'Benji' opens in theaters

'Benji' opens in theaters


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On October 17, 1974, Benji, a film about a stray dog who helps rescue several kidnapped children, opens in theaters; it will go on to become a family classic. Written and directed by Joe Camp, Benji starred a mutt named Higgins, who had been rescued as a puppy from a California animal shelter and went on to appear in the 1960s TV series Petticoat Junction and the 1971 movie Mooch Goes to Hollywood, with Zsa Zsa Gabor. Benji was a commercial hit and spawned a series of TV movies as well as the follow-up features For the Love of Benji (1977), Oh Heavenly Dog (1980) and Benji the Hunted (1987), all starring Higgins’ daughter Benjean. Another movie, Benji: Off the Leash! was released in 2004 and featured another pooch that Joe Camp had found at an animal shelter.

Dogs have long had a starring role in Hollywood. Starting in the 1920s, the German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin, who was rescued from a dog kennel in France during World War I, appeared in a number of successful films for Warner Brothers and reportedly saved the studio from bankruptcy. Perhaps the most famous canine character in entertainment history is Lassie. The loyal collie originated in a 1938 short story by Eric Knight, about a boy whose faithful companion is sold after his family falls on hard times, and was also featured in a 1940 novel set in Great Britain titled Lassie Come-Home. The novel was adapted into a 1943 movie of the same name, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy MacDowell. Several more Lassie films and a Lassie radio show followed in the 1940s. From 1954 to 1973, CBS aired an Emmy-winning TV series called Lassie and set in America. More Lassie movies followed, including 2005’s Lassie, starring Peter O’Toole and Samantha Morton.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Disney released a string of dog-themed films, including Lady and the Tramp (1955), Old Yeller (1957), and One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Another classic from that era is The Incredible Journey (1963), about two dogs and a cat who lose their owners on vacation and must find their way home. During the 1970s and 1980s, Benji was the top dog in Hollywood. The late 1980s and 1990s saw such movies as Turner and Hooch (1989), in which Tom Hanks played a man who must adopt the dog of a dead man to help catch a murderer; Beethoven (1992), about a St. Bernard; 1996’s 101 Dalmatians, with Glenn Close as the notorious dognapper Cruella de Vil; and Air Bud (1997), about a basketball-playing dog. Other canine films include My Dog Skip (2000), with Frankie Muniz, Kevin Bacon, Luke Wilson and Diane Lane; Best in Show (2000), a parody of the world of dog shows directed by Christopher Guest; Because of Winn-Dixie (2005); Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008); and Marley & Me (2008).


Northpark West 1 & 2

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: General Cinema Theatres

Previous Names: Cinema I & II, Northpark I & II

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The Cinema I & II was THE theater to go to in the Dallas Metroplex from its opening September 22, 1965. It was one of the first three theaters in the nation to be equipped with Lucasfilm Ltd&rsquos THX and was personally done so by Tom Holmin, who was head of that division at the beginning. The Northpark never had a presentation flaw in its 33 year run. Even Lab Spiced reels were rejected by the projection team.

The studios, having their Dallas offices not far away, had many of their screenings at the Northpark and you never knew what famous person might run into you. Harrison Ford sat in the back rows during &ldquoBlade Runner&rdquo. Carol Channing made her way down the aisles, passing out tissues during scenes in &ldquoE.T&rdquo. Benji pressed his paws in cement in the forecourt. It was said that George Lucas once said that it was his favorite place to show his films. It was one of only 20 theaters in the nation to run &ldquoStar Wars&rdquo on its opening weekend in May of 1977. It was also only one of a handful of theaters in the nation to show James Cameron&rsquos &ldquoTitanic&rdquo in 70 mm.

Not only did the Northpark do an out standing job as a first run theater, it also had classics shown, titles ranging from &ldquoThe Blues Brothers&rdquo to &ldquoThe Sound of Music&rdquo graced the screen every summer during their annual Summer Movie nights. And by far the Northpark was considered the best sound system in the nation.

Sadly, General Cinema closed it on October 23, 1998 and the building was torn down in 2001.


The Death of Benji Hayward

This installment of my “Retro T.O.” column for The Grid was originally published on May 1, 2012. This article was assigned to me following the publication of an oral history of Degrassi Junior High.

“Gordon Hayward, right, father of drowning victim Benji Hayward who disappeared after a rock concert Friday, shown with family friend Henry Goodman, said his son’s apparent experiment with LSD should be a lesson to all parents: ‘Talk to your kids. Listen to your kids.'” Photo by Ron Bull, used on the front page of the May 19, 1988 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0054093f.

May 13, 1988. Exhibition Stadium is packed for a Pink Floyd concert. Among the attendees is 14-year-old Benji Hayward. Despite warnings from friends, Hayward and a friend bought two pieces each of blotter paper sprinkled with LSD. Their drug use that night wasn’t isolated, as acid, coke, and crack were openly passed around the stands. As the concert closed, the friends separated in the crowd, each probably figuring the other would get home okay.

While his friend’s acid-induced wanderings resulted in a police pick up near Queen and Jameson, Benji headed toward the lake. He fell into the water near Coronation Park and drowned. His body was not discovered for four days, a period in which his parents, not satisfied with the relaxed pace the police adopted toward their missing-person request, organized a postering campaign to find their son.

After calls from politicians and community leaders for stronger drug-fighting tactics, a two-month coroner’s inquest was held that summer. Jurors learned that Hayward and his friend were warned by police on Yonge Street about drug possession two months before the concert, but due to regulations related to the Young Offenders Act of 1984, their parents were not informed. It was also revealed that, following the 1982 Charter of Rights, Metro Police turned over responsibility for searching concertgoers for drugs to promoters, who sometimes hired biker gangs involved in dealing to act as security. Hayward’s parents were frustrated at the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” attitude demonstrated by law officials, but also admitted that they had a “not my child” attitude regarding the possibility of Benji using drugs.

As the inquest ended, Metro Police Inspector Julian Fantino admitted that mistakes had been made and the Haywards should have received more care regarding their concerns. He indicated that officers would resume contacting parents when their children had minor brushes with the law, that the procedures for missing person cases would be improved, and that police would launch a major anti-drug program that fall. He blamed the problems in the Hayward case on “the human element,” as officers found their hands tied by human-rights legislation and fear of the Public Complaints Act. Fantino also believed that an officer who had testified at the inquest was led “like a lamb to the slaughter.”

The jury issued 14 pages of recommendations when the inquest ended on August 13, 1988, three months to the day that Hayward disappeared. They urged all levels of government to declare war on drugs and drill drug education into students, even if took time away from other academic activities. Tougher sentencing and heavier police enforcement were needed, leading Fantino to announce a request for up to 90 extra officers and $6 million for an anti-drug campaign.

In an editorial three days later, the Star acknowledged the sincerity of the jurors but advised caution before implementing harsh, counter-productive measures that would further alienate youth. “Where trust is lacking,” the Star wrote, “how can young people feel comfortable discussing drug use openly with those who are trained to help them find equally attractive means of satisfaction in life?” The editorial agreed with a key message from the jury: “Please do not lull yourself into the misconception that living in suburbia and sending your child to a good school guarantees protection from this problem. This is not a problem of a few unfortunate families, the single parent, the poor, or your neighbor. This is your problem, this is my problem, this is our problem.”

The Hayward case inspired a storyline in a two-part episode of Degrassi Junior High (“Taking Off“) in February 1989, wherein Shane dropped acid under circumstances not unlike Benji Hayward’s. Unlike Benji, Shane survived a fall off a bridge but was left in a mentally-impaired state that served as a warning to anyone contemplating taking a hit.

Sources: the July 19, 1988, July 21, 1988, August 10, 1988, August 13, 1988, and August 16, 1988 editions of the Toronto Star.


Contents

A tyrant named Zanu has taken control of the distant, red planet of Antars which is "way off in another galaxy" as Yubi describes in the episode "Double Trouble" while rehearsing exactly who he is and where he comes from. Zanu has the king of Antars killed and imprisons the queen. Lisa LeMole [4] plays the queen in the episode "Goodbye Earth." Yubi's monologue from the episode "Double Trouble" explains, "My mother is there, probably in prison. My father is dead. I have a guardian. Sorta. He's not really a person. He's a droid. Also from Antars. And those people in the black van. You guessed it! From Antars!"

The opening sequence of the series shows how the crown prince, their son and heir prince Yubi (played by Christopher Burton), has escaped to Earth with his droid Zax (voiced by Ric Spiegel). When Yubi and Zax land on Earth, they are befriended by a stray dog named Benji who remains their companion for the run of the series. Two Antarian bounty hunters named Darah and Khyber, along with their droid Zord (Level 10 programing), are sent to Earth to find and to capture Yubi. Most of the plot involves Darah and Khyber chasing Benji, Zax and Yubi in a black Chevy van, and their efforts almost always end in failure, usually due to some failure of one or both of them combined with Benji's incredible intelligence and loyal assistance. There is never any doubt that Benji is a major heroic figure for this show who seems to do an often better job protecting his highness than the level 2 droid assigned to him.

In order to survive on Earth, Antarians must wear a special bracelet known as a cipher. In the episode "The Locals", Prince Yubi's cipher is stolen by a gang of boys known as "The Vikings" and he gets very sick without it. Within seconds of the cipher's removal, Yubi faints, suggesting to more observant viewers that this life support device helps Yubi to breathe in some way. [4] This is logical since the atmosphere is likely to be very different on Antars than on Earth. Every Antarian in the series is highly protective of their cipher, experiencing the immediate onset of fatigue as a result of its theft (Benji steals first Darah's then Khyber's cipher in the episode "Gold Mine" to force them to share a cipher and therefore rendering them unable to detect the nearby orgon signature from Trask's ship).

