My week of film noir, supernatural teen fiction… and Thor.

Hey there internets! How was your week? Mine? Well mine broke down into three weirdly specific themes:

Film noir: I started my week by seeing Double Indemnity (#25) at my Books on Film Club and ended it with a viewing of Good Neighbours (#26) at the Lightbox. Both films involved murder, duplicity, manipulative women, and even love triangles of sorts. Everything a good film noir needs! Double Indemnity – the classic film noir trope of a blonde femme fatale seducing a man to help her murder her husband – was clearly the superior film. Between Barbara Stanwyck’s stellar performance, Billy Wilder’s clever script with noir fiction great Raymond Chandler, and probably one of my favourite Edward G. Robinson performances ever, Good Neighbours didn’t really stand a chance. At our discussion after the film, our guest speaker, Jonathan Rosenbaum, made a point that the real “love story” of the film was not between Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray’s characters, but rather between Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson. In what might be one of the earliest examples of a “bromance” caught on screen, the two play off each other, riffing back and forth and even jokingly professing their love for one another, making MacMurray’s betrayal and complicity in the murder even more heart-breaking for Robinson’s character. More than anything else, MacMurray’s character seems to carry guilt not even necessarily for the murder itself, but for deceiving and letting down his trusted friend. The ending of the film far outshines the book, giving it a poignant and touching conclusion, rather than rushed and tacked on finish of the book.

Good Neighbours, on the other hand, is slightly different. The third film from the young Canadian director, Jacob Tierney, it tells the story of three young neighbours who form an awkward friendship while a serial killer stalks the streets of their tiny Montreal neighbourhood. Trailer below!

Here’s the thing about that trailer: it doesn’t let on at all how darkly funny the film is. Or, at least, how funny it tries to be. I didn’t hate the film, but I found the tone a little off-putting. Unfortunately, the film had trouble straddling the line between dark humour and unsettling creepiness. A lot of times when I was laughing, it was an uncomfortable laugh, one that said, “I know this is supposed to be funny, at least I think this is supposed to be funny, but I’m actually a little weirded out right now…” There were a LOT of Hitchcockian undertones in the film though (something it shared with Double Indemnity,) and I confess that while I saw certain twists coming, others took me by surprise. I also thought the performances were stellar; Jay Baruchel has always been one of my favourites, but I have a new appreciation for Scott Speedman – no longer is he “not-as-cute-as-Noel” Ben from Felicity! And Emily Hampshire, who I wasn’t familiar with before this film, is now someone I will keep my eye out for in future projects. All in all, a good week for murder mystery thrillers.

Teen fiction (of the supernatural variety): Last time I was in Ottawa, I was lent the Hunger Games trilogy as well as a series of books called the “Darkest Powers” trilogy. Obviously, the Hunger Games took priority and I forgot about the other books for awhile. However, I finally decided to give the Darkest Powers series a try. I’m not going to lie to you folks – this is not any award-winning writing. This is teen fiction. About a 15 year old necromancer. And a werewolf. And a sorcerer. And a witch. And a dead telekinetic. And the secret agency that genetically altered them to make them stronger. I will now pause so you can all groan, roll your eyes, and judge me.

*pauses for judgment*

Got that out of your system? Good, because that’s not the end of it. Once I finished those three books (which took exactly three days) I began reading the fourth book in the Chicagoland Vampires Series. Now hear me out! I know vampire fiction gets a bad rap these days. Especially teen vampire fiction. But this is not Twilight. Nor is it the Sookie Stackhouse series, though it does share certain elements. The basic premise of the series is that, like in the Sookie Stackhouse books, vampires are “out” – they are a part of public knowledge and live in the public eye. But, aside from a REALLY hot blonde vampire, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. In the Chicagoland series, vampires are organized through a feudal-like system with various Houses that they must pledge allegiance to, and Masters that run these Houses. The heroine of these novels, Merit, is attacked one night on her way home from the library and left for dead, when another vampire, the Master of one of Chicago’s three Houses, finds her and turns her into a vampire to save her life. Since becoming a vampire is supposed to be a voluntary choice, Merit being turned against her will is an ongoing struggle for her and makes letting go of her humanity and her human life that much harder for her. As the books progress there is all sorts of fighting (with katanas! And magic!), supernatural political intrigue, and most importantly, sexual tension with the Master of her House and the man who saved her life, Ethan Sullivan. Trust me, these books are awesome. And the fourth one, the one I just finished? I almost cried at the end. ME. CRIED. To be fair I may or may not have been PMS-ing at the time but this is hardly the point. The point is, that fourth book ripped out my heart, threw it on the ground, then proceeded to stomp all over it. I am currently only holding it together by choosing to have faith in author Chloe Neill, that she has a brilliant endgame in mind and I will not wind up resenting her and these books for entering my life.

I wish I could explain my love of teen fiction, I really do. Especially since it’s not just any teen fiction I enjoy – I tried Gossip Girl and just couldn’t finish it. UGH. Sweet Valley High did it better, thanks. Nono, for me to get wrapped up in the lives of teenagers, it needs to be supernatural. Or at least dystopian in some regard. It needs warriors and vampires and zombies and magic and love triangles between teenagers who, realistically, are too young to be choosing who they will spend forever with. But, I guess when you crave blood or raise the dead or shape-shift or battle to the death on national television, you figure your options are limited. Whatever the reason, I am always finding myself engrossed in these series. It took me a week to read Double Indemnity, and it is not a long book, not by a long shot. I read the four books mentioned above in four days. Why? Because I couldn’t put them down. Because I had to know, will Chloe choose Derek or Simon? How did she get these powers? What’s the deal with her amulet? And what about Merit! Can she ever truly trust Ethan? Will she join the Red Guard behind his back? Is the Greenwich Presidium at all what they seem, or do they serve a darker and more nefarious purpose? I MUST KNOW!! I was so frustrated with the end of the Darkest Powers trilogy that I actually huffed in exasperation when I finished it. THAT’S IT?!? You can’t end like that! Weak, Kelly Armstrong. Weak sauce. And thank God the fifth book in the Chicagoland series comes out in November and not NEXT summer. I think I’d go insane if that was the case.

So there you have it folks. My not-so-secret shame: I heart teen fiction of the supernatural variety.

Thor: In between all that craziness above, I also managed to see Thor (#27). Of all the superhero movies coming out this summer, this was probably the one I was most intrigued to see (though, as I keep seeing ads for X-Men: First Class, my reticence for that film is lessening and my interest is continually piqued.) I love me some Marvel superheroes. I love me some Natalie Portman. And I love me some hot boys. Seriously, have you seen Chris Hemsworth? I mean, REALLY looked at him?

... I'm sorry, was I saying something?

SERIOUSLY. GOD. DAMN. So yeah, the movie was kind of a priority for me. And it was really, really enjoyable, a decent way to start the summer movie season. Though, I will say, it played out a leetle too sitcom-y for me at times. I mean, I’m all for humour, there’s always humour in these films, but there were points in the film where you could almost hear the canned laughter from the studio audience. That being said, I loved the fighting, the little in-jokes to all the Marvel fans (tee hee hee! They just referenced Tony Stark! tee hee hee! Clint Barton! tee hee hee!) and how adorable Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman were together. All I need is for Captain America to not suck and I will officially be all aboard “The Avengers Is Gonna be AWESOME!!” party bus.

The best part? Literally the DAY after I saw the movie, I saw this hilarious little offering from How It Should Have Ended:

“I’ve been carrying this hammer all day, and my arms are so thor!” HA! Oh Thor, you cheeky monkey…



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