Brat: An ’80s story

Black and white photo of Andrew McCarthy in a tweed jacket, loosening a skinny tie.

by Eric B.

I’d completely agree with the author Jay McInerney’s (Bright Lights, Big City) assessment on the back jacket cover of Brat: An ’80s Story

“My only quibble with this absorbing, thoughtful, and sometimes painfully honest memoir is with the title; McCarthy is anything but a brat. He is certainly an unlikely movie star, and the story of how this diffident and insecure young man found himself at the center of the culture in the 1980s—and then decided to walk away from it all—makes for a fascinating read.”

Perhaps you’ve seen Andrew McCarthy on the talk show circuit, or just remember him from his 80s films. I am a fan of his work in Less than ZeroPretty in Pink, and St Elmo’s Fire. Moreover, and you may scoff, but I do realize the genius that is found in Weekend at Bernie’s. I’m a fan of McCarthy’s acting, and perhaps his general on-screen demeanor in these “period pieces.” He played thoughtful, “emo” characters before it was nearly a trope in myriad indie films (to be sure, I still love the sensitive emo characters). For example, I’d contend that Timothy Chalamet is successful in a way I’m not sure was possible in the recent past with more rigid gender roles.

Several years ago, I read some of McCarthy’s travel writing and liked his style. The piece was about Los Angeles and was personal for him, and he spiced it up with personal anecdotes about his memories. For fans of 80’s films and McCarthy, Brat is like a greatest hits collection.  

The book opens with him abruptly leaving the Pretty in Pink Hollywood premiere to slam drinks at the bar across the street. McCarthy briefly gets into his middle-class upbringing, childhood, his time at NYU studying acting, before landing his first role and dropping out to pursue Hollywood acting full time. The remainder of the book is about the roles and the experience of his meteoric rise in Hollywood during the decade. McCarthy lived in New York for the duration of his Hollywood fame, which I found surprising, but makes sense now. He laments the fact that he didn’t pursue the theater, instead of accepting some of the roles he was offered. 

He includes some interesting stories about his experiences in Hollywood and some of the characters he encountered. I would not describe this as a tell-all book, but rather a memoir of a person experiencing and observing the strange world of American film and celebrity but never really feeling terribly comfortable in it. John Hughes described him as a “wimp,” which seems like a nasty thing to say. His experience at a Paramount anniversary party with Hollywood legends and young up and comers, where he realizes he could not and had no desire to be Tom Cruise, is hilarious because we all know how their respective careers progressed. McCarthy includes many pictures, and this one of the entire group at the Paramount party is telling. 

Artists who have a tough time with the nature of celebrity interest me generally. I appreciate what it’s like to want to be noticed, appreciated, and recognized, but then not wanting all that attention. I’m terrified of someone trying to take my picture as I try to live my daily life. McCarthy has accepted his status as an 80s star and a member of the “brat pack,” even though this was a media term. He’s not seen some of these people since the respective films were completed.  

If you’re a fan of so-called “brat pack” films, or 80s movies, John Hughes films, or just looking for a book not concerning current affairs, it’s a pretty good read. I acknowledge my bias on this subject, but I enjoy McCarthy’s writing style and his reflective and analytical nature. Perhaps this comes through in his acting?  Andrew McCarthy does seem like someone I’d know, or someone I’d like, but perhaps this is how celebrity works. Briefly reflecting on his days at NYU, McCarthy said that after class he’d hang out in the “post-bohemian cross culture” of Washington Square Park, observe all the interesting people, buy two joints off a Rastafarian for a buck apiece, then go home and watch the Rockford Files. This sounds like a nice afternoon to me, or perhaps a celebrity dream date.  

Also available as an eBook and eAudiobook via OverDrive/Libby.

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Read it! Watch it!

by Emily B.

Book to film adaptations are some of the most beloved and memorable works of pop culture, and devoted fans are always excited to see their favorite novels made into movies or TV series. Whether the adaptation is completely faithful to the book or takes dramatic liberties to make the material fit the medium, reworking an author’s vision in a new format complements and enhances the reader’s understanding of the original work. Check out these awesome books, then see the stories come to life on screen! 

Paddington by Michael Bond (book and movie)
Follow the adventures of Paddington, the marmalade-loving bear from Peru, as he adjusts to life with a family of humans in London. The movie adaptations are the equivalent of a warm hug – wholesome and fun for all ages.
For all ages.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
After planning a big trip to Antarctica, the family matriarch Bernadette disappears with no notice, and it’s up to her teenage daughter to figure out what happened. Cate Blanchett stars as the titular character in the film adaptation.
For adults.