Beyond principal hunters Darah (Angie Bolling episodes 1-7 and Anna Holbrook episodes 8-13) and Khyber (Joe Rainer episodes 1-7 and Dallas Miles episodes 8-13), [5] the episode "UFO" also features Ric Spiegel as hunter Harwell Thompson. The episode "Puppy Love" features Tosha Moody as Tanya, Zanu's secret threat to Prince Yubi. Burton also played T.J. Parker (an Earth boy) in the episode "Double Trouble" who shoplifted a general store, which led to Yubi being arrested due to their striking resemblance to each other, while Khyber and Darah kidnap T.J. whom they mistake for the Prince.

Main characters Edit

  • Benji - The protagonist of the series. He is a stray dog who lives in Texas and befriends Yubi and Zax when they crash-land on Earth. He is very protective and caring of Yubi and comes up with ideas to evade and outsmart the two hunters sent to capture Yubi. He is referred by Antarians as a quadruped, since he walks on four legs.
  • Zax - A Level 2 droid assigned to Yubi. He has the ability to translate Benji and receive audio-visual signals.
  • Prince Yubi - A young Antarian who is forced to flee to Earth from Zanu's tyranny with Benji and Zax by their side and to avoid capture from the hunters pursuing them.

Supporting characters Edit

  • Lucy - A bag lady who encounters Benji in the first episode. When Zax is damaged while being chased by the hunters, she takes him with her by mistake. She then rescues Yubi from the hunters and distracts them to give them time to escape.
  • Trask - An old Antarian who used to be Zanu's right-hand man. He was presumed dead when he escaped to Earth and pretended to be a man named Montana. He meets up with Yubi and offers a job to herd cattle. He explains his history with Zanu and the trio help him repair his ship to return to Antars, while Benji has the hunters distracted.
  • The Queen - The queen of Antars until she is overthrown and imprisoned by Zanu. She makes an appearance in the episode "Goodbye to Earth", where she sends Yubi a birthday message. Yubi gets a job at NASA in order to return to Antars until he relents and quits his job.
  • The King - The former king of Antars. Not much is known about him other than the fact that he was murdered by Zanu.
  • Mr. Stevens - A senior worker at NASA. He reluctantly hires Yubi when he wants to test his ship, who actually wants to go back home to see his mother, in spite of Zax's warnings to not endanger her wishes until he relents and quits his job until he's old enough.
  • Farley and BJ Matthews - A pair of fugitives who flee to a ghostown. They meet up with Yubi and come up with a plan to ransom his parents, so they can become rich with his cipher until they realize who the hunters really are. Farley is wiser than his younger brother, whereas BJ is much more paranoid and tries to warn his older brother about Zax's presence, to no avail. They tie up the hunters and tell the trio to move along before the police arrive.
  • Joey - A member of a local gang called "The Vikings" and the only reluctant member. He was forced by his leader, Will to steal Yubi's cipher, leaving him to become very ill without it. He eventually makes up and teams up with Benji to get Yubi's cipher back before quitting his gang.
  • Tanya - A young girl from Antars sent by Zanu to capture Yubi. However, she has actually grown fond of Yubi when she meets him at a skating rink. When Benji and Zax learn of this, Tanya is forced to end her relationship and abandons her mission to capture him.
  • Pop Wilcox - A local fisherman who hires Yubi. When he tells Yubi to get him groceries, Yubi is arrested by mistake after TJ Parker shoplifts Ross' store until Zax informs him about Yubi.
  • Sheriff Payton - The police chief of Rockwell County, Texas. He arrests Yubi after TJ Parker shoplifts Ross' store until Benji and Zax rescue Parker from the hunters.
  • Charlie Ross - A kind-hearted businessman who works at a local grocery store in Garland, Texas. He mistakes Yubi for TJ Parker until Benji and Zax rescue Parker from the hunters.
  • Dr. Len Janson - A veterinarian who originally worked as a World War II pilot. He is the husband of Nora and offers a job for the trio. When the hunters arrive, they gravely injure his horse, Sugarfoot and they are forced to get him to a faraway animal shelter with his plane. They eventually manage to get him to the shelter and return home.
  • Sugarfoot - The Jansons' black stallion. He tries to fend off the hunters chasing the trio, but ends up getting run over. Len and the trio manage to get him to a faraway shelter and the vet states that he would be home within two weeks.
  • RJ Jenkins - A man who finds Benji and unknowingly sells him to a greedy couple. When Yubi and Zax offer a job in exchange for Benji, the robbers break into his home and Jenkins blames Yubi until Zax informs him about the real burglars. They manage to track them down and get them arrested. Benji then gets Jenkins a white dog named Tiffany and he adopts her.
  • Tiffany - A female Maltese who is Benji's love interest. She appears in the episode "Benji Call Home", where she eventually gets adopted by Jenkins.

Villains Edit

  • Zanu - A tyrannical warlord who takes control of Antars and overthrows Yubi's family, forcing Yubi and Zax to flee to Earth. Zanu sends his right-hand hunters, Darah and Khyber to capture Yubi and take him back. In the episode "Goldmine", it is stated by Trask that he was associated with Zanu during the revolution until he revealed his true colors and he was efforts to stop him were unsuccessful.
  • Darah and Khyber - Zanu's primary hunters who are the main antagonists of the series. They come to Earth to capture Yubi, but their efforts are almost unsuccessful, usually due to Benji's great intelligence and loyal assistance to Yubi. They pursue Yubi in a black chevy van and they bring a Level 10 droid named Zord for assistance.
  • Zord - Darah and Khyber's Level 10 droid sent by Zanu to catch Yubi. He was destroyed in the episode "Ghostown" by Benji and Zax, but was somehow revived in the later episodes. Whenever he has plans to capture Benji, he thinks about brainwashing him to have him lead them to the prince, despite Darah's protests that the brainwave manipulator is designed for humans.
  • Harwell Thompson - An Antarian hunter whose real motives to capture Yubi are to become rich and humiliate Darah and Khyber. He posts a fake news article about a spacecraft from Antars and kidnaps Yubi and Zax. However, Benji foils his plans by leading the hunters to his location and allowing them to escape.
  • The Rustlers - A pair of rustlers who try to steal Trask's cattle and break into his goldmine. However, their efforts are unsuccessful when Benji and Zax scare them away.
  • Will - The leader of the Vikings. He has a grudge against Benji for stealing his hot dog and offers Yubi to challenge him to beat a game. After Yubi wins, Will plans to use his cipher to become rich and Joey is forced to remove Yubi's cipher to avoid his wrath. However, Benji and Joey team up to reclaim his cipher and Joey quits the Vikings, along with the other members.
  • TJ Parker - A mischievous boy who resembles Yubi and shoplifts a store belonging to Charlie Ross. This results in him getting captured by the hunters and getting Yubi arrested. Oblivious about the danger, he insists on going with them until Benji and Zax rescue them and the police send him on his way to compensate Ross for his misdeeds.
  • Johnny and Marge Stevens - A greedy couple who buy Benji from Jenkins and rob him the next day. However, their plans are foiled when the trio track them down and get arrested.
  • Circon - A Level 2 droid sent by the hunters to impersonate Zax and lure Yubi into their trap. However, Benji sees under the trick, due to his lack of arachnophobia and leads him to get trapped. The hunters return and switch him back on, but Benji leads him to get shot and destroyed by the hunters by mistake.

While walking through town, Benji and Zax notice Zanu's hunters and are chased into an auto junkyard. Zax is badly damaged and eventually captured by the hunters, but Benji comes up with a plan to rescue him.

Benji and Zax investigate a newspaper report of a spacecraft from Prince Yubi's planet. They encounter a man named Harwell Thompson, who is revealed to be a hunter from Antars. Thompson kidnaps Yubi and captures Zax, but Benji rescues them before the other hunters could get to them.

The hunters draw Yubi out of hiding by leaking the location of his spacecraft to the authorities while using Benji as a distraction against them. As the hunters prepare to leave Earth with Yubi, Benji and Zax distract the hunters and rescue Yubi before they could take off.

Yubi learns the startling secret of an old cattleman with a closely guarded mine, who is revealed to be an Antarian named Trask. The hunters recognize him and plan to capture him, but Trask launches his ship to Antars.

A birthday hologram from his mother inspires Yubi's desperate search for a job at a NASA station to reunite to his mother.

The trio winds up in a deserted ghostown, where two outlaw twins are hiding out from the authorities. Zax is convinced they want to sell Yubi for profit, but Yubi ignores him. Meanwhile, the hunters come up with a plan to capture Yubi with their Level 10 droid named Zord, but Benji and Zax defeat him and the brothers capture the hunters.

Benji is harassed by a group of boys known as "The Vikings" and they endanger Yubi's life by stealing his cipher. Benji and Zax come up with a plan to get it back with the help of a Viking named Joey.

Yubi meets up with a girl named Tanya and falls in love with her, but Zax is concerned for his safety and it is revealed that Tanya is an Antarian who is sent by Zanu to capture Yubi. The hunters capture Benji and try to brainwash him to lead them to Yubi's location, but Benji outwits them. Tanya confesses to Yubi and plans to go back to Antars to keep Yubi covered.

A local boy named T.J. Parker shoplifts a store and led to Yubi arrested due to their striking resemblance, while the hunters mistake Parker for the prince. Benji and Zax plan to set things right, but when the hunters realize the mistake, they go back and disguise themselves as Yubi's parents. However, Benji stops them and the hunters are arrested and Yubi is set free.

Yubi has had enough of Zax's constant parenting and moves away. Zax's malfunctioning is getting worse and Benji comes to his aid while Yubi becomes an unwitting pool shark.

Yubi wants to surprise a kindly veterinarian by restoring an old World War II plane. However, when the hunters discover them, their horse, Sugarfoot, tries to protect them, but is gravely wounded. The trio decide to use the old war plane to get Sugarfoot to an animal hospital far away.

When Benji takes some extra time to play with Tiffany, a wealthy man named Jenkins takes Benji and unknowingly gives him to a crooked couple claiming to be his real owners. When Yubi and Zax arrive, Jenkins offers them a job to get Benji back while the couple break into Jenkins' house to get his money. Jenkins assumes it was Yubi, but Zax tells him that it was the campers. Yubi, Zax and Jenkins arrive at the camp to rescue Benji and catch the two criminals.

