First-Year Applications – NEW DEADLINE!

calling-all-first-years-banner-new-deadline

Update: The Spectatorial has extended the deadline for first-year applications! The new due date is a week away, on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4th! 

If you’re a UofT first-year that is very interested in being a part of The Spec’s staff this year, we recommend you come by our LAUNCH PARTY this Wednesday, September 28th, at 7:30pm in Hart House’s Debates Room! You can find more info on that HERE (Pro-tip: it looks really, really good during interviews if we’ve seen you at our events before.)

Continue below to the first-year application!


The Spectatorial is looking for our new first-year editorial board staff, and we want you to apply!

If interested, please email us with:

  • A completed application form
  • Any additional relevant material you want to submit to make your application stand-out.
    • This can be a short portfolio of written work where you demonstrate your ability in fiction, poetry, or non-fiction (3 pieces total maximum), or a short portfolio of visual work/graphic design (6 pieces maximum). Submit these as attachments along with your application.

THE APPLICATION DEADLINE HAS BEEN MOVED TO 11:59PM ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4TH! Send your application to thespectatorial@gmail.com!

Download the application HERE

Positions available are listed below. **All first-years should apply to Editorial Board, but may also apply for Layout Editor.

Layout Editor (1); Editorial Board (2-3)

If you are applying for LAYOUT EDITOR, you must provide a visual portfolio containing a minimum of five pieces.

If you are applying for EDITORIAL BOARD, you do not need to provide a visual or written portfolio alongside your application, but one may make your application more competitive, and we encourage you to make yourself stand out in any way that you can. : )

One final note: The Spectatorial‘s fall journal is now open for submissions! If you are attaching a visual or written portfolio alongside your work, we encourage you to submit it for possible publication as well! For more information, go to our Journal Submissions page here, or our facebook event page here.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Editor-in-Chief, Lorna Antoniazzi, at thespectatorial@gmail.com to discuss any questions you may have as a prospective editor.

The Spectatorial Is Having A LAUNCH PARTY!

magazine-v-6-launch-party

THE SPECTATORIAL IS HAVING A LAUNCH PARTY FOR ITS SIXTH VOLUME, AND YOU’RE INVITED!

Come out for a fun night of readings and mingling in the Debates Room of Hart House, and support your fellow U of T students and community members! Help us celebrate the launch of our first-ever magazine: a special edition literary and academic volume with a focus on diversity in Canadian identity and culture. The magazine features original works of speculative fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic fiction, and artwork.

Everyone is welcome, and the magazines will be PWYC (pay-what-you-can). There will also be raffles for exciting book prizes!

You’ll also have the chance to learn how you can get more involved with The Spec, and our editors will be around to chat with if you’d like to discuss what kind of work we’re interested in publishing in our upcoming volume (see our submissions event page for more details HERE. If you’re a first year interested in applying to our editorial board (which you can learn about here), we heavily encourage you join us and get to know the staff!

We can’t wait to see you there!

Questions? Email our Editor-in-Chief Lorna Antoniazzi at thespectatorial@gmail.com.

When: Wednesday, September 28
Time: 7:30PM-10:00PM
Where: Debates Room, Hart House

CONTRIBUTORS:

FICTION: Felix Beaudry; Eleanor Crook; Martyna Cwiek; Christopher Geary; Ben Ghan; Lawrence Stewen
POETRY: Margaryta Golovchenko; Nuard Tadevosyan; Erin Tobin
GRAPHIC FICTION: Sarah Crawley & Amy Wang
NONFICTION: Benson Cheung; Emily Deibert
ILLUSTRATORS: Lorna Antoniazzi; Michael Baptista; Mia Carneval; Caitlin Chang; Stephanie Gao; Veronika Garbowska; Lina Nguyen; Shayla Sabada; Amy Wang; Shuiyao Wang; Ariana Youm
COPY-EDITORS: Komal Adeel; Karoline Antonsen; Julia Bartel; Gabriel Calderon; Audrey Chen; Sophie Cho; Eleanor Crook; Amelia Jakasa; Calahan Janik-Jones; Carine Lee; Victoria Liao; Ally Lu; Anna Trikas

The space is wheelchair accessible. If you have any concerns about accessibility, please do not hesitate to contact us at thespectatorial@gmail.com.

Pretty, but Pointless: A Review of The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

The Huntsman WInter's War

This post contains spoilers!