You by Caroline Kepnes (book and TV series)
An eerie tale narrated by an obsessive stalker and master manipulator, Joe, who will stop at nothing to be with his dream girl. In the television series, Penn Badgley perfectly plays the role of the unassuming creep.
For adults.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and TV series)
The perfect twisty summer read, Moriarty’s novel features elementary school drama, female friendship, and mystery. Season 1 of the television show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel, and season two continues the story and expands on the aftermath of the book’s ending.
For adults.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie with subtitles)
The heartwarming tale of a curmudgeonly old man, Ove, whose world is turned topsy-turvy when a young family moves in next door. Will this new family be able to crack Ove’s tough exterior?
For adults.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (book and movie)
This autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s tumultuous childhood growing up in Iran amidst the Islamic Revolution. The film adaptation was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2007 Academy Awards.
For ages 14+.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (book and most recent movie)
Louisa May Alcott’s beloved coming-of-age tale of the four March sisters has been adapted many times. Most recently, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation garnered six Academy Award nominations and took home the prize for Best Costume Design.
For ages 14+.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
The heart-wrenching story of Starr, a teen who witnesses her best friend’s murder at the hands of a police officer and has to deal with the emotional and political fallout that ensues.
For ages 14+.

Emily is a Customer Service Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.

It’s summer: TIME – and we’re (mostly) open!

School’s out and the cicadas are gone – it’s time for summer fun! Howard County Library System is open for browsing and borrowing, using computers and printing, as well as attending Tails & Tales in person, outdoor classes for children. Our hours are Monday & Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, and we are closed on Sundays. At this time, our study and meeting rooms are not available, but we are otherwise open for business.

A family stands in a local park with a map spread out along a low horizontal tree branch.

We can’t wait to see you again! When you visit your local branch make sure to pickup the brand new July/August issue of source. It’s summer and it’s time for… 

Authors. We are thrilled to host two bestselling authors this summer. Daniel Silva (Wed, July 21 at 7 pm) writes the long-running spy thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and Israeli spy/assassin. His latest book, The Cellist, explores one of the preeminent threats facing the West today—the corrupting influence of dirty money wielded by Russia. Gail Tsukiyama (Thu, Aug 5 at 7 pm) offers brilliant historical fiction, often centered on lives of women. Her newest book, The Color of Air, examines the threat of volcanic eruption to a Hawaiian community. Register at hclibrary.org > classes & events.

Reading. It’s not too late to join Summer Reading. Anyone can participate, with challenges and prizes for all ages. Check out Jean’s favorite children’s books for summer, listed on page 8. And Relaxing. Which is better the book or the movie? Decide for yourself from the when you read books, then watch movies adapted from the story. How faithful was it? Or, simply borrow some fun family movies to enjoy together. 

Learning. Ready for in-person classes? Join us for outdoor experiences. Prefer to stay virtual? We have online classes and book discussion groups! Pick up one of our NEW literacy activity kits for children or STEM activity kits for teens. 

Adventures. Find tips for new hikers, trail suggestions, and how to make the most of day trips. Play is a form of learning and is especially important for children’s development.

Fresh food. Everything is green and growing! Produce is at its peak, and farmers markets are happening all over the county. Read about simple ways to eat healthy, along with a few recipes and cookbook recommendations (You can also request a bundle bag.). 

Preparing. Summer is always over too soon, but we’re here to help you get ready to go back to school. Kindergarten, Here We Come! is a favorite for parents and kids preparing for their first school milestone. For students entering sixth grade, Middle School Pep Talk features tips about what to expect. 

Being Brave. Share your stories about witnessing or experiencing bias, racism, or discrimination in Howard County – as well as your stories of hope. Your stories may be shared (anonymously) with community leaders, organizations, and groups. The more stories provided, the greater the impact. 

And: We invite everyone to vote (in the Out & About category) for HCLS as the best place in Howard County to visit with kids! VOTE HERE!

We could all use a little Paddington

The film poster depicts Paddington bear in his red hat and blue coat, eating a jelly sandwich, against a blue background of the London skyline.

By Khaleel G.

I must confess a librarian’s sin: I always mix up Paddington the bear with Corduroy (who is also a bear). Three decades after first reading these books, I only remembered a cute lil’ guy, riding up an escalator, getting into good-hearted mischief. Yet over the past few years, I’ve read amazing reviews of the two Paddington films. Critics said these are some of the best family movies ever made – high praise! But like the thousands of movies, novels, albums, memoirs, histories, and graphic novels I’ve been recommended, I filed these films away in the bursting file cabinet in my mind, labeled “To Check Out, Sometime Later.”

Well, I wish I hadn’t waited so long. These films operate not only as delightful living cartoons, but they’re optimistic, contemporary, and totally absurd in that specific UK comedy way. The director, Paul King, is most famous for having worked on The Mighty Boosh, a British comedy show from the 2000s best described as visual and narrative anarchy. Here, though, he turns what might be a humdrum kids’ book adaptation into a compelling and confoundingly fun romp. 

The premise is simple, but sorta weird, as you see it happen with real actors (and a small, talking animal).  Our protagonist bear (from “Darkest Peru”) is sent north by his auntie and ventures into London alone, with a small tag around his neck reading, “Please look after this bear. THANK YOU.” Upon arriving at Paddington station, he meets the Brown family, who take him in for the night, dubbing him “Paddington” (since they can’t pronounce his name in roars of Bearish). They hope to find a new home for him, the one promised decades ago by an explorer his aunt and uncle met, who extended his hospitality should they ever visit London. Thus, the film properly begins. 

