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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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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4:13pm

Wed April 8, 2015
Movie Reviews

Ties That Bind Meet Lies That Blind In 'About Elly'

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 6:23 pm

About Elly is "perched right on the fault line between modern thinking and Islamic tradition," says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Dreamlab Films

Most Americans don't have a clear picture of what everyday life is like in Iran for the obvious reason that Iran has been isolated from the West for more than three decades. Still, windows open occasionally. A few years ago, Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language film, A Separation, offered Western eyes a glimpse of a middle-class Iranian marriage under stress.

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5:03pm

Fri March 27, 2015
Movie Reviews

Photography, Misery And Beauty In 'The Salt Of The Earth'

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 8:07 pm

"I could hear the gold whispering in the souls of these men," says Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado of a gold mine in Serra Pelada.
Sebastiao Salgado Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

Having recently celebrated the accomplishments of musicians and dancers in his transcendent documentaries The Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, it perhaps makes sense that Wim Wenders would now turn his camera on a man who wields a camera.

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5:36pm

Fri March 13, 2015
Arts & Life

What's Familiar Becomes Unnerving In 'It Follows'

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 8:00 pm

It Follows "inverts the abstinence metaphor behind most teen horror flicks," says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Radius-TWC

David Robert Mitchell's debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, was a gentle, evocative story of teens and summer crushes set in Detroit. Unthreatening, sweet in the way of Freaks and Geeks, and the coming-of-age stories of John Hughes, it embraced the confusion of adolescence with warmth and affection.

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4:44pm

Fri February 27, 2015
Movie Reviews

Tense 'Eastern Boys': Cruising, and Bruising

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 8:13 pm

Eastern Boys begins as a home invasion story but evolves to something more complex, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of First Run Features

Seen from street level, the young Eastern European men cruising a Paris train station at the outset of Eastern Boys would doubtless look like individuals. But filmmaker Robin Campillo has positioned the camera overhead, and from his bird's eye perch it's clear they're working in tandem — looking out for each other, stealing, soliciting.

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4:58pm

Wed February 25, 2015
Movies

The Good, The Bad And The Hot: Movies To Warm Winter's Bite

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 3:18 pm

Sidney Poitier smolders — and swelters — in In the Heat of the Night.
Mirisch/United Artists/Kobal Collection

Plenty of movies sound as if they'll warm you up — Heat, The Towering Inferno, Hot Fuzz, Blazing Saddles, The Long Hot Summer, Paris When It Sizzles, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, In the Heat of the Night — the list goes on and on.

But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, it's tough to take a film's temperature from its title. Yes, In the Heat of the Night does swelter, both from being set in Mississippi and from having Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger spend most of its length hot under the collar. But most of the rest of those films won't warm you up much.

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5:07pm

Thu February 19, 2015
Movie Reviews

Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 8:13 pm

Wild Tales is crammed with gallows humor, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Argentina has been in the news lately for the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of a special prosecutor. So perhaps it makes sense that the country's Oscar nominee for best foreign language film is called Relatos salvajes, Spanish for Wild Tales. The film is an anthology — a collection of six separate and unrelated stories — every one of which lives up to that title.

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1:57pm

Fri February 13, 2015
Movie Reviews

Love From A To Z — And Back Again — In 'The Last Five Years'

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 6:29 pm

The finite romance in The Last Five Years is "haunting, bittersweet" says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of RADiUS

Movie musicals used to be box-office poison, but lately they've found ways to sing to a wider crowd. The onscreen Les Miz did away with lip-synching, Annie went multi-cultural, Into the Woods belted out revisionist fairy-tales — and combined, those three movies have taken in almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.

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4:41pm

Mon January 26, 2015
Movies

It'd Be No 'Folly' To Remake This Musical Classic

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 8:47 am

Bob Mondello brought in his own personal copy of the original Follies cast album — intern Patrick Fort added the starburst.
Emily Jan NPR

5:14pm

Thu January 15, 2015
Movies

'Birdman,' 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Lead Oscar Nominations

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 6:33 pm

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