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 a quarter-century, 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 partner 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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Movie Reviews
3:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

In 'Belle,' A Complex Life Tangled In Class And Commerce

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a British admiral.
David Appleby/Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:17 am

Here's a unique specialty for a movie studio: slavery films. Last year, Fox Searchlight brought us an Oscar winner about a free black man hauled into 12 years of slavery. Now, in Amma Asante's Belle, the company is releasing what's essentially the reverse of that story — a similarly torn-from-life (though significantly less wrenching) tale of a slave girl who had the great good fortune to be raised as a British aristocrat.

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Movies
3:17 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Bob Hoskins: A Specialist In Tough Guys With Soft Hearts

Hoskins in one of his most memorable roles, detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Buena Vista Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 6:00 pm

British actor Bob Hoskins died last night of pneumonia at 71. He'll certainly be remembered for starring with cartoon characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit — but that was just one of many films in which he played tough guys with soft hearts.

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Movie Reviews
2:05 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Feminine, Foreign, And Struggling To Come Of Age

Alex Brendemuehl plays a mysterious doctor, obsessed with perfection and purity, who befriends an Argentine family in The German Doctor.
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 5:18 pm

Sex and violence mean one thing in Hollywood, quite another overseas. At any rate, it'll seem that way to anyone watching this week's most alarming foreign-language films: Francois Ozon's coming-of-age saga Jeune et Jolie, and the Argentine thriller The German Doctor.

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Movie Reviews
7:07 am
Sun April 20, 2014

'Fading Gigolo' Full Of Loneliness And Longing

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 12:34 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Actor John Turturro is known for his work in films like "Quiz Show" and "The Big Lebowski." With his long face and hang-dog look, he's probably not what you'd call a matinee idol. But he went ahead and cast himself as the title character in his new movie, "Fading Gigolo." And he cast Woody Allen as his pimp. Critic Bob Mondello says it's easy to imagine ways this concept might go terribly wrong, but it doesn't.

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Movie Reviews
3:08 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Loneliness And Longing — And Woody Allen — In 'Fading Gigolo'

John Turturro plays a gigolo — and Woody Allen is his pimp — in the new Fading Gigolo.
Millennium Entertainment

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 6:13 pm

With his long face and hangdog appearance, actor John Turturro is no one's idea of a matinee idol — not even his own — so he raised a lot of eyebrows when he cast himself as the title character in Fading Gigolo. Even more when he cast Woody Allen as his pimp. So it may come as a relief when things don't go as wrong with what turns out to be a surprisingly sweet little dramedy as they might have.

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Movie Reviews
3:30 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Big Names, High Production Values ... And These Are Indie Flicks?

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play some really hip vampires in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
Sandro Kopp Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 7:13 pm

A small budget doesn't mean a film can't have big-name stars or high production values. Witness the rural Southern drama Joe, which brings Nicolas Cage back to indie films, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which turns the city of Detroit into an otherworldly landscape. Their low-budget aesthetic also allows these films to turn Hollywood conventions inside out.

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Remembrances
3:03 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney, All-American Boy For More Than 90 Years, Dies

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 6:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Mickey Rooney, who lived a long life on stage and screen, died last night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93. For a while, the star seem to have it all, but he ended up playing the comeback kid as our film critic Bob Mondello remembers.

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Movie Reviews
3:17 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Stay Classy, Norwich: 'Alan Partridge' Aims For American Success

Steve Coogan brings his Alan Partridge character — a conceited, petty, utterly inept broadcast blowhard who once killed a guest on live TV — to the big screen in Alan Partridge.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 6:43 pm

Say the name Alan Partridge in Britain, and everyone knows who you're talking about: An airheaded, funny and entirely fictional broadcaster prone to saying things like, "You can keep Jesus — as far as I'm concerned, Neil Diamond will always be King of the Jews."

British comedian Steve Coogan has been playing Partridge on radio and TV for more than 20 years. Recently, the character made a successful leap to British movie theaters — and his new movie may make a successful leap across the Atlantic as well.

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Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Send Out The Doves: 'Noah' Lands On Solid Ground

Ila (Emma Watson) and her husband, Shem, are two passengers aboard the ark built by Noah to escape God's flood in Noah, Darren Aronofsky's imagining of the biblical tale.
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 5:42 pm

The story of Noah's Ark is getting blockbuster treatment in Hollywood's new biblical epic Noah. Darren Aronofsky's film about the Old Testament shipbuilder has been sparking controversy — but there's no denying that the Great Flood, digitized, is a pretty great flood.

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Movie Reviews
12:06 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Addicted To Sex, But Not Really Having Much Fun

Stacy Martin (right, with Sophie Kennedy Clark) plays the younger version of Charlotte Gainsbourg's sex-addict protagonist in Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac — a study of sex and intimacy that's calculated, characteristically for this director, to provoke.
Christian Geisnaes Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 7:47 pm

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has found all sorts of ways to provoke moviegoers in the past — with metal spikes in Antichrist, by ignoring narrative conventions in Dogville, by presenting depression as the only reasonable reaction to the world as we know it — and then destroying that world — in Melancholia. And as if this last weren't enough, he told a Nazi joke to a crowd prepared to shower him with adulation at Cannes.

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