By: Nimra Khan

Hayao Miyazaki, legendary Japanese animator and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, best known for his work on animated classics like Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro, received an honorary Oscar at the Governor’s Award Ceremony on Nov 8. All I have to say is it’s about time.

Miyazaki has become known as the “Walt Disney of Japan,” who still adheres to the traditional style of animation where one draws out each frame of the movie by hand. This incredible attention to detail is present across the twenty feature films that Studio Ghibli has created since 1986 and resulted in films that rival many works of art. These films have brought considerable success in Japan, especially with the overseas success of Spirited Away, which is also the highest grossing film in Japan.

This success is furthered by the enthusiasm of John Lasseter (chief creative officer at Disney and Pixar), who has worked to show American audiences the beauty of Miyazaki’s work, resulting in the two animators becoming friends over the years. Unfortunately, despite Miyazaki’s efforts and powerful partnerships, he has only received one Oscar back in 2001 for Spirited Away. While he has since been nominated twice for other works, this is only the second Oscar for the filmmaker, making the award that much more important.

Miyazaki took the stage at the ceremony as Lasseter enthusiastically presented him the award. Given to us through a translator, Miyazaki began his acceptance speech with “my wife tells me that I’m a very lucky man,” as he described how happy he was to have been a part of the last era of animated films created with pen and paper. Regardless of the awkwardness that language barriers provide, Miyazaki possessed the decorum of a man with enough experience to rival most people in the room, as he stepped off the stage with an “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you).

Unfortunately, this award also follows Miyazaki’s official announcement of retirement, making The Wind Rises his final feature film with Studio Ghibli. Like many people all over the world, Miyazaki’s films inspired me when I was a child, and continue to inspire me into adulthood. I’m heartbroken to see him leave, but I will always be thankful for the respect I gained for animation through his work. This Oscar only scratches the surface in terms of appreciating the amount of joy he has brought to children all around the world, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Like many fans, I have my fingers crossed hoping that this won’t be the last we see of Miyazaki.

By: Nimra Khan

When you think of Scotland, what usually comes to mind? I know, I know: kilts and bagpipes. I used to be on the same page. Thankfully, the recently released Outlander TV show, has begun to shine some new light on our highland cousins. When I first heard of Outlander, it was for its amazing openness to the independence of a woman in a world of men, and how the show was promised not to shy away from a woman enjoying sex--without repercussions. But mostly I thought: "Scottish history and time travel? What more could I ask for!"

Outlander follows the story of Claire Beauchamp - a woman who was a nurse during the Second World War - as she travels through Scotland with her husband Frank Randall. During their visit to a Scottish town, Claire is transported back in time to 1743 Scotland opening up a world of possibilities. The show is based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, originally published in 1991; because of this, it already had a huge fan following. I recently finished the book myself, and the show really does well to mould itself to the original. In particular, Claire is a refreshingly independent, realistic, and strong female character, helping to make Outlander so appealing. Whether it's nearly getting raped, or almost killed for being a spy, Claire is a fighter. Or, as they would call her in the show, a Sassenach (an English person, an outsider, someone who doesn't belong).

I thought it was a weird coincidence that, at the same time that the Scottish independence vote was happening, Outlander had reached a climax of the Scottish versus the British. While most Scots have voted "no thanks" to independence now, it really makes me wonder how Scotland and England came to stand at such different sides.

Despite the educational aspect of this story, Outlander definitely has sex appeal. Shocking, I know. Other than Claire's first husband Frank, there comes Claire’s love with Jaime Fraser (a Scottish Highlander). Ladies, this one hunk is really enough to get you watching. But to all the guys, I promise there is something for everyone. With the mid-season finale having just finished at eight episodes, now is the time to catch up. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to learn some Scottish Gaelic.

ANDY asked its writers about arts and entertainment that affected them most this semester. Here’s what they said.

Shane Madill

My state of mind is regularly conflicts with my thoughts of everyday life, and my desire to be grounded while also achieving success. I often think about the paradoxical idea of zoning out into “Mittyesque” fantasies. I feel bittersweet nostalgia for the past as I remember both good times and bad times. I look back with 20/20 hindsight, and consider how my experiences have molded me into the person I am today and how they have influenced my future.