Benji and Zax are attacked by a bigger dog and Zax gets trapped in a culvert. Meanwhile, the hunters capture Zax and send an evil duplicate named Circon to lure Yubi into their trap. Benji sees under the trick, because Zax is the only droid who has arachnophobia and traps him in the same culvert Zax was in before shutting him off. However, the hunters return and switch him back on, but Benji tricks them into shooting Circon after mistaking him for Zax.


Contents

Jane (Brit Marling), an operative for private intelligence firm Hiller Brood, is assigned by her boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), to infiltrate The East, an underground activist, anarchist and environmentalist organization that has launched a vandalistic attack against a corporate leader and threatens two more as retribution for ecological crimes. Calling herself Sarah, she joins drifters in hitching train rides. When one drifter, Luca (Shiloh Fernandez), helps her escape from the police, she identifies the symbol of The East hanging from Luca's car mirror. Sarah self-inflicts an arm injury that she tells Luca was caused in the escape so he can get her medical attention. He takes her to a seemingly abandoned house in the woods where members of The East live and one of them, Doc (Toby Kebbell), treats her.

Sarah is given two nights to recover before she must leave. At an elaborate dinner involving straitjackets, Sarah is tested and fails, exposing how selfishly she and many others live their lives. Sarah is caught spying one night by the deaf Eve and talks in sign language with her. Sarah tells Eve that she is an undercover agent and threatens Eve with jail if she stays Eve leaves the next morning. [3] Sarah is recruited to fill the missing member's role on a "jam", an old fashioned term for direct action. Sarah reluctantly participates in The East's next jam and learns that the group's members have all been damaged by corporate activities. For example, Doc was poisoned by a fluoroquinolone antibiotic and his neurosystem is degenerating. The East infiltrates a party for the antibiotic company's senior executives and adds the antibiotic to the champagne. The East announce this via YouTube: one executive's health begins to fail, revealing the drug's side effects. After seeing the jam's effectiveness, compounded by her attraction to charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Sarah questions the morality of her job. [4]

Another member, Izzy (Elliot Page), is the daughter of a petrochemical CEO. The group uses this connection to gain access to him and forces him to bathe in the waterway he has been using as a toxic dumping ground. This goes wrong when security arrives and shoots the fleeing Izzy. At the squat, Doc's hands tremble too much for him to perform surgery. Working under his guidance, Sarah manages to remove the bullet but Izzy dies. This is the catalyst for Sarah and Benji's romance and they have sex. At Izzy's burial near the house, her body lies nude and decorated with blossoms in a nod to the romance and the sea change it portends.

Sarah implores Benji to leave but he insists they participate in a fourth and final jam. Sarah initially refuses but gives in. When she awakens after sleeping in the car, she realizes that Benji is driving her to Hiller Brood's headquarters. He reveals that he has always suspected her of being a spy, as did Luca, who brought her in as a test. Benji wants Sarah to obtain a NOC global list of Hiller Brood agents, to "watch" them. Having copied the list on to her cell phone's memory card, Sarah runs into Sharon and confronts her about the firm's activities, revealing her new allegiances. Sharon has Sarah's cellphone confiscated as she leaves. As Hiller Brood had been sharing information with the FBI, The East's hideout is raided and Doc is arrested but sacrifices himself to ensure the remaining members escape. Sarah tells Benji she has failed to get the NOC list which Benji reveals he meant to use to expose the undercover agents, even though that meant they could be killed. Sarah chooses not to go on the run and they part as Benji heads out of the country. In truth, Sarah still has the list because she had swallowed the memory card. The film ends with an epilogue of her contacting her undercover former coworkers and informing them of the corporate crimes Hiller Brood's clients want to protect. She is thus using a peaceful approach to promote The East's goals.

    as Sarah Moss/Jane Owen as Benji as Izzy as Doc / Thomas Ayres as Luca as Paige Williams as Sharon as Tim as Tess as Trevor "The Fed"
  • Wilbur Fitzgerald as Robert McCabe as Thumbs as Porty McCabe as Richard Cannon
    – director, screenwriter – producer, screenwriter – producer – producer
  • Jocelyn Hayes-Simpson – producer – executive producer
  • Roman Vasyanov – cinematographer – editor – editor – music – themes for score
  • Alex DiGerlando – production designer
  • Jenny Gering – costume designer
  • Nikki Black – art director
  • Cynthia Slagter – set decorator

The East is directed by Zal Batmanglij. He co-wrote the screenplay with Brit Marling, who also stars in the film. Batmanglij and Marling also wrote the screenplay for Sound of My Voice and went to Los Angeles in 2009 to produce a film. Due to the economy, they could not make the film that year. [5] They were then inspired by the concept of Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest against consumerism, and decided to experience a Buy Nothing summer. [6] They spent two months in 2009 with proponents of freeganism, which is a practice of eating "discarded food in their pursuit of a moneyless existence". Marling said, "We wanted to have some adventure, and we didn't have any money. We learned to hop trains, we learned to sleep on rooftops, we learned to claim the space that feels so private. We joined this anarchist collective." [7] The pair drew from their experiences as well as thriller films like All The President's Men, The Bourne Identity and Michael Clayton to craft The East, [6] which they wrote before they began filming Sound of My Voice for a 2011 release. [8]

Batmanglij and Marling wrote to have the anarchist organization target a multinational corporation instead of a government. Marling said, "Multinational corporations are outside of the purview of any nation-state. These are the entities that are shaping and running the world. The modern anarchy movement is about rebelling against the corporate structure." Batmanglij said the film focused on the pharmaceutical industry due to the writers hearing stories about the side effects of drugs, such as a drug to help quit smoking that resulted in some people committing suicide. He said they considered focusing on banks due to the financial crisis of 2007–2008, but they chose the pharmaceutical industry so the mission in the film would have emotional resonance. They titled the film The East to make a variety of references. The director explained, "'The East' is . the East Coast, which is like something in our American collective consciousness—New England, tony, center of power. The Wicked Witch of the East in the Oz mythology was the bad witch because the book was about how the Midwest was getting screwed over by the east, by Washington. And then of course we have the Middle East or the Far East, which is seen as different or other. The ultimate Other. So, it's funny that this word means two things, and I thought that was an interesting name for a resistance group that is combined of kids from New England who want to make themselves the Other." [9]

Sound of My Voice, directed by Batmanglij and starring Marling, screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in January. Producer Michael Costigan, who liked Sound of My Voice, got a copy of the screenplay for The East. Costigan liked the screenplay and approached Batmanglij to say that he and his fellow producers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott at Scott Free Productions were interested in making the film. [5] After the festival, Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired distribution rights for Sound of My Voice and Another Earth (also starring Marling). In the process, the distributor greenlighted production of The East. [10] By September 2011, Marling and Alexander Skarsgård were cast in the starring roles. Felicity Jones was attached to play Izzy, but she dropped out to promote Like Crazy. Jones was replaced by Elliot Page. [11]

Production of the film, which had a budget of $6.5 million , [1] took place in Shreveport, Louisiana. [7] Production designer Alex DiGerlando converted an alternative lifestyle club in Shreveport into a house for The East. The club was originally painted black and gold, and it was repainted different shades of green for the film. [5] Filming took place in late 2011 [12] Batmanglij said it lasted 26 days . [5]

The director compared the film's ambivalent ending to the one in the 2002 film 25th Hour: "I feel like it's almost as if the film’s events never happened at its end. It's sort of like what we're all capable of if we put our minds to it. There's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to make changes, even for her to make changes." [5]

Screenings Edit

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20 , 2013. [13] The Sundance Institute, as part of their Sundance Film Festival USA program, screened The East at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan on January 31 , 2013. Over 1,300 people were in attendance for the screening, and Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling showed for a Q&A session. [14] Leading up to its theatrical release in May 2013, The East was chosen as the closing night film of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival, [15] and went on to screen at the Phoenix Film Festival, [16] Seattle International Film Festival, [17] and the San Francisco International Film Festival. [18] The Washington Post reported that Q&A sessions after the film's screenings were popular. It said, "Filmgoers might not have agreed on their feelings about 'The East,' but they had one thing in common: They needed to talk about it." According to Batmanglij, the Sundance screening retained 98% of the audience for its Q&A session. [19]

The East had its New York City premiere on May 20 , 2013. [20] It was released in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on May 31, 2013. [21] The film grossed $77,031 over the opening weekend, a theater average of $19,258. [2] Indiewire reported, "That's a strong number in general and also a big step up from Batmanglij and Marling's previous collaboration." [22] TheWrap said the film had a strong start, [23] while Box Office Mojo said it "opened to modest results". [24] In its second weekend, the release was expanded to 41 theaters . [25] It grossed $228,561 over the weekend. Overall, it grossed $2.4 million . [2]

Critical response Edit

The Wall Street Journal reported that at the Sundance Film Festival, the film "opened to mostly strong reviews". [9] Variety ' s Justin Chang reviewed the film, "This clever, involving spy drama builds to a terrific level of intrigue before losing some steam in its second half." He noted that, "the appreciable growth in filmmaking confidence here should translate into a fine return on Fox Searchlight's investment". [13] John DeFore, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, described The East as "a social-conscience espionage film that has actually thought about its 'eco-terrorism' themes beyond figuring out how to mine them for suspense". He said, "Batmanglij balances emotional tension with practical danger nicely, a must in a story whose activist protagonists can make no distinction between the personal and the political." [26] Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave The East 5 stars and highlighted it as a Sundance standout. He said the film felt like a "sophisticated" Earth First! take of The Parallax View and other 1970s films with the theme of paranoia. [27]

Logan Hill, reviewing for indieWire, said, "Fast-paced and energetic, 'The East' hits a beat and hurries along to the next 'Jam.' As slickly paced as a big-studio espionage movie, it nearly succeeds as a pure adrenaline-rush thriller. In the end, the problem isn't that there's too much plot, but rather a certain dramatic illogic." Hill commended the cast and said of the direction, "Batmanglij has a particular talent for capturing that unmoored, twentysomething search for meaning, and the tight-knit allure of a group that offers a reason for living. But the film is so plot-driven, those don't have much room to breathe." [28]

Following the film's release in May, the film review aggregation website Metacritic surveyed 36 critics and assessed 26 reviews to be positive, nine to be mixed, and one to be negative. It gave an aggregate score of 68 out of 100, which it said indicated "generally favorable reviews". [29] Another review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, surveyed 141 critics and, categorizing the reviews as positive or negative, assessed 104 as positive and 37 as mixed or negative. It gave the film a score of 74% and summarized the critical consensus, "Tense, thoughtful, and deftly paced, The East is a political thriller that never loses sight of the human element." [30]

Home media Edit

The East was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the United States on September 17, 2013 [31] and in the UK on November 5, 2013. [32]


Upwardly Mogul [November 1976]

Move over, Hollywood. Make way for Joe Camp. Joe Camp?

