Linda Holmes

Linda Holmes writes and edits NPR's entertainment and pop-culture blog, Monkey See. She has several elaborate theories involving pop culture and monkeys, all of which are available on request.

Holmes began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living-room space to DVD sets of The Wire and never looked back.

Holmes was a writer and editor at Television Without Pity, where she recapped several hundred hours of programming — including both High School Musical movies, for which she did not receive hazard pay. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to MSNBC.com, where she has written about books, movies, television and pop-culture miscellany.

Holmes' work has also appeared on Vulture (New York magazine's entertainment blog), in TV Guide and in many, many legal documents.

Earlier this week, in the season 22 finale of The Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr. whittled his potential fiancees down to two. But wait — there was twist. Luyendyk proposed to one of them, Becca ... and then he changed his mind and dumped her on-camera because he wanted to date Lauren, the woman he'd rejected. Viewers then saw 14 minutes of Becca crying her eyes out, which lead fans and critics to accuse The Bachelor of "manipulating the finale."

There is a part of a filmgoer who is exhausted by an avalanche of stuff — much of it forgettable, much of it created by committee, much of it branded within an inch of its life and all of it subject to commercial expectations that are either indifferent or hostile to art — that says, "I cannot get on board with a film that delivers wisdom through a giant, glowing Oprah."

It only stands to reason that the most surprising Oscars might be followed by the least surprising Oscars.

The Pop Culture Happy Hour team has been covering the nine films nominated for best picture since last March, when we talked about Get Out.

Every year, just before the Oscars, Team PCHH sits down to gather our thoughts. This year, we're once again joined by All Things Considered film critic Bob Mondello.

The first season of the FX comedy Atlanta didn't just introduce its characters through a series of memorable vignettes about relationships, music, weed and money. It gradually broke down expectations until it could do almost anything. It could cast a black actor to play Justin Bieber without elaborating. It could turn itself into a half-hour send-up of a low-budget cable talk show. It stretched the boundaries in which it existed, and in the second season, it feels more settled — and not in a bad way.

It's been entirely too long since we got to spend time with Audie Cornish, one of the hosts of All Things Considered and one of our favorite people. It's also been a busy time of Oscar preparation and midseason premieres. So what better way to spend a very silly chunk of studio time than with a return to one of our favorite segments?

It's no exaggeration to say the new NBC series Good Girls has one of the most promising casts a network show has sported in a while. It has Retta, one of the indispensable members of the Parks and Recreation ensemble. It has Mae Whitman, who's been a terrific actress since she was tiny. It has Christina Hendricks, who gave such depth to Joan Holloway Harris on Mad Men. It even has Zach Gilford, who played the still-waters-run-deep quarterback Matt Saracen on Friday Night Lights.

Annihilation -- the movie, not the experience — is creepy. Very creepy. There are elements of traditional horror in the latest film from Alex Garland (Ex Machina), which is based not very closely on the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name. But more than that, it's a film that capitalizes on its ability to create creeping, visceral dread.

It's one delight of doing a lot of TV criticism: Some shows really sneak up on you. It's just so much fun when it happens.

When we invited our buddy Sam Sanders, of the It's Been A Minute podcast, to talk to us about the Winter Olympics, we didn't even remember that in 2014, he helped NPR cover the Winter Olympics in Sochi. As it turned out, in addition to his usual insight and thoughtfulness, Sam possesses relevant experience!

HBO got Alan Ball at the right time.

Ball won an Oscar in 2000 for writing American Beauty. Shortly thereafter, in 2001, with HBO's drama brand still in its infancy (The Sopranos was a couple of seasons old), he created Six Feet Under for the network. Both it and later Ball's True Blood were fundamental to HBO's growth, and now, the network is ready to introduce his new show.

Gary Oldman is probably the frontrunner to win the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the historical drama Darkest Hour, which is also up for best picture. This week, we dive into the film to separate its stately ... well, Oscar-ness ... from its actual virtues. Do actors get extra points for playing real people? Should they? How much does it matter if an entire film turns on an invented scene?

"Less plot, more ladders."

That's a philosophy espoused by a college friend of mine with a fondness for Jackie Chan movies. Chan is known for incredibly inventive action sequences in which he fights using whatever is handy — including, in First Strike, a ladder. But what my friend does not want from Jackie Chan movies is a lot of time unwinding a boring, byzantine plot. Less plot, he would demand. More ladders.