Paddington is shown in his blue coat and red hat, riding an escalator with a small white dog with a jeweled collar.

This is when Paddington sets itself apart from its PG peers. We’re introduced to the Brown family through a Wes Anderson/Royal Tenenbaums-style montage; these carefully shot sequences detail their unique personalities. Like young Judy, who suffers from an incurable case of “embarrassment,” worried about introducing her middle school crush to her family. Or the younger Jonathan, who can’t tell his school chums that he just loves steam engines. Mrs. Brown illustrates children’s books, but can’t come up with a hero, while Mr. Brown is a work-weary insurance investigator, very dry and worried. They’re just as strange as an immigrant bear with a floppy red hat, and each Brown family member discovers and accepts this over the course of the story.

Of particular note is Hugh Bonneville, who played the regal father in Downton Abbey, as Mr. Brown, who doesn’t much like the idea of living with a bear (alluding to issues around immigration and housing, a surprisingly contemporary twist). Before long, Bonneville warms to the little scamp, as they search across London for that welcoming explorer, getting into some Monty Pythonesque escapades.

Joining him is Nicole Kidman, as a mad taxidermist intent on capturing Paddington, and boy! she really gives it her all! I haven’t seen a “serious, dramatic” actor lean so hard into being a goofy yet menacing villain in a long while – though in the second film, Hugh Grant one-ups her. He plays a washed-up actor turned thief, dressing in all sorts of costumes to steal what he needs, while performing many ridiculous accents. If you can believe it, he claims this to be his finest work. On top of that, we get delightful supporting performances by BBC regulars, like Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Brendan Gleeson, each stealing their scenes with panache.

Hugh Grant is depicted in a blue and grey checked suit with ascot, and a blue wide-brimmed fedora, in front of a carnival-themed calliope.
Hugh Grant, depicted in Paddington 2.

I could go on and on about these films! I haven’t even mentioned the Rube Goldberg stunt scenes. Paddington makes some simple mistake, usually based on a misunderstanding of technology or culture, and sets off a chain of chaos. In one scene, he begins by trying to clean out his ears (a gross-out gag for the kids), but ends up flooding the Brown family’s bathroom to the ceiling, as he floats in the tub. It’s pure Looney Tunes stuff, but the combination of CG with real-world props makes it seem grounded in reality…a reality where people don’t think it’s strange that a bear can talk, but a reality all the same.

So, whether you have kids to entertain, have a fondness for British wackiness, or just want to see a very polite but confused bear bungle about London spreading chaos and also understanding, you must see Paddington and Paddington 2. I cannot recommend these two movies enough, as a spirit-lifting way to spend two evenings.

Paddington and Paddington 2 are available on DVD (rated PG), as well as the original Paddington adaptations for younger kids; the Paddington books are available in print; Corduroy is also available in print (if you want to get two fictional bears confused).  

Khaleel has worked at the Miller Branch since 2015, though he’s been back and forth between HCLS and high school, college, and graduate school since 2003.  

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

At the top, it reads "From Taika Waititi director of What We Do in the Shadows." Across an almost clear blue sky is the title "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" flanked by antlers.  Three figures are shown in close up profile - one is an adolescent boy wearing a cheetah print trucker hat, the next is a bearded man wearing a hunting hat, and the last one is a boar that appears to be mid-laugh.  Across the bottom, there are grasslands and forested mountains shrouded in mist.

Review by Kimberly

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an adventure-comedy-drama that follows rebellious twelve-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and gruff woodsman Hec (Sam Neill) on an unexpected journey through the wild bush of New Zealand. Ricky Baker has been dubbed a “real bad egg” foster kid whose crimes include spitting, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, loitering, and graffiti. This is his last chance to make it work, and he is not happy about it. The character of Ricky Baker personifies the way I remember adolescence feeling – being confident and cocky on the outside, but searching for a place to belong. It is a simple story told well with the gorgeous setting of New Zealand as backdrop. 

Director Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Boy, What We Do in the Shadows) has an uncanny ability for storytelling. He strives to change the conversation by addressing the plights of those who have been marginalized and ignored in mainstream movies. He then captures their narrative in a touching, yet playful, way. He doesn’t adhere to standard tropes or stereotypes. Waititi creates a quirky and sympathetic characters that leaves you rooting for the underdog.

I found this coming-of-age tale funny, charming, and intoxicating. It doesn’t shy away from hard topics – delving into themes of foster care, abuse, and grief. However, it never takes itself too seriously: it is rife with banter and one-liners that are perfect fodder for inside jokes – and may even have you adopting some kiwi slang.  This film has the makings of a cult classic. Taking my cue from Ricky Baker, I’ll summarize my review with a haiku:

Its one of a kind

Finds beauty in the heartbreak

Nature meets gangster

If you watch this FILM,
please COME BACK and SHARE WITH US
your haiku BELOW.

Find Hunt for the Wilderpeople on Kanopy

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language.

Kimberly is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch.  She enjoys reading, photography, crafting, and baking.