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."

On Wednesday, the day all three of the largest U.S. movie exhibitors — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — shut down operations, Hollywood reported the lowest box office figures since the industry began tabulating numbers independently decades ago.

With just 440 of the nation's more than 5,500 theaters (which account for some 40,000 screens) open for business, North American cinemas took in less than $300,000 for all the movies currently in theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Critics are often asked "What's your favorite movie?" — and most of us have learned to deflect the question.

If you see a few hundred films a year, "favorite" is a moving target. Stiil, when pressed, I do have a ready answer: Buster Keaton's silent, Civil-War comedy The General.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Actor Max von Sydow, whose career stretched across seven decades, died Sunday at the age of 90. The imposing Swedish star played the title character in The Exorcist and more than 100 other roles.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The indie comedy "Saint Frances" was a film fest hit even before it won awards and a distribution deal at South by Southwest. Today it opens in theaters, and critic Bob Mondello says it's a low-key charmer.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Kirk Douglas, the self-described "ragman's son" who became a global Hollywood superstar in the 1950s and '60s, died on Wednesday. He was 103. Douglas was often cast as a troubled tough guy in films, most famously as a rebellious Roman slave named Spartacus. Off-screen, he was devoted to family and to humanitarian causes.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Encore: '1917' Review

Jan 6, 2020

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now film critic Bob Mondello's 10 best movies of the year. It is a list so jam-packed with movie greatness that - well, I'll let Bob tell you.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's time to talk about "Cats."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JELLICLE SONGS FOR JELLICLE CATS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Jellicle songs for jellicle cats, jellicle songs for jellicle cats.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A new movie called "Synonyms" has critics reaching for superlatives. Our own Bob Mondello has strong words of his own. He found the film surprising, startling, puzzling and eye-opening.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More than 400 movies in ten days - that is the Toronto International Film Festival. This year, the most talked-about films include the Mr. Rogers movie "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood"...

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

"Avengers: Endgame" has given Hollywood's summer movie season a very healthy head start, but maybe you're looking for something different. Or maybe you just can't get enough of superheroes and their super-issues. Our critic Bob Mondello has this summer preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: What's it been, six weeks since "Endgame"? And already there's another Marvel movie. But in fairness, its teen superhero is angling for a vacation far from home...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME")

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Pages