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."

Crip Camp opened the Sundance Film Festival two months ago, and it was supposed to arrive in theaters today. But with nearly all movie theaters closed, it's arriving instead on Netflix — and it's a window on a revolution.

The first person we meet is Berkeley Rep sound designer Jimmy LeBrecht, who's climbing above the theater's stage without the use of his legs. He was born with spina bifida. "They didn't think I was going to live more than a couple of hours," we hear him say. "Apparently I had different plans."

There's some hopeful news for the film industry coming from China.

As the number of new cases of the coronavirus declines in China, the Chinese government is allowing a few movie theaters to reopen for the first time since the country's theaters were shuttered by decree in January.

According to the entertainment news website Deadline, about 500 have reopened (less than 5% of Chinese exhibitors), mostly in Xinjiang and in far-flung provinces across the country.

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.

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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.

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Imagine a world filled with mythical creatures but not with magic. That was the task for Pixar's animators when they were making the new film "Onward." Critic Bob Mondello says it's a road trip movie about two teens on a quest.

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The title of Ken Loach's new film comes from the door tags a British parcel company leaves when it can't make a delivery. Critic Bob Mondello says the working-class drama "Sorry We Missed You" has a subtext no one will miss.

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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.

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The movie "Sonic The Hedgehog" set a record at the box office this weekend. That surprised industry observers and even the film's own studio. NPR's Bob Mondello has details.

In Hollywood, the bean counters always talk at this time of year about the "Oscar Bounce" — the boost films get at the box office from Academy Award nominations.

The bounce, which can amount to tens of millions of dollars, is much sought-after by film studios, but their calculus may be altered by recent changes in the industry — especially by the advent of streaming services.

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.

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We're talking a lot about Iowa today. Many NPR reporters are on the ground telling us about what's happening with the caucuses. Our movie critic Bob Mondello is not one of them. In fact, he's never even been to Iowa. But as we first heard him tell us in 2016, Bob feels like he knows a lot about its residents thanks to a classic American musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

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Encore: '1917' Review

Jan 6, 2020

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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.

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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.

NPR's movie critic and Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts picked 20 of their favorite films of the year.

1917

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Looking back at the movies that helped define this year, it's hard not to notice one big thing...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HUSTLERS")

JENNIFER LOPEZ: (As Ramona Vega) Baby, we got to start thinking like these Wall Street guys. You see what they did to this country?

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