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday night. You could be forgiven for not expecting it — it's never happened before. And on this historic occasion, Stephen Thompson and I sat down Monday morning to talk with some of our favorite panelists about the game and the surrounding entertainment. With us is Katie Presley, a New Orleans Saints fan without too much at stake in this game. But also with us is Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team. Gene is a longtime Eagles fan who had, in terms of fandom, a lot at stake in this game.

Allow me to be the first — and probably the last — writer to draw a comparison between NBC's new comedy A.P. Bio, premiering Thursday night, and Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, which is nominated for best picture.

Hospital shows are a network TV staple. There are more than 625 episodes of just Grey's Anatomy and ER combined — and Grey's is still going. Just as last season, NBC found a hit in the fairly traditional family drama This Is Us, ABC has gotten lucky with the hospital show The Good Doctor.

Phantom Thread is only the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film to examine a troubled, perhaps toxic genius and the people in his orbit. Daniel Day-Lewis, in what he says is his last film, plays Reynolds Woodcock, a 1950s dress designer in London who lives with his sister and a succession of women with whom he eventually grows tired. When Woodcock meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), who serves him breakfast and gets his order right, he takes her into his house as his lover and muse. Their relationship is, to say the least, a little intense.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Academy Award nominations were announced today. And if you're looking for an early front-runner, you could do worse than Guillermo del Toro's romantic science fiction fantasy "The Shape Of Water." It led the way with 13 nominations including best picture.

Updated at 11:09 a.m. ET

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning by a dapper, genial Andy Serkis and the always-intoxicating Tiffany Haddish.

Writer-director Sean Baker shot his 2015 feature Tangerine on an iPhone. He returns with The Florida Project, which isn't shot on a phone but still feels organic and close to the ground. It tells the story of Moonee, a 6-year-old girl who lives with her mother in a motel that exists in the low-income shadow economy adjacent to Walt Disney World — all the stuff that sounds like it might be part of the Magic Kingdom, but isn't.

If you saw the Golden Globes on Sunday night, you saw Allison Janney win in the supporting actress category for playing Tonya Harding's mother in I, Tonya. You're likely to see more of her in this awards season, and more of Margot Robbie, who plays Harding herself in the film, directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers.

Only a few minutes into Sunday night's Golden Globes red-carpet broadcast on E!, Debra Messing explained to host Giuliana Rancic why nearly all the women were wearing black. (The men were, too, but they always do that.) Messing explained that it was part of the Time's Up initiative, which supports women who suffer from sexual harassment and assault — and not just in Hollywood. She went on to call out the recent departure from E!

The reputation of the Golden Globes is that they're the Oscars' rowdier, tipsier, weirder cousin — sometimes refreshingly so. And while awards season is always the most intense time of year for celebrity fashion, this year the allegations — and, in some cases, admissions — of sexual harassment and assault added a far more serious layer of conversation. Some women said in advance that they would wear black to convey their support for people who have reported abuse.

Note: At the top of this page, you can listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about Black Mirror, with guests Brittany Luse and Chris Klimek.

Black Mirror is an anthology where technology, at times, might seem like the lurking monster. Originally created for British television and now produced by Netflix, the series imagines leaps forward in software, surveillance, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and biotech that result, usually, in disaster. Not always — but usually.

Standard caveats: I don't watch everything! I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

In 1971, The New York Times and then The Washington Post began publishing excerpts from the Pentagon study of American involvement in the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers. The new Steven Spielberg film The Post is about the role that paper played in the story, and particularly the decision-making of Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep.

We've done some holiday episodes of Pop Culture Happy Hour in the past. But very often, because many of us on the panel celebrate Christmas, we end up talking about that. This year, we wanted to talk a little about Hanukkah as both a religious and pop-cultural event, so we called in two of our favorite women who celebrate: Barrie Hardymon of Weekend Edition and Sarah Ventre of member station KJZZ in Phoenix.

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RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

Twenty years ago today, the film "Titanic" opened in theaters. Titanic the ship sank in 1912. "Titanic" the movie was a huge success. NPR's pop culture critic Linda Holmes takes us back to 1997.

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