Recently, I’ve find myself constantly going back to Converge’s discography. I discovered Converge at an especially dark point in my life, and I always go back to them in as a constant reminder of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Singer Jacob Bannon once stated, “People will identify with the darkness you’re feeling,” and sometimes we just need a reminder that we are all connected, even by the basic humanity of the darker emotions we struggle all must struggle through.

Alison Piercy

This past semester I read a countless number of books. All of them were for class. None of them felt very artistic. All of them were non-fiction and World War II related. Most of my time off has been spent looking at graduate school or continuing education programs. Whenever I go out with friends, or family, or colleagues, everyone wants to know what I plan to do next year. In retrospect, I probably should have expected this, given that I’m in my fourth and final year at McMaster. Sadly, the arts haven’t been able to affect me very much this semester because I’ve had no time for them. And life feels empty. And maybe that’s their affect. Here’s hoping for a new year filled with the arts. And less WWII.

Michael Gallagher

While this may be a bit cliché, music will always be one of the most important artworks in my life. I cannot imagine going through a semester without it. Almost everything I know would just feel so empty. How would I pump myself up at the gym if I didn’t have an awesome collection of songs to get me going? Would I even go to my classes if the long walk to school wasn’t made better by shuffling through my iPod? I can’t even try and imagine a semester without music that would me through it. And for me, it is most beneficial to listen to music while I’m studying.

Despite being a music lover, I always had trouble listening to music during a study session, because it was often too distracting. Thankfully, I soon realized that instrumental music – or music without lyrics – was the answer. Soon, some of the most played songs on my iPod were old Jazz albums, hip-hop producer beats, and artists like Ratatat, or BadBadNotGood. They helped get me in the zone I needed to boost my grades.

While I’m sure there are other reasons for the improvement in my grades over the years, I can’t help but decide that music helped me focus, and this was a huge part of it.

Lene Trunjer Petersen

I am a film nerd with a growing taste for controversial, independent films. The very different languages in many of these films is what amazes me. One film in particular that I saw this past term made my reconsider my knowledge of the environment – The East, starring Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård. Skarsgård portrays an eco-terrorist fighting for the world against big corporations. When I walked out from the warmth of the cinema, I stared up in the darkness questioning whether he was committing acts of terrorism or if he was actually saving our world. The film had a grave impact on my own way of thinking and made me strongly consider how I personally can work to save our planet hopefully before it is to late.

Nimra Khan

As my first term ever at McMaster comes to an end, it’s time to turn a little nostalgic and reminisce about all that’s happened. I’ve recently had the flashback of the craziness and flurry of activities during frosh week. It was during that time that I took part in Airbands! Yes, Airbands, an event that took hours of preparations for our team at Eddy’s. It involved long nights and sore arms and legs. I got to work with such fun people from Edwards Hall – and when you spend time dancing with and pretending to be superman while lying on the backs of four people who are practically strangers, you tend to get acquainted very quickly. Airbands made me love McMaster even more, along with Eddy’s; we might be one of the smallest and oldest residences, but that means we all got the chance to meet (and occasionally, dance) with everyone. So this past semester, an “artwork” that affected me was the little dance we put together for frosh week, and the friends and the good times it inspired.

Nimra Khan
The Silhouette

For all the history buffs on campus, if you don’t already love learning about Ancient Rome, then Empress of the Seven Hills will pull you in. Personally, I’ve been bitten by the Rome-bug ever since reading it.

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Just tell me that you aren’t hooked after reading this intro excerpt: “When I was thirteen, an astrologer told me I’d lead a legion someday, a legion that would call me Vercingetorix the Red. Astrologers are usually horseshit, but that funny little man was right about everything... But why didn’t that astrologer tell me any of the important things? Why didn’t he tell me that Emperors can be loved, but Empresses are only to be feared? Why didn’t he tell me I’d have to kill the best friend I ever had—on the orders of the worst man I ever knew? And why the hell didn’t he tell me about the girl in the blue veil I met the same day I got all these predictions?”

I expect that you’re now turning to your friend and telling them to read this, wondering how you’ve lived your life without picking this up yet. I hardly blame you.