THREE YEARS AGO ANYBODY in the business could describe a Texas movie producer for you: loud talking, fast moving (white Eldorado), Frye boots, and a rodeo shirt to match his California girl friend&rsquos born in Brooklyn (where else?), with two quickies to his credit&mdashone that four-walled Waco, Temple, and died, the other still playing some outdoor circuit in Alabama.

Joseph Shelton Camp, Jr., scriptwriter, director, producer, president, and man-in-the-saddle for Mulberry Square Productions of Dallas, changed that image with a G-rated dog picture named Benji. This Texas product did the thing a movie must do first to be taken seriously. It made lots . . . and lots . . . of money. In fact, earlier this year when Variety, the show-biz Bible, listed the box office winners for 1975, Benji was in slot #3 behind that mechanical shark and that blazing skyscraper, with a gross of $30,000,000. Camp and his advertising chief Ken Roznoy protested that Variety must have its figures skewed Benji ought to be somewhere like twelfth or thirteenth, but the protests did no good. The film world wanted the Texas movie mutt to be a hero. Benji, the film, became an industry legend, and Benji, the mutt, achieved some kind of screen immortality, not to mention international identification.

Whether #3 or #13, Benji was unquestionably a box-office bonanza. Mulberry Square became overnight the major movie producer outside Hollywood and New York and a rival for the world of Disney. The Benji story is no more amazing from its box-office figures than from other angles: not only was it shot in Texas (at McKinney, 40 miles north of Dallas), it was filmed by a Texas cinematographer (Don Reddy), scored by Texas musicians (Euel and Betty Box), written, directed, and produced by a Texan&mdashhis first feature film, on top of that&mdashand when the chips got down, released and distributed from Dallas. All on a budget of $550,000, Texas money. The dog, alas, came from California.

Camp switched from dogs to dromedaries with his second picture, Hawmps!, released in June. The $1,500,000 comedy is about a time in the nineteenth century when Uncle Sam tried to add a camel corps to his cavalry. Camp conceived the story while reading Texas history. Hawmps! hasn&rsquot caught Benji&mdashwon&rsquot catch Benji&mdashbut Camp says it ought to show a fair profit by year&rsquos end. It took off with overblown expectations and an ad budget to match, but it did one thing: Hawmps! got Mulberry Square over the (forgive me) second-picture hump.

Mulberry Square Productions was the brainchild of a slender, dimple-chinned, 37-year-old former advertising copywriter. Camp wears cowboy boots and rodeo shirts and drives a Cadillac (red Seville), but after that the stereotype fades. He is soft-spoken with a Southern edge to his voice he is articulate about moviemaking but there&rsquos not much film mystique to his conversation. His artistic models are Charade, Lady and the Tramp, and What&rsquos Up, Doc? But he also liked Shampoo, Midnight Cowboy (despite its despair), and All the President&rsquos Men. His filmmaking philosophy is simple: entertain the audience, whatever audience, whatever age. He is fond of saying, &ldquoThere are two wrong reasons to make a movie: self and money.&rdquo

Right now, Camp and his production crew are on location in Athens, Greece, shooting another Benji film titled (at this writing) For the Love of Benji. Unless war or some other disaster breaks loose, filming will be finished in January. The story is about foreign intrigue and spies, double agents, and other sinister types who kidnap Benji from his touring American owners.

There&rsquos only room for one genius at Mulberry Square, and Joe Camp is it. He puts everything together: script, production, location, investment package, advertising program, releasing and distribution patterns. Camp&rsquos megalomania doesn&rsquot necessarily imply an inflated ego&mdashhe just has to have things done the way he likes them and is in a position to see that&rsquos how they&rsquore done. There are two schools of thought on Camp as leader: inspiring (a view held by most of the 40 or so working for him) and impossible (held by most of the considerable number who have departed). At the bargaining table with New York and Hollywood industry people he is stubborn and steel and shrewd. Things go his way or they don&rsquot go. He&rsquos prepared to lose, but not to give up. For example, he&rsquos turned down astonishing TV offers for Benji because he felt they gave the networks too much advantage. Camp is not easily awed.

&ldquoAs far back as the third grade in Little Rock we made shows in the garage and sold tickets,&rdquo Camp says. By high school, &ldquowe&rsquod do little dramas in eight millimeter.&rdquo He went to Ole Miss and majored in advertising, eloping with Andrea Carolyn Hopkins in his senior year, 1960. Joe and Carolyn came to Texas in 1961 by way of Houston and a McCann-Erickson advertising trainee job. Joe then got into Gulf Coast real estate promotion and even opened a sing-along banjo club (The Colonel&rsquos Quarters), but discovered that wasn&rsquot his kind of entertainment business. He returned to advertising with Norsworthy-Mercer in Dallas. By now it was late 1963 and Camp decided to try creative writing. He met two commercial artists, Harland Wright and Erwin Hearne, who ate lunch in the basement cafeteria. They formed a writing team, with Camp rising at 4 a.m. to spend a couple of hours batting out stories which Harland and Erwin added to or took from on their lunch break.

Danny Arnold, then produer of That Girl, liked a proposal they submitted and asked them to come out to the Coast on a project. He finally told them, &ldquoYou&rsquore great with dialogue and character handling&mdashyou&rsquore awful with a story line.&rdquo But that period helped their writing mature. &ldquoI knew something was wrong. I came back to Dallas and found a book that changed my whole approach to writing, Basic Formulas of Fiction, by Foster-Harris.&rdquo Camp keeps copies to give to writers he feels have potential.

Camp&rsquos first film was a ten-minute industrial promotion for the City of Denton. The agency had a little money left over for a film, but nobody with experience wanted to touch it at the figure. &ldquoI conned them into letting me do it on weekends at cost. I&rsquod never even seen an Arriflex [a professional 16 mm camera] and we didn&rsquot even know a tape splicer existed.&rdquo

But it worked, mainly because Camp built in some of his gut emotion and imagination. The star was a little red Volkswagen that carried the cast all around Denton looking for industrial sites. One day, sitting in the Volks, they all daydreamed what the ten-minute movie would do for them: Harland Wright would become a rich and famous production designer (he&rsquos Mulberry Square&rsquos design chief now), Joe Camp would be a big producer, and &ldquoWhat about me?&rdquo a Denton girl in the cast asked. &ldquoPhyllis,&rdquo Joe told Phyllis George three years before it happened, &ldquoYou&rsquoll be Miss America.&rdquo

The Denton film&rsquos success did get Camp a second commercial, this time with enough budget to rent facilities at Jamieson Film Studios in Dallas. Though Camp says he was still green, the client loved it, and the Jamieson heads asked him to come on as producer-director. After eighteen months, Jamieson having changed ownership, Camp decided to open his own studio. On January 1, 1971, Mulberry Square Productions came into existence. (The name has no esoteric significance: &ldquoWe just brainstormed something that sounded good.&rdquo) Camp told his investors his goals were to be the best commercial filmhouse in the Southwest and to use that to launch feature picture production. He gave a speech about competing with Los Angeles and New York on a quality basis, not with Dallas on a price basis. Dallas had become big in commercial filmmaking but was a price market&mdashclients wanted their films cheap. Mulberry Square went its first seven months without exposing one frame for pay. Camp&rsquos backers were ready to pull out, so he found Ed Vanston, a Dallas insurance man, who bought out the hold group at a bargain rate. By January Mulberry Square finally blossomed. It did more volume that month than it had done in the preceding twelve.

&ldquoEd told me, when he bought in, ‘You show me one year in the black and I&rsquoll put before you the men who can finance the feature you want to make if you can sell ‘em,'&rdquo Camp says. &ldquoWe came to the end of &rsquo72 and I said to Ed, ‘OK, there&rsquos your year in the black. Let&rsquos get ‘em together.&rsquo He hadn&rsquot believed he would have to, but Ed started bringing in prospects, and we started selling them. By April 1, I was writing a script and by July we were in production on Benji.&rdquo

Camp had written Benji in 1968 as a story treatment and passed it around Hollywood. The response was, &ldquoWell, you can&rsquot do that live, and if you do it in animation you&rsquore talking Disney costs,&rdquo so it was sitting on the shelf. The film was released in June 1974 every major studio turned it down or wanted to run it as a kiddie feature. Camp, in his most memorable and daring career decision, resolved to do his own distribution. Distribution is the dark mystery of the film industry. The legend, which Camp punctured, is that only a major studio has access to the kind of national and international exposure that enables a picture to gross millions. When Camp called Vanston and told him, &ldquoWe&rsquore going to distribute Benji ourselves,&rdquo Vanston asked, stunned, &ldquoWhat do you know about motion-picture distribution?&rdquo Joe&rsquos answer was, &ldquoWhat did we know about motion-picture production?&rdquo

Vanston filled the moneybags again, and in two months they had their distributing company. The summer of 1974 was a learning process, but by August things were coming together. However, autumn is traditionally a bad playing time, especially for a picture with youth appeal. Industry pessimists warned Camp, but he tried pushing Benji into fall anyway&mdashand discovered the pessimists were right. After playing Los Angeles, so the film could qualify for the Academy Awards (the chutzpah of the thought!), Benji was pulled to be held for a national break in June 1975.