Sometimes you want to watch a movie or read a book just to see how bad it’ll be, especially if it’s a sequel and there was quite a bit of negative feedback about the original. Sequels to debatably good originals seem to be appearing more frequently these days. For the level-headed and analytical viewer, they serve as a temptation for comparison, to see if there was any lesson learned after the original’s release.

I was shocked when I found out there would be a sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, given the mixed reviews it received from critics. It was mainly ruined by Kristen Stewart’s acting which, given how frequently she appears on screen, is impossible to ignore. The movie was a bland retelling and was clearly an attempt to make more money off of an existing cultural staple. It seems that no one in the film industry has realized that the number of remakes is getting out of hand.

The latest installment in the series, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, was intended more as a prequel than a sequel, and after reading the summary I was pleased that at least one lesson was learned from the original: Kristen Stewart was removed from the screen. It wasn’t a convincing enough reason initially, but over time, curiosity won me over; I’ll admit, I wanted to see where exactly CGI-obsessed Hollywood could possibly go with this series.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. Certainly easier to swallow than its predecessor, despite what critic reviews and Rotten Tomatoes will tell you.

Winter’s War starts out as a prequel that promises to present a story that the viewers haven’t seen before. But that lasts maybe about twenty minutes into the movie, before the time frame changes and the story becomes a sequel (sadly).

The premise is a common one but comes out of nowhere: Ravenna (Charlize Theron), the original evil queen and Snow White’s stepmother, had a younger sister named Freya (Emily Blunt) who had an affair — and a child — with one of the court’s nobles. When her lover killed their daughter in order to save his title and avoid scandal (he was betrothed to another), Freya’s magical abilities are awakened, turning her into the Snow Queen. Eventually she leaves to the North and begins conquering kingdoms and kidnapping children, whom she turns into her army of huntsmen, instilling in them only one law: to never love. Through her tragic past, Freya sees love as a sin that can only result in pain.

The movie is a massive jumble of elements stolen from other sources, making it very easy to mock. The opening twenty minutes not only make apparent the influence of Norse mythology on Freya’s character, but also envision Emily Blunt as a violent “Elsa”. In a later scene, she also appears riding a polar bear with her army — hello Narnia, we haven’t heard from you in a while.

Her logic is questionable, too. She kidnaps children from their parents, makes them suffer and erases their emotions — if someone’s made you go through that kind of pain, how are you better than them by just repeating that mistake?

This is where Chris Hemsworth’s character Eric, the Huntsman, and his love interest Sara appear. They are both brought to Freya’s kingdom at the same time and, predictably, fall in love with each other over the coming years. Their attempt at running away together is destroyed and Sara is killed (but not really). At this point the movie jumps seven years into the future when Snow White is already in power. The magic mirror has been stolen and must be recovered before Freya gets her hands on it and turns the entire world into a frozen desert (a line literally used in the movie).

There’s a long list of problematic plot points, and though I refrain from going into the fine print, I’ll list a few here.

Firstly, Chris Hemsworth doesn’t seem to entirely know how his character should act. It’s hard to take him seriously when he spends a good chunk of the movie acting like a goofy teenager and trying to win over Sara, after both of them find out Freya tricked them and plotted them against each other in the past.

There’s also a whole subplot near the ending when Freya finally gets the mirror and her sister Ravenna comes pouring out of it, quite literally. Charlize Theron successfully takes the award for being the most glamorous but black-hearted sister ever, revealing a foreseeable plot twist that gives power-hungry a new face.

The main issue with the movie was that it created a lot of gaps in the viewer’s memory. I couldn’t remember who the two gnomes who come along with Hemsworth on his journey to save the mirror were. Then later, there was an instant reaction of “what is Finnick Odair doing here?”, when Sam Claflin’s character shows up with the royal guard to tell Hemsworth that Snow White is ill, cursed by the magic mirror, which needs to be destroyed.

It’s a wonder how this movie was made when the original was so forgettable and convoluted — a statement that is still quite applicable to its prequel/sequel, what with the ape-like goblins with gold-tipped horns and magical stags appearing out of nowhere to offer a ride when there’s no other mode of transportation around.

The movie is predictable and just as CGI-infested as the first one, although there are moments when the effects are truly breathtaking and serve its proper purpose: to visually manifest images that are impossible to fully capture with actors or props. The gnomes are also the most hilarious part of the movie, poking fun at the situations and characters in a way that mirrors the audience’s reaction.

