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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Tonight, Hollywood holds its annual cocktail party for the masses, the Golden Globes. And NPR's Bob Mondello is here - Bob tragically without a tuxedo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOB MONDELLO: And without drinks, which is even more tragic. This always strikes me as one of the silliest parties of the year. It is essentially a bunch of people who are foreign journalists who don't know all that much about film, who have decided to give awards. And because they come out before the Oscars, Hollywood takes them seriously and sends big stars. And so they have this television show that gets big ratings. It doesn't actually have very much to do with whether the movies are good, bad or indifferent. And I always find it crazy that people watch them.

ROBERTS: You know, the other thing that strikes me looking at the nominees is that all of the nominees for best drama came out just in the last couple of weeks in December. Why is everything so backloaded to the end of the year?

MONDELLO: Well, the old theory was that the Oscar voters were so old that they didn't have enough memory to ...

ROBERTS: Is that true?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: Yes. I don't - they wouldn't remember the stuff early on. I don't think that that's actually the reason. I mean, it's become structural in the industry that they release movies that they think have a shot at the Oscars towards the end of the year, so that they will be fresh in everyone's mind. And the result of that is that if you have a serious movie, and you're thinking about releasing it in January or February, you hold it because all the movies it's competing with are going to be those Oscar nominees that are - that have, you know, 12 Oscar nominations in their advertising. And your picture isn't going to have any of that because it just opened and isn't eligible. The exception to that rule is documentaries and foreign films. They get released early on. And those are most of the good pictures that come out in the first part of the year.

ROBERTS: Like what?

MONDELLO: There was this amazing documentary called "U2 3D." Now, I would not have said that a concert film is going to do what it did to me. But boy, did it do it.

(Soundbite of documentary "U2 3D")

MONDELLO: There was a point in the middle of this picture where I was about to tap the guy in front of me on the shoulder to tell him to stop waving his arms. And then I realized they weren't his arms. The shot was from in the crowd of the movie and they were on screen. The 3D effect is so realistic that I felt like those arms were right in front of my face. It was really remarkable. And I don't know if it happens for all of the concert films that they make these days, but this one was really, really well-designed and one of the best pictures of the year, and it came out early. So, it's not inconceivable that a movie of that sort will come out.

ROBERTS: So, documentaries, foreign films - did Hollywood offer anything decent in the first part of the year?

MONDELLO: Oh, yeah, a couple of pictures. Not a lot. But there was one I thought was going to do a lot of business. It was a teen comedy called "Charlie Bartlett," and I expected it to make a big star of Anton Yelchin, who is this kid from "Huff." In the picture, he plays a kid who has always been to prep schools, but who always gets kicked out of them. He's the most polite kid in the world, and now he's going to go to public school.

(Soundbite of movie "Charlie Bartlett)

Mr. ANTON YELCHIN: (As Charlie Bartlett) Mom, I think I might take the bus in tomorrow.

Ms. HOPE DAVIS: (As Marilyn Bartlett) Really? I was going to have Thomas drive you.

Mr. YELCHIN: (As Charlie Bartlett) I know, but I don't think anybody else is gonna show up with a chauffer.

Ms. DAVIS: (As Marilyn Bartlett) You're probably right.

Mr. YELCHIN: (As Charlie Bartlett) Have you taken your Klonopin today?

Ms. DAVIS: (As Marilyn Bartlett) I haven't. Where do you suppose I put that?

Mr. YELCHIN: (As Charlie Bartlett) Probably in your purse.

Ms. DAVIS: (As Marilyn Bartlett) Oh, there you are. What would I do without you, Charlie?

MONDELLO: Now, you may be getting the impression that he knows his way around psychopharmacology.

ROBERTS: Right.

MONDELLO: It's very interesting. He becomes the school's shrink, in a way. He sets up his office in the restroom, and kids come to him with their problems. They sit in the adjoining stall. It's almost like a confessional. And it's sort of a counterculture picture, very appealing. Did no business. It didn't even crack $4 million. So no one went to see this picture, but it was really quite engaging.

ROBERTS: Now, here's the risk to being on the radio: You get yourself quoted back to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: So, we actually did go back through your files to find some movies from the first part of the year that you liked.

MONDELLO: OK.

ROBERTS: And you said nice things about this movie called "The Visitor." We're going to play a scene where a middle-aged widower and a young Senegalese drummer have a kind of bonding moment over music. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The drummer in the movie was Syrian, not Senegalese.]

(Soundbite of movie "The Visitor")

Mr. HAAZ SLEIMAN: (As Tarek Khalil) Walter, I know you're a very smart man, but with the drum you have to remember not to think. Thinking just screws it up, OK?

Mr. RICHARD JENKINS: (As Professor Walter Vale) OK.

Mr. SLEIMAN: (As Tarek Khalil) Now, give it a couple of bangs.

(Soundbite of drum beating)

Mr. SLEIMAN: (As Tarek Khalil): Not so hard, you are not angry at it.

Mr. JENKINS: (As Professor Walter Vale) OK.

(Soundbite of drum beating)

Mr. SLEIMAN: (As Tarek Khalil) Better. Did you think?

Mr. JENKINS: (As Professor Walter Vale) No.

Mr. SLEIMAN: (As Tarek Khalil) Good. C'mon, follow me.

(Soundbite of drum beating)

MONDELLO: It's a really, really touching story that ends up being very much about immigration and immigration issues in the country, but isn't at all preachy about them and is a quite fascinating picture. I actually think this one might be remembered at Oscar time, but you can never tell what the Oscar folks will do. It's really just hard to predict.

ROBERTS: NPR's Bob Mondello. We've got a list of Bob's favorite movies from early last year up on our Web site, npr.org. Thanks, Bob.

MONDELLO: It's a pleasure, always.

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