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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2:34pm

Wed June 17, 2015
Movie Reviews

'The Tribe' Says A Lot About Violence, Sex And Love — Without A Single Word

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 8:21 pm

Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy clearly intends the boarding school for the deaf as a stand-in for all the things that have gone wrong with Ukrainian society.
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films

The notion that action speaks louder than words gets quite a workout in a new movie called The Tribe. It's the often-violent story of a teenager who tries to join the in-crowd at his new school. But on the film festival circuit, what has caused a lot of talk ... is that the film has no talk. Not a single syllable of dialogue.

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4:08pm

Fri June 12, 2015
Movie Reviews

Laughs Leaven Tears In 'Me And Earl And The Dying Girl'

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 8:55 pm

Greg (Thomas Mann) is jokey, mostly as a substitute for actual social interaction.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

A movie about high school students dealing with mortality — haven't we been dipping into that well a lot lately? So the surprise was the laughs when Me and Earl and The Dying Girl became the surprise smash at this year's Sundance Film Festival, taking both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Here was a film that managed to be at once earnest and flip, capturing teen angst without wallowing in teen drama.

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3:16pm

Wed June 10, 2015
Movie Reviews

'Charlie's Country': A Worn Landscape That's Both Sad And Majestic

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 6:55 pm

Actor David Gulpilil gives a genuinely wrenching performance in Charlie's Country
Courtesy of Monument Releasing

The crevices in Charlie's careworn face look as deep as any in the Australian outback when we first spy him in Charlie's Country. He's sitting in a government-provided tin-roofed shack on territory where his aboriginal ancestors once roamed free. Where he once roamed free, in fact.

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4:55pm

Mon June 8, 2015
Movies

This Year, Women (And Girls) Rule The Big Screen

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 8:35 am

More than half of the top 10 box-office hits this year have centered on female characters, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello. But only a few — like Pitch Perfect 2 — were written or directed by women.
Richard Cartwright Universal Pictures

With Spy topping Hollywood's box-office charts this weekend, Melissa McCarthy becomes the latest woman to head a major box-office hit in 2015. And while that merely puts her in good company this year, it's hardly been common in the past.

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2:33pm

Fri June 5, 2015
Movie Reviews

In 'Spy,' Melissa McCarthy Receives Top-Billing. Finally.

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 6:47 pm

Melissa McCarthy gets a star-vehicle movie of her own in Spy.
Larry Horricks/ Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

The first time Melissa McCarthy worked with director Paul Feig, she had a bit part in his comedy Bridesmaids. The second time they worked together, in the police-comedy The Heat, McCarthy got equal billing with co-star Sandra Bullock. Now, in Spy, a globe-trotting action comedy that proves to be an ideal star-vehicle, McCarthy's finally billed above the title.

Long time coming. Worth the wait.

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3:04pm

Fri May 29, 2015
Movie Reviews

'Heaven Knows What' Adds New Wrinkles To The Street Junkie Narrative

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 6:20 pm

Heaven Knows What stars Arielle Holmes and is based on her experience as a homeless heroin addict in New York City.
Courtesy of Radius-TWC

The title Mad Love in New York City makes Arielle Holmes' memoir sound like a fun summer read. It's actually a story of homelessness and heroin addiction that has inspired a movie, Heaven Knows What, with a backstory precisely as fraught as what happens on screen.

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5:26pm

Wed May 20, 2015
Theater

'My Fair Lady' Couldn't Actually Dance All Night, So These Songs Had To Go

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 7:17 pm

Julie Andrews starred as flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway premiere of My Fair Lady.
AP

When a Broadway musical feels as effortlessly right as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's did to audiences in 1956, it's easy to imagine that it simply sprang to life that way. Not My Fair Lady. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, is filled to bursting with some of the best-known songs in Broadway history — "The Rain In Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "On the Street Where You Live" — but it turns out the show originally had other tunes that almost nobody knows.

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2:56pm

Thu May 14, 2015
Movie Reviews

A Film Critic Gets Meta (As Does Ours) In 'The Film Critic (El Crítico)'

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 2:21 pm

The romance between Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) and Sophia (Dolores Fonzi) is a checklist of cliches that the titular character would hate.
Courtesy of Music Box Films

A film critic doesn't often have to review movies about film critics — probably a good thing — but sometimes, as with Hernán Guerschuny's postmodern rom-com The Film Critic (El crítico), there's nothing to be done. That's also a good thing, as it turns out.

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1:37pm

Fri May 1, 2015
Movie Reviews

'Far From The Madding Crowd': Counterprogramming Writ Victorian

Originally published on Sat May 2, 2015 1:59 am

Far From the Madding Crowd features feisty heroines, sturdy heroes, and three — yes, three --€” men vying for the heroine's affection.
Alex Bailey/Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genre flicks on steroids — that's the general rule for this time of year, whether we're talking superheroes, supercharged cars, or romance — and in that context, the lush, overstuffed costume epic, Far From the Madding Crowd is a perfect fit.

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4:34pm

Fri April 17, 2015
Movie Reviews

A Tart Take On Bitter Realities In 'Tangerines'

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 10:05 pm

Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) is a pacifist. But NPR film critic Bob Mondello says Tangerines is an "object lesson in the resilience of ancient animosities."
Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

It's 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the Oscar-nominated Tangerines, and in a bleak, northwest corner of the Republic of Georgia called Abkhazia, the world has more or less come apart. Warring factions — Chechen separatists, Georgian troops — patrol rural roads in jeeps outfitted with bazookas and machine guns. The locals have mostly fled for more urban areas.

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