That winter (and that chutzpah) made the difference. The Benji theme song, &ldquoI Feel Love&rdquo (sung by Charlie Rich), was nominated for an Oscar and was awarded the Golden Globe, the Oscar equivalent given by the foreign movie critics in Hollywood. Millions of television watchers who might never have heard of or given a second thought to a G-rated Texas dog picture came away from the Academy Awards humming &ldquoI Feel Love&rdquo and hearing about Benji on the talk shows.

Camp was double lucky putting Benji together. First, he got trainer Frank Inn and his dog Higgins (seven years on Petticoat Junction) for the title role&mdashand it is a role almost human in its demands, because the picture is played through the eyes and mind of the dog. Benji (as Higgins was quickly rechristened) does a superb piece of acting&mdashsuperior, in fact, to the humans&mdashand is just the right size and the right sort of canine ragamuffin to carry off the part. He has been installed in the Animal Actors&rsquo Hall of Fame, which is far more select than its human counterpart.

Winter and spring of 1975 was revolution time for Mulberry Square. Commercial production was dropped, and Camp flung himself into distribution and promotion the same way he had done production: don&rsquot-look-back decisions, frenzied hours for all, thousands in ad dollars (becoming $2 million with Hawmps!)&mdashand simple intransigence. Handworking the nation&rsquos theater chains, he got exclusive bookings almost everywhere but New York. &ldquoNew York had been a problem market for G-rated films because Disney hadn&rsquot played well the last seven or eight years,&rdquo Camp says. &ldquoThey wanted us to go on the multiple-run track everywhere at once, but we didn&rsquot want Benji locked into that catergory.&rdquo His solution was typical Camp. He took a full page ($12,000) in the Sunday New York Times proclaiming Benji was coming and exhorted, &ldquoCall your favorite theater for opening date.&rdquo The next day the Guild 50th Theater, an exclusive house just off Fifth Avenue, called and said, &ldquoWe want to play that picture exclusive.&rdquo Whoosh! It set house records and went on to a tremendous showcase (multiple) run in 53 New York neighborhood houses. The picture also went over big in France and Italy, where &ldquoBeniamino&rdquo became a hit song and a national fad. At the end of the season, Camp announced Benji would be withdrawn from the U.S. market, not to be rereleased for seven years in this country. He also bought out Ed Vanston. Today Mulberry Square is all his.

In the summer of 1976, Hawmps! was in trouble. The Los Angeles and New York runs were disasters, and the North and Northeast refused to be amused&mdashalthough the Southeast, Southwest (including Texas), and Northwest exceeded expectations. The ad and promotional costs had been monumental&mdashCamp&rsquos airline bill alone will run $31,000, says comptroller A. Z. Smith. There wasn&rsquot a big city Camp or the Hawmps! stars hadn&rsquot visited, but it didn&rsquot work back East.

Camp admits he was never satisfied with Hawmps! Too long, for one thing. Too hurried, for another. &ldquoI think one of the things that makes greatness is having the time to do it till it&rsquos right,&rdquo he mused. &ldquoSomething needs reshooting, recutting, rewriting&mdashyou call the people back and do it, like with Benji. It&rsquos bad enough when somebody criticizes you and you think you&rsquove done a decent job. It&rsquos ten times worse when somebody criticizes you and you know they&rsquore right.&rdquo Not that he won&rsquot defend himself. He took two pages in the Times when local reviewers got nasty, quoting six national critics who raved over Hawmps!, and had a character ballooning to another, &ldquoGood grief. Did you see what those New York reviewers said about our movie?&rdquo &ldquoDon&rsquot worry,&rdquo the second character ballooned back, &ldquoThey said the same thing about Benji.&rdquo

Then, box-office returns started coming from Japan where Benji opened in July and became a sensation. The first week the figures ran $192,000 at four houses, and $125,000 at a single Tokyo theater in four days. By mid-August the slowness of Hawmps! was diluted by signs of a good TV bid, and Camp was back merchandising spin-offs from the new Benji project: everything from paperback book rights to dolls, games, toys, furniture, and clothing with the Benji logo. In the August issue of Good Housekeeping, a full-color page announced &ldquoA Benji Puppy for Your Very Own&rdquo contest to run until April 1977. Frank Inn will present the pup to the winner in the June issue&mdashjust as the new Benji film is released. Camp would have preferred not making a sequel, he says, but pressure from fans (and investors) was too great. The dog will not be Higgins-Benji, but an offspring. Higgins-Benji, at 17 years, is as weary as a 100-year-old man.

By now lots of industry people have pro and con theories about Camp as filmmaker. Some say his pictures are good for what they are: entertainment. Some insist he&rsquos no artist. But all say he&rsquos a conceptualizer and merchandiser who can pull things together, package, and push them as good as&mdashmaybe better than&mdashanybody else in the business. But, they add, someday he&rsquos going to have to give up something.

&ldquoIf I ever turn loose something in the production process,&rdquo Camp says, &ldquoit might be directing the picture.&rdquo He won&rsquot relinquish final control of the script or of editing. And for as long as Joe Camp can see down the road, he and Mulberry Square will stay in Texas. A Hollywood producer once told him, &ldquoEverything you&rsquove done up to now has been impossible, but you didn&rsquot know it so you went ahead and did it. You move out here and in two years, I&rsquoll guarantee, you&rsquoll know it&rsquos impossible and you won&rsquot try. That&rsquos what happens in Hollywood.&rdquo But not in Dallas.


Film Review: ‘Benji’

Benji is back. The adorable stray returns in a family film that tries to recapture (and slightly improve upon) the feel-good formula of Joe Camp's 1974 underdog success.

Peter Debruge

Latest

Before Air Bud, before Beethoven, there was Benji, one of the most beloved (and financially successful) canine characters in cinema history &mdash and yet, oddly enough, a name unfamiliar to an entire generation of kids who haven&rsquot seen a new installment since 2004&rsquos &ldquoBenji: Off the Leash!&rdquo That&rsquos 14 long years ago, which means there&rsquos no one in this film&rsquos target audience (unless you count &ldquokids at heart&rdquo) who was alive when the last film came out.

Now, thanks to Netflix, the shaggy mutt returns to the screen (although not the big one, alas) for a &ldquoBenji&rdquo reboot that proves this particular dog has more lives than most cats, more charm than most humans and more earnings potential than the proverbial golden-egg-laying goose &mdash which might explain why Blumhouse (the low-budget genre shingle best known for horror films like &ldquoGet Out&rdquo and &ldquoParanormal Activity&rdquo) got behind what is essentially a remake of the 1974 original, even if the family-friendly canine romp appears relatively far outside its wheelhouse.

It&rsquos a win-win for all involved: Netflix gets a name-brand kids title, Blumhouse recoups on a modest investment and the Camp family renews its claim on an empire of merchandising that exceeded $1.2 billion in its heyday. Without wandering far from the tried-and-true formula, director Brandon Camp (son of &ldquoBenji&rdquo creator Joe Camp) brings a measure of style and competence to the project that the franchise has never seen.

Popular on Variety

Making room for salt-of-the-earth supporting characters (like pawnshop owner Gralen Bryant Banks) and feel-good folk-song interludes (including a cross-country montage that echoes a scene from Todd Solondz&rsquos miserabilist &ldquoWiener-Dog&rdquo), &ldquoBenji&rdquo reintroduces a lovable dog in need of a good home, as well as a pair of latchkey kids, Carter (&ldquoThe Dangerous Book for Boys&rdquo star Gabriel Bateman) and Frankie (Darby Camp, no relation to the director), who find him wandering the streets of New Orleans.

Benji may not look like much at first, but he&rsquos the best-trained &ldquostray&rdquo in showbiz, clever enough to outwit animal control and foil a kidnapping plan. His enormous brown eyes and unkempt long hair are an essential part of the character&rsquos appeal, encouraging audiences to project whatever emotion is called for, while conveniently overlooking that any dog that knows this many tricks had to be taught by someone, and probably isn&rsquot homeless. If only there were some statistic for the number of rescue dogs who have been adopted as a direct result of the Benji movies.

In an endearing touch, this latest installment opens with a dogcatcher taking away Benji&rsquos mom and the tiny pup sitting alone in the street looking bereft. Actually, the dog looks like he&rsquos expecting to get a treat the instant Camp calls, &ldquoCut!&rdquo but that&rsquos part of the magic of the Benji movies: They are perhaps the best examples in contemporary cinema of the Kuleshov effect &mdash the basic principle of film editing, established by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov nearly a century ago, that audiences attribute emotion to a blank face according to the shot immediately before or after. (The experiment showed that if the same neutral closeup of an actor&rsquos face was intercut with a plate of soup, a child in a coffin, and an attractive woman, people projected the appropriate feeling &mdash hunger, sadness or desire &mdash onto the vacant expression.)

Dog acting works via a similar principle: If Camp can be clear enough in the way he constructs any given scene, audiences will do all the work of ascribing emotion and intention onto Benji&rsquos performance &mdash which mostly involves looking in the right direction, running across the screen and hitting his mark (although there are other more impressive cases where he must carry something in his mouth, push a trash bin or chair into position or run a few paces ahead of a ferocious Rottweiler).

The best example is an elaborate chase sequence, during which Benji appears to be fast on the trail of a van in which two thieves (Will Rothhaar and Angus Sampson) have tied up Carter and Frankie, en route to the run-down plantation home that serves as their lair. Benji and the vehicle are almost never seen in the same shot, which means that we must do all the work of guessing where they are in relation to one another. Carter drops strawberries out an open window, and somehow that&rsquos enough for Benji to go on.

Meanwhile, staring at a dog that can&rsquot speak (which was a key rule that has set the Benji movies apart from the beginning), the kids&rsquo single mom (Kiele Sanchez) and a friendly cop (Jerod Haynes) struggle to understand what Benji is trying to communicate &mdash and what any child watching can tell them: &ldquoFollow Benji! He knows where they&rsquove taken Carter and Frankie!&rdquo It&rsquos an effective dynamic that puts young viewers in that all-too-familiar position of trying to convince grown-ups to listen to them when they have something important to say.

