Mandalit del Barco

Nikkolas Smith calls himself an "artivist": an artist and an activist. For the past seven years, the Los Angeles-based concept artist has celebrated and mourned Black lives in his work. He says he's following the lead of the late singer Nina Simone, who advised it's the artist's duty to reflect the times.

"I'm always looking at what's going in the world and trying to reflect that," Smith says. "There are so many Black lives that have just been taken from this Earth. I've been trying to trying to process how that made me feel as a Black man."

Next year's Academy Awards ceremony will be postponed for two months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of February 28, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and ABC announced the televised ceremony will be held now on April 25.

"For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year," academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement.

The cameras are once again allowed to roll in Los Angeles starting Friday, months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down Hollywood. State and county officials gave the green light for film and TV productions to resume as long as they follow new health and safety protocols.

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Feature films will no longer be able to double dip from both the Oscars and the Emmys, says the Television Academy. In a statement, the academy said it supports a recent decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors. That board decided to relax its rules for the 2021 Oscars in response to movie theaters being closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Author Nguyen Phan Que Mai is a poet and world traveler whose first novel, The Mountains Sing, is about four generations of a Vietnamese family enduring many hardships — something she understands well.

The 47-year-old writer was born in North Vietnam, but grew up in a small village in the South, destitute, hungry and horrified by the ruins of war. "As a child, I saw so many people with missing limbs," she recalls. "I saw mothers without children, people committing suicide because their loved ones didn't come back."

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Here in Los Angeles yesterday, fans, friends and family of the late basketball star Kobe Bryant paid their respects at the Staples Center. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was at the memorial, and she filed this report.

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The story of political player Luis Miranda and his famous son Lin-Manuel, who created and starred in Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights, is the subject of a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past week and was just acquired by HBO. The film is called Siempre, Luis -- Miranda's sign off in his correspondences, and also a nod to his relentlessness in politics and as a champion for his talented son.

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Now a moment to remember conceptual artist John Baldessari. He died last week at his home in Venice, Calif. Baldessari infused his art with humor and skepticism. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, the 88-year-old influenced generations of artists.

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I'm really happy we're finally talking about this on the program.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: I know you are. I know you are (laughter).

Hayv Kahraman's art was shaped by the many worlds in which she's lived and traumas she's endured.

She was born in Baghdad 38 years ago, the daughter of a university English professor and a librarian for the United Nations. She was a child during the Iran-Iraq War and the first Gulf War.

"I would look out my bedroom window and see a rain of air-raid bombs," she says. "They looked like fireworks." The air-raid sirens terrified her: "They are so loud and when they happen, you know that you might actually die any minute. It shakes you to the core."

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Nigeria has submitted its first-ever Oscar entry, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says the film does not qualify for the international category. And that is sparking criticism. Here's NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

An American Werewolf in London. The zombies from Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Bela Lugosi's Dracula from Ed Wood. The dark fairy Maleficent.

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Rick Baker created some of the most memorable movie monsters of the past four decades, including "An American Werewolf In London"...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, screaming).

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The new movie "Ad Astra" stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut traveling to Neptune in search of his missing father, who is played by Tommy Lee Jones.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AD ASTRA")

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In 1949, Charles and Ray Eames designed and built their home on a bluff overlooking the ocean in the Pacific Palisades. Features of their house and studio are now ubiquitous, but 70 years ago, they were revolutionary.

Charles was an architect; his wife, Ray, a painter. From their Los Angeles studio, they designed molded plywood office and lounge chairs that are now considered classics. The couple devised toys and made innovative films about math and computers for clients such as IBM and Boeing.

Fun fact: The 17-year-old voice actor who plays the beloved cartoon character Peppa Pig actually lives on a farm and has her own pigs who are (of course) named Peppa and George. "They're very cheeky," says Harley Bird. "There was one time when I went in to feed them in the morning and they started eating my Wellies whilst I was still wearing them."

Bird and her family live in Tring, a village about 40 miles northeast of London. She travels to the city to record the award-winning British cartoon, then returns home to feed the chickens.

What's a Mexican restaurant without guacamole? What's a hipster cafe without avocado toast? Some restaurateurs may be contemplating these questions this summer as the price of avocados has spiked to almost double the price a year ago.

In Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, El Tepeyac Cafe uses loads of avocados for its delicious homemade guacamole. In fact, it goes through about 50 boxes of the fruit every week. Operations manager Bernadette Thom says the restaurant has no choice but to pay more.

For decades, animated children's stories included negative stereotypes of Indigenous people.

There was Disney's Pocahontas, which presented the daughter of a Powhatan chief in a romantic love story with Captain John Smith. Crystal Echo Hawk, CEO of the media watchdog group IllumiNative, says it was a false narrative about a girl who in reality was "taken by force and sexually assaulted."

"La Cocina" means "the kitchen" in Spanish. It's also the name of a business incubator based in San Francisco's Mission District. Since it began in 2005, it's been helping local food entrepreneurs, many of whom are low-income immigrant women, develop their small businesses.

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film inspired by the real-life story of Jimmie Fails. He tries to reclaim the Victorian-style house where his family once lived, in the now-gentrified Fillmore District. Through the movie, he dreams of what it could be again.

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The hit TV show The Big Bang Theory is signing off after a 12 season run – and the show's writers and creators aren't quite ready to say goodbye. For more than a decade, the writers have pitched storylines and traded jabs from their creative space at Warner Bros. studios.

On their long conference table you'll find Star Wars toys, e-mail about the structure of DNA, and the collected work of physicist Richard Feynman. There are Star Trek screensavers on the TV monitors.

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