Enchanting Eccentrics Part 2: Watch on hoopla and Acorn TV

Summer blockbusters are all well and good, but if you’re not really in the mood for a creature feature or epic save-the-world adventure, take heart: the Abbot Library may just have some congenial viewing for you! Charming-oddball flicks may not always have quite the box-office stamina of superhero films, but they’re sure to reward the discriminating viewer who’s not afraid to take some cinematic chances on unlikely heroes.

So, if you’ve got a good sense of humor, quite a bit of heart, and are up for the challenge, have a look at our newly-curated collection on hoopla–2020 APL Enchanting Eccentrics (Film). Here you’ll find French, British, and Swedish films with protagonists ranging from a piquantly mischievous ingénue to a suicidal curmudgeon to an entire village-worth of stubborn Welshmen and women. 

Amélie captured hearts and tickled funnybones on both sides of the Atlantic when it was first released in 2001, and it has certainly lost nothing of its appeal. Sweetly off-kilter since childhood, the title character toggles between an emotionally distant father, a reclusive but wise old painter, and the amour she worships from afar–a misfit like herself with a peculiar photographic obsession.

A Man Called Ove brings Fredrik Backman’s beloved book to life, rendering the world-weary Ove with striking–often heartbreaking, but never sentimental–precision, all the while pitting the  dark humor of his perspective against the irrepressible liveliness of a neighboring young family. 

For something a bit more frothy, yet with an abundance of World War I-era period charm, you might turn to one of film history’s longest-titled movies: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain. Starring a youthful Hugh Grant and sparkling Tara Fitzgerald, this mock-epic romp showcases idiosyncratic British (excuse me, Welsh) local pride at its best. 

If you listened to the previously-recommended book The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (yet another candidate for longest title!), you might want to judge for yourself how well it translated to the big screen.

Other offerings will quietly break your heart (Still Life, starring Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey), have you rooting for a gang of Baby Boomers-turned-bank-robbers (Golden Years, also available on Acorn TV), and revive your belief in happy endings–even for the most cantankerous and neurotic of characters (This Beautiful Fantastic–see also a previous review of the film).

If you’re ready to commit to a bit of bingeing, check out 2020 APL Enchanting Eccentrics (TV), on hoopla, featuring two BBC series that just about wrote the playbook for unconventional character-based comedy.

Over the course of three captivating seasons, The Detectorists follows the travails and triumphs of two endearing geeks (played by Toby Jones of The Hunger Games and Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Carribean) who are forever hoping that their next metal-detecting session will uncover a hoard of Saxon gold. Doc Martin (starring Martin Clunes)–all nine seasons of which are also available on Acorn TV–introduces an apparently opposite protagonist, a high-flying London surgeon whose suddenly-developed hemophobia sends him to a Cornish backwater. But his social awkwardness, essential loneliness, and refusal to suffer fools gladly somehow render him irresistible. 

Acorn TV offers a wealth of similar fare, a standout of which is Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry as a surprisingly sympathetic solicitor. Unlike Doc Martin, the main character is the sanest of the bunch in his Norfolk town, and he finds himself disentangling clients’ problems while coping with his own dysfunctional family. You’ll be tickled and captivated by his adventures.

Here’s hoping you find plenty of eccentric enchantment to while away the summer hours!

Enchanting Eccentrics Part 1: Listen with hoopla and Overdrive/Libby

Why are we drawn to fictional misfits? Is it because they are more courageous than we are, seemingly unafraid of being themselves? Or is it because they act out our own hidden insecurities and find love and acceptance anyway–giving us hope? Or perhaps we just love rooting for the underdog, the not-so-perfect, the slightly off-kilter. Whatever the reason, if you’d like a bit of quirky charm in your life, you’re in for a treat with digital audiobooks from hoopla and Overdrive/Libby.

You’ll find plenty of idiosyncratic appeal amongst the selections in our newly-curated audio collection on hoopla: 2020 APL Enchanting Eccentrics (Audio). If you were a fan of the 2002-2009 TV series Monk, then you’ll be happy to find that Lee Goldberg–who has recently collaborated with the likes of Janet Evanovich–wrote a series of novels starring the obsessive-compulsive detective. Some of the eight audiobooks available in this collection were adapted into episodes, while others find Mr. Monk facing new adventures on the streets of San Francisco, always with a long-suffering, hand-wipe-toting assistant in tow.

You’ll also find four novels by Phaedra Patrick, a British author who has made something of a name for herself with gently humorous tales starring hapless, lonely men of a certain age who gradually open themselves up to the possibilities of joy, friendship, and love. Benedict Stone, Arthur Pepper, and Mitchell Fisher will capture your empathy and imagination as you join them on their quests. If you’d like a book along the same lines but with an eccentric female protagonist, you’ll not be disappointed by Patrick’s departure from her usual approach in The Library of Lost and Found. You’ll be charmed by seaside librarian Martha Storm, an imaginative, socially awkward introvert with a passion for assisting others while chronically neglecting her own deep-seated needs. Ruth Hogan (another British author of a similar ilk) and Jonas Jonasson (author of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared) are sure to entrance you, as well.

Enchanting eccentrics abound on Overdrive/Libby as well. Similar in tone and characterization to Phaedra Patrick’s books, Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry–read by excellent British character actor Jim Broadbent (who has lent his talent to films as diverse as Iron Lady and the animated Paddington movies)–sends an aging, henpecked husband on an unexpected journey of self-discovery and emotional awakening. And we mustn’t forget Fredrik Backman’s crusty curmudgeons, both male and female; even if you’ve already read and loved A Man Called Ove, don’t despair! Try My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here for yet more comic tales of delightful loners who find connection and hope on their own terms.

Tune in again for film and TV suggestions in the same vein. In the meantime, here’s to lovable eccentrics everywhere!