Winter’s War, therefore, is certainly not a filmographic masterpiece, nor is it a movie that one will readily pull from the shelf or pick out from Netflix and say “I want to rewatch this one.” It’s best to think of it as a good movie for a drinking game. It takes itself less seriously than its predecessor, and its moments of glamorous antics are much more forgivable because underneath it all, there are still little moments of thought and humanity that manage to briefly shine through.

-Contributed by Margaryta Golovchenko

First Year Applications Are Open!

calling all first years banner

The Spectatorial is looking for our new first-year editorial board staff, and we want you to apply!

If interested, please email us with:

  • A 200-300 word nomination statement summarizing your application
  • A completed application form
  • Any additional relevant material you want to submit to make your application stand-out.
    • This can be a short portfolio of written work where you demonstrate your ability in fiction, poetry, or non-fiction (3 pieces total maximum), or a short portfolio of visual work/graphic design (6 pieces maximum). Submit these as attachments along with your application.

THE APPLICATION DEADLINE IS 11:59PM ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27! Send your application to thespectatorial@gmail.com!

Download the application HERE

Positions available are listed below. **All first-years should apply to Editorial Board, but may also apply for Layout Editor.

Layout Editor (1); Editorial Board (2-3)

If you are applying for LAYOUT EDITOR, you must provide a visual portfolio containing a minimum of five pieces.

If you are applying for EDITORIAL BOARD, you do not need to provide a visual or written portfolio alongside your application, but one may make your application more competitive, and we encourage you to make yourself stand out in any way that you can. : )

One final note: The Spectatorial‘s fall journal is now open for submissions! If you are attaching a visual or written portfolio alongside your work, we encourage you to submit it for possible publication as well! For more information, go to our Journal Submissions page here, or our facebook event page here.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Editor-in-Chief, Lorna Antoniazzi, at thespectatorial@gmail.com to discuss any questions you may have as a prospective editor.

You can always find this post under the “First Year Applications” page on our navigational topbar.

What We Gain: Children’s Literature and the Self

What We Gain.png
Illustration by Victoria Liao

Allan Stratton is a University of Toronto alumnus, playwright, actor, novelist, and a really nice guy. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice.

The first time, he was giving a talk at my former high school’s library and a friend I’d been visiting there convinced me to go. He read an excerpt from The Phoenix Lottery (“I wish you were alive and everybody else was dead. I do. I really, really do” reads the teenage diary of Lydia, directed at her cat) and I introduced myself afterwards. We talked about writing, Victoria College, and his characters, and I got a copy of his book which I enjoyed later that summer.

I met him again more recently at Harbourfront Centre. The Forest of Reading, a children’s literary festival where Stratton was nominated for (and won) the Red Maple Award, had taken over for the week, and my job was to ferry authors, excited students, and stressed teachers to the right events. On our way to his Q&A I reintroduced myself and we talked as long as the walk down the hallway would let us.

He was talking about his latest book, The Dogs. It follows a young boy named Cameron and his mother as they run from his abusive father and look for another new start in a small town, where they move into a farmhouse haunted by the ghostly dogs of a previous owner. It was clear that kids loved it, so I read it the next week and enjoyed it as much as an adult reading a book written for twelve year olds can – a decent amount. It was an exciting story and while the supernatural was my favourite part, it contained enough of the real world to be scary on its own.

Good children’s literature offers more to adult readers than just an entertaining story. Thank goodness, for the sake of anyone who has to read to kids regularly. And lots of this literature is also speculative: the most popular YA books out there involve magic and the supernatural, to say nothing of the talking animals and fairy tales that dominate picture books. Lots of classic speculative fiction novels, like Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia, are also definitive works of children’s literature – and they’re praised and enjoyed by all ages.

As we grow up and interact with stories differently, we gain and we lose. We gain the inside jokes and the Easter eggs that are intended to be entertaining only to adults. We gain the grittiness of folk tales and the integral darkness of our culture. At the very least, we gain a better understanding of the plot.

But we lose perspective, and the unique ways children deal with problems. Sometimes an obvious solution, to an adult, requires much more creative problem-solving from a child. I’m sure I can come up with an example of a basic story plot that I didn’t understand as a kid and for which I had to create my own complicated solution.

