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.

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Movies
5:11 pm
Sun July 26, 2015

Getting The Ants In 'Ant-Man' Right Was No Tiny Challenge

Originally published on Sun July 26, 2015 5:48 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Superheroes, by definition, are extraordinary individuals - not exactly the type to blend in with a crowd - but what about Ant-Man?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ANT-MAN")

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Television
3:44 am
Mon July 6, 2015

After Sketchy Science, Shark Week Promises To Turn Over A New Fin

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 8:48 pm

It has been called the "Super Bowl of the ocean."

Shark Week is a ratings bonanza for the Discovery Channel with more than 40 million people tuning in last year. Shark Week kicked off this weekend with the most hours of programming ever in its 28-year history But many scientists think the huge audiences — and the hype — have come at the expense of real science.

A generation of shark scientists cut their teeth on Shark Week.

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All Tech Considered
5:09 am
Thu June 25, 2015

For Online Video Stars, YouTube Is No Longer The Only Stage

Anna Akana, a bespectacled, 25-year-old comedian who writes, directs and stars in skits about everything from personal stories, to friendship and even dealing with anxiety, says she is sort of over YouTube.
Anna Akana/Screenshot via YouTube

Originally published on Thu June 25, 2015 5:04 pm

When it comes to online video, the world is glued to YouTube. People watch billions of videos on it every day. And that huge share of online eyeballs is why other companies are trying to chip away at its dominance and lure some of its biggest stars away from the service.

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Television
8:16 am
Sat June 20, 2015

HBO's 'The Brink' Puts The Situation Room In Situation Comedy

The Brink imagines how the White House situation room —€” and the U.S. secretary of state, played by Tim Robbins —€” respond when Pakistan is taken over by a certifiably crazy general.
Merie W. Wallace HBO

Originally published on Sun June 21, 2015 4:04 pm

HBO's new comedy The Brink refers to a world on the brink of nuclear warfare — possibly one of the least-funny premises imaginable. But the two brothers who created the show cut their teeth on a particular kind of political scripted satire that had its heyday in the 1960s and '70s. Think Dr. Strangelove, M*A*S*H and Network and other films by Paddy Chayefsky.

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Movies
5:07 am
Tue June 16, 2015

'Jurassic World' Speaks A Universal Language

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 2:21 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Movies
8:37 am
Sat June 6, 2015

Roy Andersson: From Mordant Ad Director To Philosophical Filmmaker

Andersson's new film, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, consists of a series of absurdist episodes. It opens with a man (Per Bergqvist) wandering a museum, looking at exhibits of stuffed birds.
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 10:30 am

Roy Andersson just might be one of the most interesting oddballs in the world of film. His Hollywood fan base includes high-class auteurs like the Wachowski siblings, Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro González Iñárritu — but he's best known in his native Sweden.

Back in 1970, Andersson's first film, A Swedish Love Story, took Europe by storm. He was only 26. "It was a fantastic time for me," he recalls. "However, I was not very happy after that. I was a little depressed. My second movie was a flop in all senses. A very, very big flop."

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Remembrances
5:04 am
Wed May 27, 2015

Influential Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Dies At 75

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 9:27 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Fine Art
7:31 am
Sun May 24, 2015

Online Art Sites Aim To Fill Gap Between Etsy And Sotheby's

Why does there seem to be such a vast space between Etsy and blue-chip virtual auction houses like Sotheby's? Where's the website where you can spend $200 or $2,000 on quality art online? New companies are trying to fill that gap.
Don Emmert AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 3:47 pm

Let's say you're not a millionaire but you're still interested in buying affordable art from the comfort of your living room. Where do you find something that is between craft-oriented websites like Etsy and high-end auction houses like Sotheby's? Now, new companies — like Paddle8, Ocula, Artline, Saatchi Art, Artsy, Amazon Art — are trying to fill the gap.

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Fine Art
5:45 pm
Mon May 18, 2015

Artist Shirin Neshat Captures Iran's Sharp Contrasts In Black And White

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born visual artist who has made her home country's turbulent history the subject of high art. The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., is hosting a retrospective of her work. Above, Neshat's 1999 Rapture Series.
Photograph by Larry Barns Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 11:22 pm

Shirin Neshat, the most famous contemporary artist to come from Iran, is playing with her rambunctious Labrador puppy in her airy Manhattan apartment. "Ashi, Ashi, come here!" she calls.