&ldquoBenji&rdquo may be far too simplistic for adults to find much enjoyment in watching, but it rewards active viewing from kids and displays mostly model behavior on the part of its young protagonists (once they stop keeping secrets from their mother, that is). Parents should be warned, however, that everyone who sees it will want to adopt a dog of his or her own afterward.


Contents

Season 1 focuses on a new student at Creekwood High School, Victor. The series follows his journey of self-discovery: facing challenges at home and struggling with his sexual orientation. He reaches out to Simon when it seems too difficult for him to navigate through high school.

Season 2 deals with the aftermath of his coming out and follows Victor as he navigates through this new world with his friends, while also dealing with his relationship with Benji, which is tested multiple times, due in part to Victor's family and a new possible love interest.

Main Edit

    as Victor Salazar: [2] A new student at Creekwood High School, struggling with his identity surrounding his sexual orientation and adjusting to a new city [3]
  • Rachel Hilson as Mia Brooks: [2] Victor's smart friend and ex-girlfriend who has a quick wit and an easy laugh. They dated before Victor came out. [4]
  • Anthony Turpel as Felix Westen: [2] Victor's awkward new neighbor who seeks to befriend him [3] as Lake Meriwether: [2] Mia's social media–obsessed best friend [3] as Andrew: [2] Creekwood's cocky and popular basketball-loving jock [3]
  • George Sear as Benji Campbell: [2] Victor's openly gay, confident and charming classmate to whom he takes a liking [3]
  • Isabella Ferreira as Pilar Salazar: [2] Victor's anxious younger sister troubled with her new life [3]
  • Mateo Fernandez as Adrian Salazar: Victor's little brother [3] as Armando Salazar: Victor's father, a blue-collar man who works hard for his family [3] as Isabel Salazar: Victor's mother who is under a lot of pressure after a move to a new city [5]

Nick Robinson, reprising his role as Simon Spier from Love, Simon, [3] mostly appears via voice-over, narrating Simon's messages to Victor. Robinson appears as Simon in person in the eighth episode of the first season and the tenth episode of the second season.

Recurring Edit

    as Derek, Benji's ex-boyfriend (season 1, guest season 2) as Harold Brooks, Mia's father as Veronica: Mia's father's new girlfriend, who runs a non-profit organization for women [6] as Sarah, the manager of the coffee house where Victor and Benji work (season 1, guest season 2) as Georgina Meriwether, a local news host and Lake's mother
  • Abigail Killmeier as Wendy, a theater kid who Felix takes as his date to the Spring Fling
  • Charlie Hall as Kieran, one of Andrew's close friends
  • AJ Carr as Teddy, another one of Andrew's close friends as Coach Ford, P.E. teacher and varsity basketball coach as Wyatt, one of Andrew's close friends as Ms. Thomas, Creekwood's sex education teacher (season 1)
  • Daniel Croix as Tyler, Mia’s friend she met at a college function (season 2) as Dawn Westen, Felix's mother who suffers from mental health issues (season 2) as Mr. Campbell, Benji's father (season 2)
  • Ava Capri as Lucy, Benji's friend and Andrew's girlfriend (season 2)
  • Anthony Keyvan as Rahim, Pilar's friend who comes from a religious Iranian Muslim family and Victor's new love interest (season 2) [7] as Shelby, Armando’s new friend and later love interest he met at a PFLAG meeting (season 2)

Guest Edit

  • Steven Heisler as Roger, Armando's former boss with whom Isabel had an affair (season 1) as Bram Greenfeld, Simon Spier's boyfriend, reprising his role from Love, Simon[8] (season 1) as herself, performing at the gay club Messy Boots in NYC [8] (season 1) as Justin, Bram and Simon's roommate [8] (season 1) as Ms. Albright, vice principal at Creekwood, previously the school's drama teacher, reprising her role from Love, Simon (season 1) as Natalia Salazar, Victor's grandmother (season 1)
  • Juan Carlos Cantu as Tito Salazar, Victor's grandfather (season 1) as himself, playing basketball with a group of gay men (season 1) as Jack Spier, Simon Spier's father, reprising his role from Love, Simon (season 2) as Ms. Campbell, Benji's mother (season 2) as Charlie, an online crush of Rahim's (season 2)

Series overview Edit

Season 1 (2020) Edit

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release dateProd.
code
11"Welcome to Creekwood"Amy York RubinTeleplay by : Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth BergerJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG01
Victor and his family move from Texas to Atlanta. Victor's younger sister, Pilar, resents having to leave her old life and boyfriend behind. Victor quickly becomes friends with the unpopular Felix, who lives in the same building. At school, Victor meets the well-liked Mia and her best friend Lake and develops a crush on openly gay student Benji. Victor is invited to join the basketball team but clashes with another member of the team, Andrew, who ridicules Victor for being seemingly poor. Victor learns about Simon Spier's coming out story at Creekwood and messages him via social media, who replies that he is there for Victor if he ever needs to talk. At the Winter Carnival, Victor sees both Mia and Benji but, wanting to fit in, decides to ask Mia to ride the Ferris Wheel with him.
22"Stoplight Party"Jason EnslerBrian TanenJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG02
Victor has been catapulted into popularity after going on the Ferris Wheel with Mia, who is starting to have feelings for him. Mia and Lake plan a "stoplight" party, where students wear colors according to their relationship status. Victor begins working at a local coffee shop where Benji also works, Brasstown, in order to make money to join the basketball team. At the party, Victor struggles to fit in. Felix pines for Lake, who instead likes Andrew. At home, Pilar breaks up with her boyfriend back in Texas, while Isabel and Armando face marital problems. Victor shares a tender moment with Mia and messages Simon that he might like her.
33"Battle of the Bands"Pilar BoehmJen BraedenJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG03
Victor asks Mia out and plans to take her to a Battle of the Bands being hosted at Brasstown. Lake asks Andrew to go with her to the competition, who agrees in order to spend time with Mia. Benji and Victor bond while working together, and Victor learns that Benji will be performing at the Battle of the Bands. Worried that being around Benji will distract him from his date with Mia, Victor instead chooses to take her to an art exhibition, where they share their first kiss. Victor and Mia eventually end up catching the end of the Battle of the Bands, and Victor's crush on Benji grows after watching him perform. However, it is revealed that Benji has a boyfriend, Derek. Lake discovers that Andrew is in love with Mia. Meanwhile, Pilar helps her mother Isabel by setting up a Facebook account for her, and is shocked when a man named Roger R. sends a friend request to the new profile and starts flirting with her.
44"The Truth Hurts"Michael LennoxMarcos LuevanosJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG04
Pilar, suspicious that Isabel is having an affair, is heartbroken. She shares the news with Victor, who does not believe that their mother would cheat but is persuaded into setting up a meeting up with Roger from Facebook by pretending to be Isabel. Victor sees Roger in person and is shocked to discover that he is the former boss of their father, Armando. Victor and Mia bond over Mia's sadness at the fact that her father is dating a new woman and moving on from her mother. At a basketball game, Victor confronts his parents about Isabel's affair and learns that Armando is already aware of it. Pilar and Victor are shocked to learn their family moved to Atlanta to help their parents recover from the aftermath of the affair.
55"Sweet Sixteen"Anne FletcherSheila LawrenceJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG05
The Salazars have not been close since the confrontation the previous week, upsetting Victor. Simon warns Victor to make time for himself, while Victor shares he hopes to figure out his identity. Victor's sixteenth birthday is coming up and a party is being thrown. All of Victor's extended family and friends are coming, including Mia and Benji. Felix and Lake bond while running an errand for the party. At the party, Victor's grandparents accidentally see Benji and Derek kissing, which angers them. Victor and Isabel stand up for Benji. Mia and Pilar bond over their respective family struggles. Victor and Mia kiss and declare they are an item. Armando warns Victor that Adrian might be gay and that he is not happy about it.
66"Creekwood Nights"Anu ValiaDavid SmithymanJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG06
Mia and Lake discuss Mia's relationship with Victor. She wants the relationship to be more than it is and is interested in sex after the class takes sex-ed. Benji is coming up on his first anniversary with Derek, where the two bond about how they are romantics. Victor confides in Benji that he is a virgin and is hesitant to have sex with Mia. Benji shares that if he can do it, anyone can. Nervous, Victor brings Felix with him, much to Mia's chagrin. Benji plans a nice evening for Derek, but he isn't happy with it. Felix and Lake kiss for the first time. Lake suggests that Victor is gay, so he tries to force himself to have sex with Mia. Ultimately he cannot, and says he is old fashioned. She accepts this. Simon tells Victor he is not attracted to Mia and to end things before they get hurt.
77"What Happens In Willacoochee"Jay KarasDanny FernandezJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG07
Victor is viewing dating Mia as a chance to be normal. Mia asks him to attend a fundraiser with him and he accepts. Andrew pines over Mia at the fundraiser. Lake tells Felix that their hookup never happened, but Felix later realizes he wants to seriously date Lake. Benji and Victor are forced to take a road trip to repair the coffee machine of their work when it breaks. Felix bonds with Pilar, who gives him advice on Lake that later impresses her. When Victor learns that he could stay that night with Benji and sees this as a chance for him to figure out his sexuality, he tells Benji that they must stay in a motel overnight for the coffee machine to be fixed. At the motel, Benji reveals he came out because he almost died one-night drunk driving while trying to deny his sexuality. Benji tells Victor he is easy to talk to and is happy they are friends. Later that night, Victor kisses Benji who pushes him away as he is still with Derek. Horrified, Victor texts Simon who reassures him about who he is. Benji suggests they don't talk about the kiss.
88"Boys' Trip"Todd HollandBrian TanenJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG08
Victor takes a trip to visit Simon in New York City, where he is shown around town by Simon's group of accepting friends (Simon himself is in a party out of state). This annoys Mia as Victor is once again leaving, so she grows closer to Andrew and away from Victor. At detention, Andrew and Mia learn that Lake and Felix have been hooking up. Embarrassed, Lake upsets Felix by saying she wants to keep their relationship quiet. Mia tells Andrew she wishes he would be a nicer person, but she still cares for him. While at a drag party, Simon's friends accidentally let slip to Victor that they are all aware of Victor's situation at school and with Benji. Simon shows up and explains to an angry Victor that he needed his friend's guidance to help Victor navigate his world. Victor reconciles with Simon and his friends, who help Victor realize that they are all here for each other and he has people who accept him.
99"Who the Hell is B?"Rebecca AsherJeremy Roth & Jess PinedaJune 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG09
Victor comes out to Felix, the first person he's told. Victor is distraught to learn that Benji, due to the kiss, will be working elsewhere. Simon advises Victor to write a letter to Benji and see if he will understand him better and his mistakes. Isabel and Armando continue to fight, which upsets Victor and Pilar. Felix continues his romance with Lake and learns that she has an overbearing mother. To make her feel better he tries to tell her that he also has a stressful at home life, but she still does not want to be seen with him due to her mother's standards. Felix decides to break up with Lake. In Victor's backpack, Pilar finds a note to B, unaware that it's Victor's note to Benji.
1010"Spring Fling"Jason EnslerTeleplay by : Jillian Moreno
Story by : Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger
June 17, 2020 ( 2020-06-17 ) 1CFG10
Benji gets Victor's note but tells Victor that he needs his space. Victor plans to take Mia to the Spring Fling and tell her the truth the day after. Felix and Lake go to the dance with separate partners, but end up reconciling and kissing in front of the whole school, their relationship now public. Felix accidentally tells Pilar that the note was about an incident on Victor's work trip. When Pilar questions Benji about it, Derek overhears Benji and Derek break up after. While talking to Victor, Benji confesses Derek didn't make him feel good like Victor does and that he wants to be with someone who does, and they kiss confessing their feelings for each other, which Mia witnesses unbeknownst to the two. Victor, to protect his relationship with Benji, promises him he will come out to everyone eventually. When Mia confronts Victor about his kiss with Benji and questions whether he liked her, he asserts that parts of their relationship were real. Pilar confronts Victor about him cheating, but he insists that he still is the same person. Comforted, Pilar and Victor head home, where their parents announce that they will separate. Despite the news, Victor comes out to his parents.

