Bob Mondello | WYPR

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."

When Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's dueling Michael Caine impressions went viral during the first season of their food-tasting TV series, The Trip, it was more or less inevitable that the show's 6.5 hours of eating scallops and celeb impersonations would be edited down into movie form.

Taylor Sheridan's tense, terse police procedural/Western, Wind River, begins with an icy, moonlit, Wyoming landscape. There's no one for miles, except a gasping, Native American teenage girl running in the snow, terrified and barefoot.

She falls. Screams. Gets up. Runs some more.

A close-up of ice melting in brilliant sunshine is the first thing you see in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. It's gorgeous — snow crystals glistening, moisture dripping from them into a pool of water so pure and clear it makes you thirsty.

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The dark, feminist tale, Lady Macbeth doesn't deal with royalty or take place in medieval Scotland. It has no witches, nor much rinsing of blood from hands. It's not even based on Shakespeare. But its leading lady, a teen bride when we meet her, still lives up to that title.

Just a few days after director David Lowery finished shooting Disney's live-action Pete's Dragon, he started a project that could hardly have been more different — the micro-budget, quietly revelatory, poetic, meditative, and aptly titled A Ghost Story.

Lowery shot in secret and very quickly. His setting, an entirely unremarkable suburban rambler that was slated for demolition, which allowed him to destroy it when necessary, and his chief storytelling device a childlike representation of a ghost — a figure draped in a white bedsheet.

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Maudie is the largely true story of a Canadian painter whose work was so exuberant, you'd never guess at the difficult life she lived. In her 30s when we meet her, Maud is tiny, bent of frame, fingers crippled by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

As played by a plucky Sally Hawkins, she has been treated all her life as if she were a child. Which is precisely what her brother does, when he tells her she's going to have to stay with their Aunt Ida, now that he's sold their house out from under her.

"I'd look after it," she tells him.

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