Mandalit del Barco

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, a group of artists and activists are flying pro-immigrant, anti-incarceration messages in the skies. They hired fleets of airplanes to sky-write their slogans over 80 locations, including immigration detention facilities, jails, courts and the U.S./Mexico border.

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.

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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.

Five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Allen Daviau, who collaborated with Steven Spielberg and other film directors, has died of COVID-19. In a statement, Spielberg said his old his friend was, "a wonderful artist, but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens."

With movie theaters closed around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Warner Brothers is postponing the openings of some of its big summer movies, including Wonder Woman 1984. It was originally set for June 5. Now, it will hit theaters on Aug. 14.

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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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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.

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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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In 1996, Omara Portuondo was working on an album at Havana's famous recording studio, Egrem. Upstairs, American musician Ry Cooder was laying down tracks for Buena Vista Social Club, a project with veteran Cuban musicians like Compay Segundo. Portuondo was invited to come up and sing a duet with him.

Less than two weeks after John Singleton suffered a massive stroke, the trailblazing filmmaker has died in Los Angeles at the age of 51. The director, who made history with 1991's Boyz n the Hood as the youngest person and first African American ever nominated for a best director Oscar, died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital after his family took him off life support.

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In the classic 1940 novel Native Son, 20-year-old Bigger Thomas dreams of a life beyond his impoverished Chicago neighborhood.

As in the book, the new Native Son movie begins with Bigger killing a huge rat in his house, where he lives with his siblings and their single mother. His troubles accelerate after he gets hired as a driver for the Daltons, a wealthy white family.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon has reemerged from the deep, deep waters of history.

The terrifying movie monster could both swim (in his lagoon) and walk on land. He had long claws, webbed hands and feet, scales and a dorsal fin. His round, fishy head had bulging eyes and layers of wavy gills.

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Fans of the sitcom "One Day At A Time" are campaigning on social media, hoping to save the show. Netflix has canceled the Latino-themed version of Norman Lear's 1970s hit TV show. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

Marvel's Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards this Sunday.

It could be the first superhero movie to win for best picture. Its costume designer Ruth Carter is an Oscar nominee. The film is nominated for best original score and best original song.

Here's what's up with docs: They're doing great at the box office.

At last month's Sundance Film Festival, Knock Down the House broke the festival's documentary sales record: reportedly $10 million to Netflix. The film follows the 2018 campaigns of four female congressional candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In Destroyer, Nicole Kidman looks like a hot mess.

In the opening scene, her character, Los Angeles police detective Erin Bell, lumbers out of the car she slept in all night. She's got puffy, red eyes; dull, disheveled hair; no makeup.

Weather-beaten, she hobbles like a wounded animal to a crime scene along the concrete bank of the LA River. The raspy-voiced cop in a black leather jacket peers at a corpse with tattoos.

"What about if I know who did this?" her character asks.

In his new film, Alfonso Cuarón brings back to life the middle-class neighborhood where he grew up — the street vendors, the barking dogs, the occasional parade. It lends the film its title: Roma.

He also chronicles the daily rituals of the woman who cleaned house and helped care for him and his three siblings. Roma focuses on Cleo, a character based on Cuarón's real-life nanny and housekeeper: Liboria Rodríguez, known as "Libo."

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