Season 2 (2021) Edit

Development Edit

In April 2019, Disney+ gave the 20th Century Fox Television–produced show – based on the film Love, Simon – a straight-to-series order, with the writers of the original movie, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, attached as showrunners. [10] The show would focus on brand new characters and would be set in the same world as the movie.

"Love, Simon is a powerful story embraced by critics and audiences alike for its universal messages of authenticity, love, and acceptance. We are honored to partner with the talented team at 20th Century Fox Television to bring this new chapter of a beloved story to Disney+, continuing the personal and uplifting narrative that captivated fans of the original film."

In February 2020, the series was retitled Love, Victor and moved to Hulu, with a scheduled premiere date in June 2020, making it the second series – after High Fidelity – to move from Disney+ to Hulu. [12] In April 2020, it was announced that the series was scheduled to premiere on June 19, 2020. [13] On June 10, 2020, the premiere date was moved up to June 17, 2020, to give Juneteenth its own day in the spotlight. [14] On August 7, 2020, Hulu renewed the series for a second season which premiered on June 11, 2021 and consists of 10 episodes. [15] [1]

Casting Edit

In June 2019, Ana Ortiz was cast as Isabel. [5] In mid-August, the series' full cast was announced, with Michael Cimino as the lead, Victor. Also announced were James Martinez as Armando, Isabella Ferreira as Pilar, Mateo Fernandez as Adrian, Johnny Sequoyah as Mia, Bebe Wood as Lake, George Sear as Benji, Anthony Turpel as Felix, and Mason Gooding as Andrew. It was also announced that Nick Robinson, who starred in the film, would produce and narrate the series. [3] Later that month, it was reported that Rachel Hilson had been cast as Mia, replacing Sequoyah. The recast was made in order to take the character in a new creative direction. [4] On October 23, 2019, it was also announced that Sophia Bush had been cast as Veronica, Mia's father's new girlfriend. [6]

In November 2020, Betsy Brandt was announced as having been cast in season 2 as Dawn, Felix's mother, who struggles with mental health issues. [16] Ava Capri and Anthony Keyvan were also announced as joining the second-season cast. [17]

Filming Edit

Filming began in August 2019, in Los Angeles, with Amy York Rubin directing the first episode. [3] Filming for the second season began on November 9, 2020. [18]

Music Edit

The soundtrack EP for the first season, featuring three new songs by LGBT artists and all co-written by Leland, was released on June 19, 2020, by Hollywood Records. [19]

The soundtrack album for the second season features eight new songs by LGBT artists and all co-written by Leland, was released on June 11, 2021, by Hollywood Records. [20] [21]


Contents

Act I Edit

The drag queen Mitzi Mitosis – stage name of Anthony "Tick" Belrose – is performing at a club ("Downtown" [Australia and London]/"I've Never Been to Me" "It's Raining Men" [Broadway]) when his estranged wife Marion, calls in for a favour. While Tick is offstage, fellow drag queen Miss Understanding performs her own number ("What's Love Got to Do With It?"). From the phone in Tick's dressing room, Marion reveals that she needs an act for a few weeks at her business in distant Alice Springs, Australia. Tick is at first reluctant, but Marion informs him that part of the reason she's asking is because their now eight-year-old son Benji wants to meet his father ("I Say A Little Prayer"). Tick confides in another fellow drag queen Farrah, before deciding he will leave for Alice Springs. Tick then calls a friend, a transgender woman named Bernadette to join him but Bernadette's husband has just died. The pair meet at the funeral ("Don't Leave Me This Way"), where Bernadette agrees to join him. Tick also asks a friend Felicia – stage name of Adam Whitely – to come with them ("Venus"/"Material Girl"), with Bernadette taking an immediate dislike to his show-off performance style. Nonetheless, the newly formed trio buy a "budget Barbie campervan" they nickname "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" ("Go West"). Tick informs them that the trip is a favour to his wife, but does not tell them it is also to meet his son who wants to see him ("I Say A Little Prayer (Reprise)"). As the journey to Alice Springs begins, Adam angers Bernadette after making transphobic jokes about her life before transitioning. Later the group arrives at a bar in Broken Hill, in full drag, and start a bar dance party ("I Love the Nightlife"), but when they return to the bus learn that the townspeople wrote hateful statements on the bus in spray paint. Tick is very upset, but Adam and Bernadette comfort him ("Both Sides, Now"/"True Colors"). While on the road, Adam practices his lip-syncing as Felicia sitting in the giant high heel on the roof of the van ("Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata)"). The next morning, Priscilla breaks down and Adam buys lavender paint to erase the vandalism ("Colour My World"). They manage to get the locals of another town on their side and meet Bob, a mechanic from a small town nearby who agrees to help fix Priscilla. The group celebrates that they've found people that accept them ("I Will Survive").

Act II Edit

The second act opens with a group of bogans singing ("Thank God I'm A Country Boy"). Bernadette talks with Bob and learns that when he was in Sydney, he saw her when she was a young "Les Girl" ("A Fine Romance"). The two begin to grow feelings for each other. Later in a bar ("Thank God I'm A Country Boy Reprise"), the trio is about to perform ("Shake Your Groove Thing") when Cynthia, Bob's wife, interrupts their act by "popping" ping-pong balls ("Pop Muzik"). After this, the trio leaves, leaving Bob to wonder about his feelings for Bernadette ("A Fine Romance (Reprise)"). All of a sudden, Bernadette asks if he wants a free ride back to his real home, in which he agrees ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). Later when they arrive, Adam dresses up like a woman to try to meet men ("Hot Stuff"), but ends up getting chased and nearly becomes the victim of a hate crime until Bernadette rescues him by kicking one of his attackers. Later as they arrive in Alice Springs, Tick reflects on the trip after someone literally leaves the cake out in the rain ("MacArthur Park"). As another act performs first ("Boogie Wonderland"), the trio gets ready to perform a variety of songs that they sang or lip-synced on their journey ("The Floor Show"). Afterwards, Tick finally meets his son, Benji, who accepts his father's sexuality and lifestyle ("Always on My Mind/I Say a Little Prayer") and Adam gets to perform his own solo Madonna hit, ("Like A Prayer" [Broadway] "Confide in Me/Kylie Medley" [Australia and West End]), his favorite singer. Afterwards the gang talks about their plans after Alice Springs, and realize they can't leave each other ("We Belong"). They go off stage together and the company performs a medley of songs to close the show ("Finally (Finale)").

*In the West End production, the role of Marion was played by Yvette Robinson whilst Amy Field was on maternity leave (1 December 2009 – 25 September 2010).
**In every production, the role of Benjamin is played by more than one actor, each alternating at certain performances, due to their young age. In the UK Tour the role of Benji was shared between around 30 different boys up and down the UK.

***In some productions (only) Farrah and Young Bernadette were played by the same Actor.

Australia (2006–08) Edit

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert premiered on 7 October 2006 at the Lyric Theatre, Star City Casino, Sydney, Australia and ended its run on 2 September 2007. [1] Directed by Melbourne Theatre Company artistic director Simon Phillips, it starred Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, Jeremy Stanford as Tick/Mitzi and Daniel Scott as Adam/Felicia with Michael Caton as Bob and Joshua Arkey, Alec Epsimos, Rowan Scott and Joel Slater as Benjamin.

The Sydney production transferred to the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, beginning previews on 28 September 2007 before opening on 6 October 2007. The show closed on 27 April 2008 to make way for the Australian premiere of Wicked. [2]

The Melbourne production transferred to Auckland in New Zealand for a limited run, opening on 28 May 2008 and closed on 6 July 2008.

