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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NPR Ed
4:37 pm
Fri July 31, 2015

The Play's The Thing — High School Productions Down The Decades

LA Johnson NPR

Originally published on Sat August 1, 2015 7:54 pm

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Movie Reviews
4:39 pm
Fri July 17, 2015

Sleuthing With Offbeat Variations In 'Irrational Man' And 'Mr. Holmes'

Irrational Man is a Hitchcock-style mystery wrapped in a Woody Allen romance.
Sabrina Lantos Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Mon July 20, 2015 10:03 pm

I'm gonna guess that in pitch meetings, and maybe even in script form, Woody Allen's Irrational Man and Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes looked a lot like police procedurals.

Happily their directors didn't leave them on the page, so they've warped into something a little different: A mystery of memory and the aging mind in the case of Mr. Holmes, a romance in the Hitchcock tradition for Irrational Man.

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Movie Reviews
4:44 pm
Fri July 10, 2015

Be Your Own Self: The Lessons Of 'Do I Sound Gay?' And 'Tangerine'

Sean Baker's Tangerine offers up a gallery of the vivid, profane, utterly riotous characters who inhabit the fringes of LA's sex industry.
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri July 10, 2015 8:22 pm

Some movie titles tell you exactly what the movie's going to be about. Others, not so much.

The new documentary Do I Sound Gay? falls firmly into the first category. (The comedy Tangerine, which has nothing to do with citrus, falls just as firmly into the latter; more about it in a moment.)

But first, the obvious question: Do I sound gay? I mean, you hear me on the radio all the time. (Or, if you don't, you can also hear me in the audio link above.) So really, do I?

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Movies
4:28 pm
Fri July 3, 2015

On Its 40th Anniversary, Remembering The Terror Of 'Jaws'

Originally published on Fri July 3, 2015 6:31 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Rachel Martin, and I have a confession to make. It's the Fourth of July weekend, and there was a really big movie made in 1975, 40 years ago, pegged to this weekend - "Jaws."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAWS")

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Movie Reviews
5:28 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

'Magic Mike XXL' And 'Terminator Genisys' Bring The Testosterone

Originally published on Wed July 1, 2015 6:22 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dinosaurs have been rampaging through movie theaters for weeks. And now, just in time for Independence Day, they are joined by robots and male strippers. Critic Bob Mondello says let the block busting go on.

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Movie Reviews
2:34 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
3:16 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movies
5:18 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
1:55 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
4:14 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movies
6:45 pm
Mon May 25, 2015

Hollywood Promises Summer Of Blockbusters, And Could Deliver

Originally published on Mon May 25, 2015 6:52 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Theater
5:34 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
4:31 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

'Mad Max' Reboot Is A 'Gorgeous, Scrap-Metal Demolition Derby'

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 6:58 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Movie Reviews
2:56 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
1:37 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

'Far From The Madding Crowd': Counterprogramming Writ Victorian

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

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

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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Remembrances
5:38 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Pat Dowell, Longtime NPR Film Critic, Dies

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 6:25 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Longtime NPR contributor Pat Dowell died Sunday after a long illness. She was 66. Pat covered film for nearly 30 years. Our critic Bob Mondello remembers his late colleague.

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Movie Reviews
8:13 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

A Tart Take On Bitter Realities In 'Tangerines'

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
4:13 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
8:07 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

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

"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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Movies
5:30 pm
Fri March 6, 2015

'Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Stays True To Its Name

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 7:04 pm

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench reunite in Jaipur, India, for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which came to theaters Friday. Despite a stellar cast, the sequel to the surprise 2012 hit comedy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is second best.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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