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 that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.

For more than three decades, Mondello has reviewed movies and covered the arts for NPR, seeing at least 300 films 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 USA Today, The Washington Post, Preservation Magazine, and other publications, and has appeared as an arts commentator on commercial and public television stations. He spent 25 years reviewing live theater for Washington City Paper, DC's leading alternative weekly, and to this day, he remains enamored of the stage.

Before becoming a professional critic, Mondello learned the ins and outs of the film industry by heading the public relations department for a chain of movie theaters, and he reveled in film history as advertising director for an independent repertory theater.

Asked what NPR pieces he's proudest of, he points to an April Fool's prank in which he invented a remake of Citizen Kane, 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."

When you stand in the center of Plaza del Congreso in downtown Buenos Aires, looking at the dome of Argentina's Capitol building, there's an imposing grey ghost of a building just to the right. It's a deteriorating art nouveau masterpiece: the Edificio del Molino, closed for decades, and now in the middle of a multi-year restoration.

The restorers opened it to the public for just a few hours recently, and a crowd started lining up on the sidewalk hours early, two and three abreast. When the doors finally opened, the line stretched almost three blocks.

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We meet soon-to-be-class-valedictorian Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as he's addressing a high school assembly in Northern Virginia, saying all the right things about a rosy future. He is clearly practiced and comfortable in the spotlight, popular with students and with teachers, despite a wrenching childhood in war-torn Eritrea before he was adopted and brought to the U.S. He's a success story, as the school principal never tires of saying.

As a college sophomore, I knew exactly what the Apollo astronauts would find when they arrived on the moon: a desolate rockscape, craters shining white in reflected earthglow — and a big, black monolith.

Stanley Kubrick showed us all of that in the top-grossing movie of 1968 — 2001: A Space Odyssey — a full 15 months before Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. And even Kubrick was late to the party: Moviegoers had been heading moonward from pretty much the moment there were filmmakers to lead the way.

When Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and her partner (Michaela Watkins) arrive in small-town Alabama for the reading of her grandfather's will, she thinks they're inheriting a house. But to pay for his final years, he'd taken out a reverse mortgage, so instead, she's handed ... an antique sword.

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The play Shakespeare called "Hamlet" has been reimagined as a new film called "Ophelia." Critic Bob Mondello says its leading lady sees the world a little differently than the sweet prince did.

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The title of the new film "The Fall Of The American Empire" makes it sound very grand. Critic Bob Mondello says it's actually an intimate crime comedy with an intellectual twist.

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The Avengers were warned in their last movie, "Infinity War," that an intergalactic villain intended to wipe out half the universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR")

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A new movie is out that looks at events that shook the world a decade ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HOTEL MUMBAI")

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Thousands of wild horses still roam public lands in Western states. The government captures a few hundred each year to be tamed and sold at auction. The tamers are prison inmates. They've inspired a new film, a drama called "The Mustang." Here's critic Bob Mondello.

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Some Oscar winners this year will have to keep their thank-you's to the length of a commercial break. As NPR's Bob Mondello reports, this is the latest effort to shorten the marathon telecast.

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Five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney has died. He leapt to international fame in the period comedy "Tom Jones" and went on to play characters as varied as Daddy Warbucks, Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul II. Bob Mondello offers a remembrance.

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An Oscar-winning director from Iran, stars from Spain and Argentina - critic Bob Mondello says the new movie "Everybody Knows" marries far-flung talent with a story about a wedding gone wrong.

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And leading the pack with today's Oscar nominations - "Roma" and "The Favourite." And here's a quick sampling of the eight contenders for best picture.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FAVOURITE")

Young Lara is asleep as Girl, Belgium's official submission for this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film, begins. Her mane of straight blonde hair falls across her cheek as her five-year-old brother Milo (Oliver Bodart) climbs onto her bed, whispering her name.

It's clearly a ritual: As she wakes, she stays motionless — then, suddenly, hoists him in the air. The boy giggles.

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To talk about the new M. Night Shyamalan thriller "Glass," we need to go back to the year 2000.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "UNBREAKABLE")

SAMUEL L JACKSON: (As Elijah Price) It has begun.

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Carol Channing, Broadway's original Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!", died early this morning at 97. She was a performer of many gifts, as critic Bob Mondello remembers.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: She had a wide-eyed innocence...

In its first issue of 2019, National Geographic named a shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina "the world's most beautiful bookstore." NPR was ahead of the curve. Bob Mondello filed this report 18 years ago, shortly after the Teatro Gran Splendid was converted into El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

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Superheroes have helped push movie ticket sales to a record $11.8 billion this year. Money isn't everything, though. Even in Hollywood, quality also counts. Here's critic Bob Mondello with his list of the year's 10 best films plus a few extras.

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