I recently caught up with the writer of the series, Kate Quinn, who said of university, “I was a freshman in college when I wrote what was to become my first published book. I was 3000 miles away from home; I knew no one; so I escaped into ancient Rome instead.”

Empress of the Seven Hills, the first book I’ve read by Quinn, follows the life of an ex-gladiator, Vix, and Sabina, the enchanting daughter of a senator who knows that she wants adventure out of life (and how she can get it). The characters in this book are followed as they change, grow, and occasionally make some stupid decisions. Vix and Sabina inevitably form a romantic relationship, but in a very unconventional way. Vix is very crude, and he knows it. It makes it a joy to read his conversations, especially with Sabina, in which they can go back-and-forth. Despite their disagreements, one thing they can agree on is that they are both strongly devoted to an adored Emperor of the time, Trajan.

I assure you, the reader is pulled in to love Trajan and feel just as devoted to him, too. When asked if she’s heard of any common misconceptions about certain historical figures or events, Kate Quinn said, “Writing about the Borgia family has been an education in historical misconceptions. So many rumours swirl around them - the poison! the incest! the murders! - and yet, how much of it was true, and how much of it was bad press? It’s a novelist’s job to decide where you think the truth actually lies in all that storm of rumour.”

A character that actually surprised me was Titus, a man who  knows that he isn’t handsome, but is very smart. He is a bit of an underdog, comparable to Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter. However, just as Neville surprises the audience, so does Titus. Be warned for the incredible cliff-hanger at the end that made me scream “THIS CAN’T BE IT,”making me realize that I had become invested in these characters’ lives without even knowing it.

This is a fast-paced book that continuously has new challenges and lots of action. I was able to learn so much about Rome itself, including both the political and social sides of things. Quinn is able to lavishly describe the politics of war and battle, from the grit of the soldiers in camp, to the work the captain’s had to do.

For someone who’s spun such witty stories, I asked, is writing novels something you always knew you were going to do? “I was writing novels since I was 10 years old,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t something I ever thought about; it was just something I did. I didn’t know that I’d end up writing novels for a living, but I knew I’d always write them whether I was paid for them or not. It’s a compulsion!”

The enemies that the heroes face are always reoccurring and very believable. This includes the schemes set up by the Empress (oh, I hated that woman), along with Hadrian, Vix’s mortal enemy (I felt like I was part of Vix’ posse whenever he managed to take a go at Hadrian). There is an angle for every side of the story, something that everyone can enjoy and become attached to.

So this raises the question, which historical Roman figure should the public know more about? “The middle three of the Five Good Emperors are all fascinating men, and yet they aren’t written about very much in historical fiction. We know about Marcus Aurelius, but the three men who came before him were titans: Trajan, who was such a war machine that he expanded Rome out to its widest-ever parameters, yet was so personally beloved he could walk around Rome without a bodyguard; Hadrian, an enigma wrapped in a mystery who fell in love with a commoner; and Antoninus Pius who appears to be the boy next door who somehow became the most powerful man in the world. I love all three of these men!”

I’ve probably got you flipping tables out of your way trying to find this book at a bookstore, but even if I don’t, I recommend that everyone pick up this book, either to continue your love for historical fiction, or to start it.

There are also so many shows based on Rome - I loved the Starz Spartacus series. Kate Quinn had some of her own suggestions: “HBO’s Rome is marvellous; the end of the Republic and the rise of the Empire as seen (sumptuously, violently, gorgeously) by two best-friend legionaries. And the mini-series I, Claudius, which introduced me to ancient Rome and which has held up magnificently to the test of time!”

Recently, Kate Quinn stepped away from Rome for a bit to explore the life of the Borgias in The Serpent and the Pearl, while the sequel to Empress of the Seven Hills is in the works.

The final question to ask would be, of course, what are some common misconceptions about authors? “I think the most common misconception about writers is the workload - that it just involves drinking coffee at Starbucks while doodling in a notebook and waiting for inspiration to strike! I work harder, longer hours at this job than I have in many offices: usually about five hours of writing, plus another three to four for research, business, and publicity. Being a writer is hard work, even if it’s also fun work!”

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