The kids at Stratton’s Q&A were really interested in the reality of the book – a major theme that leaves a lot up to the reader. Questions about whether the ghost was real or imagined, the truth about a character’s ambiguous death, and even what Cameron looked like, were passionately called out from the audience for most of the session. Even in a speculative world, the search for the concrete lives on.

The Dogs definitely does horror well, and the creepiness is probably why the students who voted for it enjoyed it so much. Cameron thinks he sees faces out of his bedroom window. There are disturbing drawings left behind by a long-dead child, and scratch marks in a dark basement. At one point he fears that the attic of his house has bodies in it.

It’s creepy, but it poses more than enough questions to overcome the fear and read on for the answers, as Cameron himself does in the story. And while he’s busy dodging bullies and spirits, his mom grapples with her own fears of Cameron’s abusive father finding them. She’s more afraid of him than Cameron ever is of the violent dogs and uncovered bones.

Revisiting anything can be emotional, but as kids our identities are complex as they change and take shape. Earlier this year I re-read some of the Narnia books and rediscovered so many things I’d forgotten, and how they shaped me. What still rang true about these books I’d loved so much? I’ve always loved the world-building offered by The Magician’s Nephew. As an adult I was more drawn to the humorous misery of Edmund, but when I was younger, Susan had been my clear favourite.

Ask anyone why stories are important and they’ll tell you it’s because they open us to new perspectives. But children’s literature does this in a unique way by giving us back our old perspectives: it’s the the familiar hidden in the alien. Even if we are not a story’s target audience we can still learn about who we are, and who we were.

-Contributed by Risa Ian De Rege

Trying to Be Happy – Exploring the Issue of Humanness in “Swiss Army Man”

Swiss Army Man poster
image source: aintitcool.com

Human bodies are weird and gross. They are scary, and we are often ashamed of them. Our bodies can make us feel alone. However, our bodies are beautiful.

Life is weird and gross. We are often afraid of it, and ashamed of being afraid. It can be lonely. But life is also beautiful.

Trapped in our bodies, and trapped in this thing called life, we don’t have to be alone.

This is the message I’ve taken away from a movie which opens with Paul Dano almost committing suicide on a deserted island before he spots a dead body on the beach, pulls the pants off Daniel Radcliff’s corpse, and uses his super powered farts to ride him like a jet-ski away from an island into the ocean while singing joyously. I cried a little bit.

Yeah. You heard me. Super farts made me cry.

For the majority of Swiss Army Man, there are only two characters: Hank (Paul Dano) and the dead body of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). For the first half hour of the movie, Hank carries the corpse that saved his life with him through the woods while he searches for civilization, with a dying phone.

Why does Hank carry the body with him? Perhaps it’s an act of compassion from someone lonely, perhaps anything with a face will do for company, perhaps it’s a sense of duty to the body of a human being that once saved his life.

On his journey through the wilderness, Hank slowly discovers that Manny’s body has special powers that might help him survive. He can fire projectiles from Manny’s mouth, he can light his farts on fire like a rocket. When Hank gets dehydrated, Manny vomits up clean drinking water. This is already an insane premise for a movie. But wait, there’s more.

“I need you to help me get home,” Hank says to the dead body, because he hasn’t got anyone else to talk to. “Okay buddy?”

Okay buddy,” answers Manny, and this is when everything begins to slide into place.

Swiss Army Man flits around several different genres of cinema, many of which I normally don’t enjoy, but loved here.

I don’t really enjoy survival movies, but I thought this one was magical.

I don’t like most musicals. I feel the same way about acapella as Indiana Jones does about snakes, but here I found both not only fitting, but moving. I have already downloaded the soundtrack.

I only sometimes enjoy coming of age movies, and while I would understand the label, I don’t think it fits here. This is a story about coming to life, and coming back to life.

I do love buddy/friendship movies, which this absolutely was, exploring the vulnerability of male friendships without the tiring bravado that so many Hollywood movies bring as a filter. This is instead a story about two young men exploring their feelings about themselves and each other, as well as their bodies and the world beyond them.

I would also say that parts of this movie are a romance. At one point, Manny and Hank seem to be falling for one another (represented in the music like everything else, with the line “are we falling in love?” sticking out among the lyrics). And yes, maybe what could be considered the third of a four act movie does end in a kiss (but not for the reasons you’d think), but I would argue that the movie quickly transcends that.

