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."

This week the world's been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.

Imagine the worst opera singer ever. Now imagine that she's determined to perform in public. That's the premise of an award-winning French satire that's based on a true story. It's called Marguerite, and it follows a middle-aged socialite by the same name.

Marguerite has very little to do. While the roaring 1920s roar elsewhere and her husband spends all his time with a mistress, Marguerite sits in her Downton Abbey-style mansion outside Paris surrendering her soul to music.

Zootopia is both an animated charmer and a theme-park ready world that's precisely what it sounds like: an anthropomorphic utopia where animals have overcome the predator/prey divide to live in near-perfect harmony, in ecologically distinct districts. Disney animators have conjured up in gratifyingly intricate detail a Tundra Town, Sahara Square, even a hamster-sized village for mice and moles.

The Danish entry in the foreign language Oscar sweepstakes, A War, begins in Afghanistan, deep in Taliban territory. A Danish patrol is walking single file across a field. Each man steps where the previous man stepped ... alas, to no avail. A land mine explodes, killing the baby-faced last soldier in the line.

Marvel's new superhero movie Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds, a fact that, up to now, would likely not have been considered much of a selling point. This is not, after all, Reynolds' first stint as a superhero. There was that catastrophic Green Lantern movie, his animated supersnail in Turbo, and he played this character very briefly in what's arguably the least of the X-Men movies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The new movie, Rams, has absolutely nothing to do with Peyton Manning. It's a story from Iceland that involves sheep, snow, a herd-afflicting virus called scrapie and sufficient sibling rivalry to power a Greek tragedy.

Like many — perhaps most — Americans, I've never been to Iowa. But I and much of my generation learned a lot about Iowans years ago from a classic American musical. I knew from the age of 8 that Iowans are stubborn. I learned that from the song "Iowa Stubborn" in Broadway's The Music Man. My folks had seen the show and told me how, when traveling salesman Harold Hill got to River City, Iowa, everybody followed him around because he was an outsider — but they were kind of weird and standoffish.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Pages