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Arts & Life
4:59 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

Picasso Painting Breaks Record For Most Expensive Artwork Sold At Auction

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 12:31 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Two-Way
5:34 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

Edison's Talking Dolls Can Now Provide The Soundtrack To Your Nightmares

Thomas Edison's talking dolls were reportedly pretty robust, but their miniature phonographs were another story.
Collection of Robin and Joan Rolfs Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Originally published on Sun June 14, 2015 3:34 pm

Back in 1890, Thomas Edison gave us some of the world's first talking dolls. Today, the glassy-eyed cherubs that are still around stand about 2 feet tall; they have wooden limbs and a metal body; and they sound supercreepy. (If you're looking for a soundtrack to your nightmares, listen to the audio story above.) Edison built and sold about 500 of them back in 1890. Now, new technology has made hearing them possible for the first time in decades.

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Code Switch
6:09 am
Fri April 24, 2015

A Look At 'Blackbird,' The First Film On The New 'Black Netflix'

Blackbird is about a gay interracial romance set in the deep South.
courtesy of blackbirdthemovie.com

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 12:27 pm

A tiny independent movie has been picked by one of Hollywood's biggest moguls to promote his latest venture. Robert L. Johnson created BET and now, the Urban Movie Channel — an online channel that's being called the black Netflix.

The first original film it has acquired is a gay interracial romance set in the Deep South. In Blackbird, the main character Randy is in high school. Everyone thinks he's gay, and they're totally fine with it.

Randy, 18, is fervently religious. Even though his best friend is gay, Randy's in denial about his own sexuality.

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Media
5:35 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Small South Carolina Newspaper Takes Home Top Pulitzer Prize

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 6:01 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Television
5:14 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Jon Stewart's Replacement Is Unlikely Choice For 'The Daily Show'

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 11:55 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"The Daily Show" has a new host.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE DAILY SHOW" THEME SONG)

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Remembrances
2:17 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

He Was, And Will Always Be, Our Friend: Remembering Leonard Nimoy

While Leonard Nimoy became famous as Star Trek's Mr. Spock, he was conflicted about the role. He later came to embrace it. He's shown here with actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.
Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 10:45 am

In 1966, when Leonard Nimoy was offered a minor role on a new space drama, he was thrilled. As he told Archive of American Television: "You have to understand that prior to Star Trek I never had a job that lasted longer than two weeks in any TV show or movie. Never. Two weeks — max. And here I was, looking at a season of work."

The actor beloved for his role as the pointy-eared half-human, half-Vulcan died of lung disease at his home in Los Angeles on Friday. He was 83.

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Remembrances
4:33 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

'Brother's Keeper, 'Paradise Lost' Documentary Filmmaker Dies At 58

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 8:46 pm

Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger first came to the attention of filmgoers with their first full-length feature documentary, Brother's Keeper. They went on to even greater acclaim with their three Paradise Lost docs about the troubled trial of the West Memphis Three and their psycho-doc, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Bruce Sinofsky died Saturday of complications from diabetes. He was 58 years old.

Movies
5:16 am
Sat February 21, 2015

King Of Condensed Films: Meet Chuck Workman, The Oscars' Montage Master

Chuck Workman at his editing station in Beverly Hills in 2010, the last year he created montages for the Oscars. Workman says montages today have a less highly edited style.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Sat February 21, 2015 9:20 am

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Movie Interviews
4:38 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

'Fifty Shades' Director Explores Passion, Performance And Control

Sam Taylor-Johnson directs Jamie Dorn and Dakota Johnson on the set of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Chuck Zlotnick FOCUS/UNIVERSAL

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 6:26 pm

Universal Pictures put a woman in charge when it hired Sam Taylor-Johnson to direct Fifty Shades of Grey. It also got an art world star nominated for such prestigious awards as Britain's Turner Prize. Truth be told, Taylor-Johnson sounds slightly relieved to discuss her photography and videos instead of the movie she's in the thick of promoting.

"It feels so far away from me right now," she says, in her plummy London accent. "And it's so nice to talk about again — gives me a bit of a breather."

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Book News & Features
8:01 am
Sun February 8, 2015

Christian Grey Began His Fictional Career As A Vampire

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 2:53 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Movies
10:13 am
Sat January 17, 2015

And The Oscar Goes To ... Wait, Who Hasn't Had One In A While?

Robert Duvall (right) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Judge, which also starred Robert Downey Jr. The nomination left many critics scratching their heads.
Claire Folger AP

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 2:12 pm

"The right actors win Oscars, but for the wrong roles," Katharine Hepburn once said.

The Motion Picture Academy has a history of rewarding stars for less-than-celestial performances, and this week's Oscar nomination announcements left a lot of people scratching their heads — over the snubs for Selma, for example, and the nomination of Robert Duvall for best supporting actor in The Judge.

"I think most people hadn't even heard of The Judge before that nomination," says Alyssa Rosenberg, culture columnist for The Washington Post.

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