muscular, which may or may not be a good thing militarily. But all of that has put Japan back front and center.
RATH: And in a dramatic contrast to here, it seems like in Japan, they're kind of excited about their government or have a bit more confidence in the direction of their government.
WATSON: Long story short, a number of governments in Japan over the last decade and a half have struggled to get the economy on track. And at long last, this prime minister, who in fact this is his second time around, seems to have gotten people pointed in a direction that they feel good about. And indeed, there is much more confidence, and it has shown up in no small part in their stock market.
RATH: Coming down to Hollywood now, just down the street from us. You - I love the way you put this: you say we didn't know we were waiting for Denzel Washington's successor, but you say he's here.
WATSON: He's here. So 41-year-old British actor Idris Elba. I know you probably enjoyed him on "The Wire" in which he played a fabulous character named Stringer Bell. He also was good in the BBC detective series "Luther." But where he really seems to be breaking out is this new Mandela film. And now he's got two big upcoming films coming our way - one with Sean Penn called "The Gunmen" and another called "Beast of No Nation." So Idris Elba is not only one of People magazine's hottest guys out there, but he's definitely an actor to watch.
RATH: And something else - I didn't know about these rumors floating around that he might be the next James Bond.
WATSON: You know, they've only had five or six key people, and obviously, Daniel Craig's in the seat now and has done a good job. Idris Elba is kind of the first serious name of a black actor that we've heard talked about in that regard. So what a big deal that would be.
RATH: I would love to see that. So finally, what's the company that you're keeping your eye on this year?
WATSON: You know, it's funny. It's a company here in Silicon Valley - the car company Tesla. Of course, they're the makers of the first all-electric sports car. And for me, Arun, what Apple did in the computer industry, meaning kind of fundamentally redesign how average people think about computers; what HBO did in television in terms of blending both substance and style, it's clear in my mind that Tesla has tried to do that in the car space. They're the company that's a decade old. They just had their first profitable quarter last year, and they're looking to expand. In fact, their stock price last year, Arun, was up over 300 percent.
RATH: Wow. You mentioned Apple. And sort of like Apple in the early years, Tesla's had some ups and downs. You know, towards the end of last year, there was that issue with - around the battery fires. But sounds like they're on their way back up again.
WATSON: Indeed, they seem to be. And, as you said, there was the battery fire issue, and I'm sure there will be other parts of the conversation. But they really, you know, are injecting a certain sense of optimism back in the space. You might think of a sports car company like Tesla as being something for the big cities. The next place where they're looking to make a big dent is in the Midwest. So lots to look at when you talk about Tesla.
RATH: Carlos Watson is the cofounder of the online magazine Ozy. Carlos, thanks again.
WATSON: Arun, great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.