Manny and Hank become a kind of platonic ideal of friendship, with all the honesty and awkward grossness of being human. This is fitting, since the audience must occasionally wonder if Manny is even real, or if Hank just went mad after so much time alone.

All of this is backed by a surprisingly beautiful soundtrack, mostly featuring the voices of the two actors themselves. It is only once the two characters finally stumble back into the real world do we finally remember how alien the world that the two have been hiding away in was, free from the shame and limits of the society we have created.

Swiss Army Man isn’t for everyone: it will make some uncomfortable as it touches on the grossness of our bodies and the strangeness of what it feels like to connect with another human being. I will say that in a world where movies feel constantly over-saturated with reboots and sequels and generic nothingness, Swiss Army Man stands out as something I’ve never seen before.

-Contributed by Ben Ghan

The Bureaucracy of the Supernatural: A Review of Neil Smith’s “Boo”

Boo Neil Smith
image source: news.nationalpost.com

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

“The facts of America do not apply here. The fact is that an unplugged lamp should not turn on… the fact is that people should not vanish into thin air when they die.” 

I came across Boo, by Neil Smith, through an interview with the author on CBC radio. It sounded worth reading, but I couldn’t remember the title or author, so I went to Chapters and sleuthed around until I found it in a “New Can-Lit” display.

Boo is about Oliver Dalrymple (nicknamed “Boo” for his pale appearance), a young boy who wakes up in heaven.

The story is narrated by Boo in the form of an extended letter to his loving mother and father. He hopes that, if he can ever get it to them, it will ease their pain. Throughout the narrative of his death, we learn more of his life – severely bullied and obsessed with science, Boo was a weird-looking loner frequently stuffed into his periodic table-decorated locker. He’s a bit of a smartass, though unintentionally, and has a weird sense of humour that comes across in his narration.

I was particularly drawn to Boo’s narrative style. There is something subtle about the formality of his tone, and the character himself, that reminds me strongly of one of my close friends. Though he’s hardly a typical teenage boy – being dead and all – Boo seems familiar and amiable in a way. We want to be nice to Boo. We also might want to make fun of him, just a little bit.

What I like best about the novel are the intricacies of the setting and the characters’ nonchalant attitudes towards them. It is the “bureaucracy of the supernatural” – where something mysterious and otherworldly turns out to be run in a similarly mundane fashion as our own world. There’s no escape.

As he explains to his parents, Boo’s heaven is a place called Town, surrounded by walls and entirely populated and run by thirteen-year-olds. The afterlife is subdivided by age and country, so Boo is surrounded by everyone else who died in America at the age of thirteen. Once someone dies and comes to Town they stay there for about fifty years, so that they get a chance to live out a full lifetime. With its city council of thirteen-year-olds and rummage-sale furniture, Town reminds me of being homeschooled (I started school in grade six, after years of kid-focused nonstructural learning).

Town has hospitals and cafeterias and a thriving arts scene. Books, food, and other things are provided as needed by what most “Townies” assume to be God. There are art classes, support groups for getting over being murdered, and a museum of curious things including a revolver and a kitten. Townies do not grow old and their bodies don’t change; wounds heal themselves, buildings repair themselves, and traumatic memories are often wiped. Smith captures the intricacies of a thirteen-year-old personality so nicely: the uncertainty, the bravado, the desperation for answers. Boo figures he lost a few IQ points but gained a few social skills, and makes friends. He does much better in Town.

At first attributing his death to a heart condition, he soon realizes that there’s more to it than expected with the arrival of Johnny, another boy from his school who died shortly after Boo. Johnny insists that they were murdered at school by some crazy kid he calls “Gunboy”, and, along with their friends, the two boys try to solve their own deaths while navigating the peculiarities of the afterlife. Desperate to find a portal back to the living world, Johnny’s quest for revenge upstages Boo’s curiosity-fuelled scientific quest for understanding when they run into a boy Johnny is convinced killed them. From there, the story quickly snowballs into a clash of friendship, violence, and the supernatural.

Smith’s world and characters are surprisingly uplifting, and the plot was charming and exciting. Every time they think they’ve caught an answer it escapes, and the story gets more involved until the intense climax. In the bittersweet conclusion, Johnny is given a second chance and Boo learns more about himself than he ever did while alive. Town gives Boo what he needs in order to both find the truth and be happy with himself. It is, in the end, his own heaven as he needed it to be.

-Contributed by Risa Ian de Rege