Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's radio and online stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions, as well as artistic adventurousness— and awesomeness.

Over the last few years, Ulaby has strengthened NPR's television coverage both in terms of programming and industry coverage and profiled breakout artists such as Ellen Page and Skylar Grey and behind-the-scenes tastemakers ranging from super producer Timbaland to James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features. Her stories have included a series on women record producers, an investigation into exhibitions of plastinated human bodies, and a look at the legacy of gay activist Harvey Milk. Her profiles have brought listeners into the worlds of such performers as Tyler Perry, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Ruffalo, and Courtney Love.

Ulaby has earned multiple fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg as well as a fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism to study youth culture. In addition, Ulaby's weekly podcast of NPR's best arts stories. Culturetopia, won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

Joining NPR in 2000, Ulaby was recruited through NPR's Next Generation Radio, and landed a temporary position on the cultural desk as an editorial assistant. She started reporting regularly, augmenting her work with arts coverage for D.C.'s Washington City Paper.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. Her film reviews and academic articles have been published across the country and internationally. For a time, she edited fiction for The Chicago Review and served on the editing staff of the leading academic journal Critical Inquiry. Ulaby taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in the idyllic Midwestern college towns of Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One of the most horrible events of the Vietnam War took place 50 years ago this week.

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A man who dressed some of the most glamorous women in the world has died. Hubert de Givenchy died at 91. As NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, he helped import French couture to America partly by way of Hollywood.


Bal Krishna is the name sometimes given to the young Hindu god Krishna. Balkrishna Doshi was named for him, when he was born in 1927.

"They wanted me to remain young," the 90-year-old architect explains, as he bursts into peals of laughter.

Doshi is the newest winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, known as the Nobel for architects.

Let's call it #OscarsSoOld: Three of this year's Academy Award nominees are among the oldest ever. And we're not talking about honorary Oscars --these octogenarians are up for competitive Academy Awards for their recent work.

At 88 years old, Christopher Plummer is the oldest nominee ever for best supporting actor — for the second time. At age 82, he was nominated (and won) for the movie Beginners. You can watch his adorably wry acceptance speech here.

Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever nominated for an Oscar in cinematography.

"I can't believe I am the first," she says. "It's really kind of crazy!"

It was her lensing on Mudbound that earned her this recognition, but Morrison also served as director of photography for the massive blockbuster Black Panther. Being a DP means you're in charge of all the cameras, everyone who operates them, the electricity on set and the look of the entire film.

Here's a serious pop culture conundrum. Why are we still so obsessed with zombies?

Maybe you've seen the movies World War Z and 28 Days Later and the TV series iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet. Or maybe you've read Zone One by Pulitzer-winning author Colson Whitehead or Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Haven't you had enough of zombies over the last decade?

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The California woman who was the most likely model for Rosie the Riveter has died. If you'll remember, Rosie was the apple-cheeked icon who helped inspire the American workforce during World War II.


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The long — and admittedly odd — tradition of people shrinking in the movies goes back at least to 1901, with a silent film called The Dwarf and the Giant. The most recent is the new movie Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne (Election, The Descendants). In between is an entire canon, ranging from Fantastic Voyage to Innerspace to Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.

The fascination with making people small on the big screen makes sense to Payne.

Given that I work in a newsroom, maybe I shouldn't be surprised by how many office romances take place there in the movies: say, Broadcast News from 1987, or His Girl Friday from 1940.

A real-life copy editor might have had these films in mind when she started a new job about 10 years ago.

"I got to the paper and I noticed this really cute boy who was a senior editor," says Carolyn Huckabay. "That was Brian."

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In a cheerful rehearsal room at Temple University, a few dozen professional musicians inspect the instruments that they'll be playing to debut an audacious piece of music by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.

The composition is called "Symphony For a Broken Orchestra" and, fittingly, these instruments are all broken.

On a recent weekday afternoon, Ruby Corado let herself into the drop-in center at the homeless shelter she founded for LGBTQ youth to make the rounds with new clients.

On a sunny weekday afternoon, chef Bonnie Morales leads me past the Q subway line in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. We are going shopping for Russian food.

Morales owns Kachka, a restaurant in Portland, Ore., that serves food from the former Soviet Union. It's one of the most popular places to eat in one of the hottest food cities in the country.

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Last night, someone spent the most money in history on a work of art at Christie's auction house in New York.

JUSSI PYLKKANEN: Four-hundred million.


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Would you like a little distraction? There's a new movie that's being described as one of the most over-the-top samurai movies ever made.


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All right, we're now going to hear a doctor describing what's going to happen to a patient during a cutting-edge medical procedure.

JAMES STEEIL: So Karl's going to come in through this door. We'll put him down on the ground, restrain him.

At a Halloween happy hour recently in Washington, D.C., a small crowd gathered to celebrate the relationship between bats and spirits.

Not spooky spirits. Instead, think tequila and mescal.

"We're here at a bar tonight to talk about [bats], because they are intimately tied to agave," announced Mike Daulton, the executive director of Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit devoted to the well-being of bats.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has decided to expel Harvey Weinstein after the producer was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing at least three dozen women in extensively-reported articles that have appeared in The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine over the past two weeks.

In the wake of an emergency meeting Saturday, the academy's 54-member Board of Governors issued a statement saying:

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A new play in New York centers on Palestinian militants who hid from the Israeli army for over a month in 2002 inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports that "The Siege," not surprisingly, is controversial.

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It looks like a fairy tale palace.

With its pink stucco walls and massive coral stone terraces, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a beloved South Florida landmark that has drawn Miamians for 60 years. But since getting blasted by Hurricane Irma, the estate more resembles the part in the fairy tale after an evil spell is cast, and the forest overgrows the castle.

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2017 has been a record year in Hollywood, but it's not a good record. This has been the worst summer at the box office in a decade. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports even hits like "Wonder Woman" and the latest "Guardians Of The Galaxy" could not save a summer of flops.

Chuck Lorre is, without question, television's sitcom king. He created two of today's top money-making syndicated shows — The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men — and his other hits over the years include Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly and Mom.

So why did every single broadcast network turn down his latest sitcom?

One word: Cannabis.

Think today's kids want to be doctors or lawyers? Nope. YouTube stardom is the No. 1 dream career for young people today, at least according to a widely publicized survey by a British newspaper last spring.

Hell's Kitchen has long served as pop culture shorthand for New York City at its grittiest. Four popular Netflix series based on Marvel Comics heroes use this neighborhood as a backdrop. Now those characters — Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist — will team up in one of this summer's most hotly anticipated TV shows, The Defenders. But does their version of Hell's Kitchen bear any resemblance to the real city?

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A great character actor has died. Robert Hardy was 91 years old. Here he is in 1960, playing Shakespeare's Henry V and wooing a French princess played by Judi Dench.


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Actor and playwright Sam Shepard has died.


SAM SHEPARD: (As Chuck Yeager) I think I see a plane over here with my name on it.