Bob Mondello

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career, "hired to write for every small paper in Washington, D.C., just as it was about to fold," saw that jink broken in 1984, when he came to NPR.

For more than three decades, Mondello has reviewed movies and covered the arts for NPR News, seeing at least 250 films and 100 plays annually, then sharing critiques and commentaries about the most intriguing on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine All Things Considered. In 2005, he conceived and co-produced NPR's eight-part series "American Stages," exploring the history, reach, and accomplishments of the regional theater movement.

Mondello has also written about the arts for such diverse publications as USA Today, The Washington Post, and Preservation Magazine, as well as for commercial and public television stations. And he has been a lead theater critic for Washington City Paper, D.C.'s leading alternative weekly, since 1987.

Before becoming a professional critic, Mondello spent more than a decade in entertainment advertising, working in public relations for a chain of movie theaters, where he learned the ins and outs of the film industry, and for an independent repertory theater, where he reveled in film history.

Asked what NPR pieces he's proudest of, he points to commentaries on silent films – a bit of a trick on radio – and cultural features he's produced from Argentina, where he and his husband have a second home. An avid traveler, Mondello even spends his vacations watching movies and plays in other countries. "I see as many movies in a year," he says. "As most people see in a lifetime."

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5:04pm

Fri December 19, 2014
Movie Reviews

'Mr. Turner' Is A Snuffling, Growling Work Of Art

Timothy Spall finds beauty in the unlikeliest places as painter J.M.W. Turner.
Sony Pictures Classics

If you picture landscape painting as a delicate, ethereal, pristine process involving an easel on a hillside and a sunset, Mr. Turner will be an eye-opener.

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4:28pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Code Switch

An Updated 'Annie' And The Tradition Of Nontraditional Casting

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:07 pm

Quvenzhane Wallis (second from right) stars in an updated version of Annie, produced by Jay Z.
Barry Wetcher Sony Pictures Entertainment

That lovable moppet with the red dress, the curly hair, the big dog, and the even bigger voice is back.

This time, though, Little Orphan Annie is back with a difference: Quvenzhane Wallis is playing an African-American orphan in an ethnically diverse, up-to-date world. And that got us thinking about other instances where producers have breathed fresh life into familiar shows by making them dance to a new beat.

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1:03pm

Fri December 5, 2014
50 Great Teachers

What The Movies Taught Us About Teaching

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 2:09 pm

Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters.
The Kobal Collection

4:23pm

Thu November 27, 2014
Movies

The Holiday Films Are Coming, From 'Moses' To 'Annie'

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 7:57 pm

Rameses (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Nefertari (Golshifteh Farahani) try to save their stricken child, a victim of one of the plagues, in Exodus: Gods And Kings.
Kerry Brown Twentieth Century Fox

Every year, Hollywood tries to go out with a bang — the question this year is, which bang will be biggest? For sheer moviemaking grandeur, you'd think it would be hard to top the subduing of the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. But Peter Jackson's only got Gandalf and armies. In Exodus: Gods And Kings, Ridley Scott's got Moses, 400,000 slaves, and an effects budget Pharaoh would envy, not to mention the parting of the Red Sea.

Shall we call that a draw?

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9:14am

Thu November 20, 2014
Remembrances

Renowned Theater And Film Director Mike Nichols Dies

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 12:43 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

3:04pm

Fri November 14, 2014
Movie Reviews

Satirists Go Serious in 'Foxcatcher' And 'Rosewater' — And It Works

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

Steve Carell ditches any pretense of comedy in Foxcatcher.
Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics

What do you get when you mix big-deal comedians with real-life calamities? Sounds like a joke, but Steve Carell and Jon Stewart are answering that question this week in their movies Foxcatcher and Rosewater. And it turns out, seriousness suits them.

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5:21pm

Fri November 7, 2014
Movies

Tripping Into A Black Hole In This Week's Movies

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 6:33 pm

A black hole might be the key to humankind's future in Interstellar.
Courtesy of Paramount

I've learned a lot about physics this week at movie screenings, and let me start by saying that I've no idea how much of it is accurate. All I can swear to is that it comes vetted by (or at least associated with) some very high-powered theoretical physicists.

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3:37pm

Fri November 7, 2014
Movie Reviews

'Viva La Libertà' Offers Harmless Electoral Fun

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 8:11 pm

A jaded politician plays hooky in Viva La Libertà, so his campaign replaces him with his identical twin brother. You know where this is going, right?
Courtesy of Distrib Films US

Whether you viewed this week's midterm elections as exhilarating or bruising, you're probably ready to move on at this point, which makes the timing problematic for Roberto Andò's lightweight election comedy, Viva La Libertà (Long Live Freedom).

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4:42pm

Thu October 30, 2014
Movies

Remembering All-Night Fright Fests And Halloween Horrorthons

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 9:42 am

Terrifying terrorramas so scary you'll need a nurse on standby! Bob Mondello says the 1993 film Matinee brought back memories of his days writing Halloween horror ad copy for a movie theater chain.
Courtesy of Universal/The Kobal CollectionTION

Halloween's rolled around again and yeah, yeah, it's a dark and stormy night. The road's washed out, phone's gone dead, the mystic's reading her Ouija board, and zombies are popping through doorways left open by a demented kewpie doll.

Been there. Seen that. Got the T-shirt.

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4:33pm

Fri October 24, 2014
Movie Reviews

Alienating Leading Men: The Force Behind 'Listen Up Philip' And 'Majeure'

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 8:59 pm

A 'controlled avalanche' gets out of control in Force Majeure.
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Back in 1940, in a review of the then-new Rodgers & Hart musical Pal Joey, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson famously asked whether a show with a "cad" for a hero could ever really work for audiences.

"How can you draw sweet water," he wondered, "from a foul well?"

Goes without saying that times have changed, what with antiheroes now common on the big screen, and cable TV celebrating everything from mobster Sopranos to sexist Mad Men, to drug dealers for whom everything always breaks Bad.

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