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.

The South Korean movie Parasite, a tale of the rich Park family and the poor Kim family, is an international sensation — partly because of universal themes like the conflict between haves and have-nots. But certain elements of Parasite are specifically South Korean, including its architecture.

Robert Evans – the once vice president of production at Paramount who was responsible for critically acclaimed films such as The Godfather parts 1 and 2, Chinatown, and Serpico – died Saturday at the age of 89.

While Evans was known for his string of '70s cinema hits, he was also convicted of cocaine possession in 1980. He detailed his own rise and fall in the industry in his 1994 memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture.

How mainstream is horror today? Frighteningly mainstream. Let's just look at some of the biggest smash hits recently on television and streaming video: Shows like Stranger Things, American Horror Story and The Walking Dead all fit into to this once-maligned genre.

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Harold Bloom was a rarity: a best-selling and widely known literary critic. Affectionately dubbed the "King Kong" of criticism, Bloom died Monday at the age of 89, at a hospital in New Haven, Conn., according to his wife,

Over a redoubtable career, Bloom wrote scores of books, edited hundreds more and irritated innumerable intellectuals by arguing, for example, for the superiority of Western literary traditions.

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Fifty years ago this week, a perfect family appeared on television.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BRADY BUNCH")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Here's the story of a lovely lady...

When is it wrong to show cigarette smoking on television, but OK to depict people smoking cannabis products, particularly in programming popular among young teenagers?

It's a genre known for screaming matches, hot-tub hookups and contestants who are there to win, not to make friends. But as of late, reality television has taken a kinder, gentler turn.

More artists are telling the Whitney Museum of American Art they are withdrawing from the museum's high-profile Biennial contemporary art showcase currently underway in New York.

"It was a really easy decision," says artist Nicholas Galanin, who spoke by phone from Alaska, where he lives. Along with three other artists, he told the Whitney on Friday that he wanted his multimedia work pulled from the show.

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The funny, freckled face of Alfred E. Neuman is more or less retiring.

One of the last widely circulated print satirical magazines in America will leave newsstands after this year, according to sources at DC Comics, which publishes MAD magazine.

While the Harvard Lampoon remains in business, The Onion hasn't been in print since 2013. The once-influential Spy was a casualty of the 1990s.

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WorldPride is officially underway. Around 4 million people are partying and parading in New York City this weekend. Here's a taste of the scene at Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

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This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


There's a certain kind of song you just want to crank up after a bad breakup or a rough day at work. In 1963, a young singer renowned for a hit about getting ditched at a party unleashed just such an anthem.

Brie Larson has vanished.

A star of Avengers: Endgame, one of the biggest movies of all time, was completely excised from a modified pirated version of the film — along with everything else in the film seen as feminist or gay.

Franco Zeffirelli once said that when the curtain comes up "you have to give the audience a big thing to look at."

The Italian filmmaker and opera director gave audiences plenty to look at — in his lavishly styled operas and his biblical and Shakespearean film adaptations.

Zeffirelli died Saturday in Rome after a long illness. His death was announced on the Foundation of Franco Zeffirelli website. He was 96.

On average, every 30 seconds someone in the world buys a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Maybe it's for a grandchild, an expectant parent or a dear friend's new baby. Nearly 50 million copies have been sold since the classic picture book was first published in 1969, and it has been translated into over 62 languages.

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This summer, movie theaters will be haunted by creepy clowns, scary sharks and zany zombies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Excuse me, we're closed.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, growling).

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Screenwriter William Goldman died last night at the age of 87. He's responsible for the scripts for more than 30 movies, including classics like "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" and "The Princess Bride." NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.

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Leave it to California to combine high-end cuisine with the kind of ingredients that might actually get you high. It's an increasingly lucrative niche for chefs in San Francisco and Los Angeles — cities already well known for trendy food culture.

Chefs and entrepreneurs making cannabis-infused foie gras and "stoner souffles" have been featured on not one but two series devoted to gourmet ganja: the Netflix competition program, Cooking On High, and the Viceland show Bong Appetit.

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The perfect home for a perfect television family is for sale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BRADY BUNCH THEME SONG")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Here's the story of a lovely lady...

What if, one night a year, all crime, including murder, was legal? That's the premise of an incredibly successful horror movie franchise set in the not-so-distant dystopian future. The idea of The Purge is: Let people blow off steam, and crime rates will go down. The fourth Purge installment — The First Purge — opens July 4.

The Purge films have, on average, made almost 2,000 percent of their budget at the worldwide box office. What is it about these stories of society-run-amok that keeps audiences coming back?

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When Clarence Fountain was only 8 years old, his family left him at an Alabama boarding school for the blind. He eventually went on to help create The Blind Boys of Alabama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOO CLOSE TO HEAVEN")

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When Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in 1951, her cells were harvested without her knowledge. They became crucial to scientific research and her story became a best-seller. Since then, Lacks has become one of the most powerful symbols for informed consent in the history of science.

On Monday, when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., honored Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks' grandchildren were there.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know springtime is a traditional wedding season. But when it comes to the dresses worn by today's blushing brides, we're seeing a much less traditional trend. In fact, other people may be blushing.

When it comes to the bridal bustline, the question these days is ... how low can you go?

"How can I say this kind of politely?" Monte Durham teases. "We have dresses cut to your navel."

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