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A Gifted Actor

Isn't it wonderful to watch a human being -- or any other animal -- do something really, really well? Those of us who are suckers for boy-meets-dog/boy-loses-dog movies might claim that we appreciate good animal actors better than human ones. But it wasn't until recently that I knew enough about animal acting to properly appreciate it.

While watching a "Benji" sequel I went to Wikipedia to learn about the dog himself. Did you know that there is such a thing as "trainer eye?" An animal actor who is really good lacks trainer eye; that is, the animal doesn't glance over at the trainer, who is just a couple feet off screen. The classic performance of poor animal acting was done by "Toto" in the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy was singing about bluebirds and rainbows, Toto was repeatedly -- mind you, repeatedly -- glancing at the trainer off screen. I suppose it didn't matter too much, since the audience was focusing on Dorothy.

While watching Benji I was quite amazed that the dog never glanced at the camera, the cameraman, or the trainer. When the dog was emoting, was he really acting, or was the context and music making it appear so?