The musical returned to the Star City Hotel and Casino in Sydney on 7 October 2008 for the second anniversary of the show's premiere and closed on 21 December 2008. The show starred original cast members Sheldon and Scott, alongside Todd McKenney as Tick/Mitzi and Bill Hunter as Bob. [3]

West End (2009–11) Edit

A West End production started previews on 10 March 2009 at the Palace Theatre with the opening press night on 23 March. It is co-produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and directed by Simon Phillips with musical arrangements by Stephen 'Spud' Murphy, choreography by Ross Coleman, costume designs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, production designs by Brian Thomson, and lighting by Nick Schlieper. [4] The original cast included Jason Donovan as Mitzi (aka "Tick"), Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, and Oliver Thornton as Adam/Felicia. [4] [5] Notable replacements include Ben Richards as Tick/Mitzi, Don Gallagher as Bernadette, Portia Emare as one of the Divas and Ray Meagher as Bob. The West End production closed on 31 December 2011. [6]

Toronto (2010–11) Edit

The musical opened on 12 October 2010 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto as a Pre-Broadway tryout. The musical featured all of the Broadway cast with a new production team. It received largely positive reviews and strong ticket sales. The musical played for 12 weeks, a month longer than originally planned, closing on 2 January 2011. Several modifications were made to the production.

Broadway (2011–12) Edit

Priscilla premiered on Broadway on 20 March 2011 at the Palace Theatre with previews beginning 28 February 2011. [7] Before opening on Broadway, the show made its North American debut at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto for a limited 12-week tryout.

The original cast included Will Swenson as Tick/Mitzi, Tony Sheldon, again, reprising his role of Bernadette, and Nick Adams as Adam/Felicia. [8] Choreography is by Ross Coleman, set design by Brian Thomson, lighting design by Nick Schlieper and costume designs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner. [7] Producers include Bette Midler, who joined the production team after seeing the West End production [9] Liz Koops and Garry McQuinn for Back Row Productions Michael Hamlyn for Specific Films Allan Scott Productions David Mirvish Roy Furman Terry Allen Kramer James L. Nederlander and Terri and Timothy Childs. [7]

The Broadway cast album was recorded in late January 2011 on Rhino Records for release on 15 March 2011. [10] The production released video footage from their North American premiere on Tuesday, 15 February. [11] The Broadway production closed on 24 June 2012 after 23 previews and 526 performances. [12]

Italy (2011–14) Edit

An Italian production opened on 14 December 2011, only a few months after the Broadway debut, at the Teatro Ciak in Milan, where it ran until 30 April 2012. The cast included Antonello Angiolillo as Tick/Mitzi, Simone Leonardi as Bernadette, and Mirko Ranù as Adam/Felicia. Later the show was transferred to Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan (from 6 November to 31 December 2012), to Teatro Brancaccio in Rome (from 24 January 2013 to 21 April 2013), [13] and to Politeama Rossetti in Trieste (from 10 to 26 May 2013).

After an hiatus, the production embarked on a tour, opening on 31 October 2013 at the Teatro Alfieri in Turin and concluding on 19 January 2014 at the Gran Teatro in Rome, with some changes in the cast, including Marco D'Alberti as Bernadette, and Riccardo Sinisi as Adam/Felicia.

São Paulo (2012) Edit

In Brazil Priscilla ran at the Teatro Bradesco, São Paulo, from 16 March to 9 December 2012, produced by GEO Eventos, BASE Entertainment and Nullarbor Productions, and starring Luciano Andrey as Tick/Mitzi, Rubén Gabira as Bernadette, André Torquato as Adam/Felicia, Li Martins as Cynthia and Saulo Vasconcelos as Bob. The production included the Brazilian disco anthem "Dancing Days" during the final bows. [14]

US National Tour (2013) Edit

After the show closed on Broadway, a national tour opened on 8 January 2013 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Wade McCollum as Tick/Mitzi, Scott Willis as Bernadette, and Bryan West as Adam/Felicia. [15]

The tour garnered successful reviews all across the country and after a sold out run at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, ran a limited run at the Venetian Theater in Las Vegas for the summer. After a brief hiatus, the tour resumed touring the West Coast.

Los Angeles BroadwayWorld.com Awards went to the production as Best Musical (Touring Production), Simon Phillips (staging recreated by David Hyslop) Best Direction (Musical) Tour, Scott Willis Best Leading Actor (Musical) Tour, Nik Alexzander Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tour, Brent Frederick Best Musical Direction Tour. [16] San Francisco's BroadwayWorld.com Award went to Scott Willis Best Leading Actor (Musical) Tour. [17]

The tour played its final performance on 17 November 2013 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington. [18]

UK National Tour (2013–14) Edit

The first UK tour started on 9 February 2013 at the Opera House in Manchester and concluded on 12 April 2014 at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. [19] Jason Donovan and Noel Sullivan alternated as Tick/Mitzi, [20] with Richard Grieve as Bernadette, and Graham Weaver as Adam/Felicia. The tour included the changes made for the Broadway production, except for the songs by Madonna.

Stockholm (2013) Edit

A Swedish production ran from 21 September 2013 to 18 May 2014 at the Göta Lejon in Stockholm, with Patrik Martinsson as Tick/Mitzi, Björn Kjellman as Bernadette, Erik Høiby as Adam/Felicia, and Pernilla Wahlgren as one of the Divas. [21]

Argentina (2014–15) Edit

A non-replica staging premiered on 5 February 2014 at the Teatro Lola Membrives, Buenos Aires, starring Alejandro Paker as Tick/Mitzi, Pepe Cibrián Campoy as Bernadette, and Juan Gil Navarro as Adam/Felicia. [22] The Buenos Aires production closed on 31 August 2014 and then was transferred to Teatro Candilejas in Villa Carlos Paz, with Alejandro Paker reprising as Tick/Mitzi, Moria Casán as Bernadette, and Diego Ramos as Adam/Felicia. [23]

Athens (2014) Edit

In Greece the show opened on 6 May 2014 at the Badminton Theater in Athens, where it ran until 15 June 2014, with Giorgos Kapoutzidis as Tick/Mitzi, Fotis Sergoulopoulos as Bernadette, and Panagiotis Petrakis as Adam/Felicia. After an hiatus, the production returned to the Badminton Theater from 26 September to 5 October 2014.

Manila and Singapore (2014) Edit

A non-replica production ran from 9 May to 13 July 2014 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, with Leo Tavarro Valdez as Tick/Mitzi, Jon Santos as Bernadette, and Red Concepción as Adam/Felicia. [24]

After a limited engagement from 16 to 26 October 2014 at the Resorts World Theatre in Sentosa, Singapore, [25] the production came back to the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Manila from 28 November to 7 December 2014.

Seoul (2014) Edit

Jo Kwon from the band 2AM played Adam in a Korean production which ran from 3 July to 28 September 2014 at the LG Arts Center in Seoul. [26]

Spain (2014–2018) Edit

In Spain Priscilla premiered on 2 October 2014 at the Nuevo Teatro Alcalá, Madrid, with Jaime Zataraín as Tick/Mitzi, Mariano Peña and José Luis Mosquera alternating as Bernadette, Christian Escuredo as Adam/Felicia, David Venancio Muro as Bob, Aminata Sow, Rossana Carraro and Patricia del Olmo as The Divas, Susan Martín as Marion, Cristina Rueda as Shirley, Etheria Chan as Cynthia, and Alejandro Vera as Miss Understanding. [27]

After the show closed in Madrid on 28 February 2016, the production embarked on a national tour, opening on 5 August 2016 at the Teatro Jovellanos in Gijón and finishing on 25 February 2018 at the Teatro Principal in Vitoria-Gasteiz. [28] [29]

Italy (2015) Edit

Another Italian tour kicked off on 27 May 2015 at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan, starring Cristian Ruiz as Tick/Mitzi, Marco D'Alberti as Bernadette, and Riccardo Sinisi as Adam/Felicia. The tour played its final performance on 8 November 2015 at the Teatro Coccia in Novara. [30]

UK National Tour (2015–16) Edit

A second UK tour started on 25 August 2015 at the Opera House in Manchester, with Jason Donovan and Duncan James (and Darren Day from February 2016) alternating as Tick/Mitzi, Simon Green as Bernadette, and Adam Bailey as Adam/Felicia, [31] [32] and closed on 18 June 2016 at the New Theatre in Oxford, including stops in London (at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 5 to 10 October 2015) [33] and Amsterdam (at the Koninklijk Theater Carré from 10 to 22 November 2015). [34] After the tour ended, the production was transferred to Israel for a limited engagement at the Menora Mivtachim Arena, Tel Aviv from 4 to 9 July 2016. [35]

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship Edit

In October 2015, an adapted, shorter version of Priscilla premiered onboard Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise ship Norwegian Epic. [36]

Auckland (2016) Edit

Eight years after the first run in Auckland, the show returned to the Civic Theatre from 16 October to 13 November 2016, starring Bryan West as Tick/Mitzi, Simon Green as Bernadette, and André Torquato as Adam/Felicia. [37]

Tokyo (2016) Edit

From 8 to 29 December 2016, Priscilla ran at the Nissay Theatre, Tokyo, with Ikusaburo Yamazaki as Tick/Mitzi, Takanori Jinnai as Bernadette, and Yunhak from Supernova and Keita Furuya alternating as Adam/Felicia. [38]

Paris (2017–2018) Edit

The show ran at the Casino de Paris from 25 February 2017 to 7 July 2018, starring Laurent Bàn as Tick/Mitzi, David Alexis as Bernadette, and Jimmy Bourcereau as Adam/Felicia. [39]

After closing in Paris, the production was expected to embark on a national tour, set to launch in January 2019, but it was cancelled due to poor ticket sales. [40]

South Africa and Hong Kong (2017) Edit

A South African production ran at the Cape Town Artscape Theatre from 28 March to 23 April 2017, and at the Johannesburg's Teatro at Montecasino from 28 April to 18 June 2017, with Daniel Buys as Tick/Mitzi, David Dennis as Bernadette, and Phillip Schnetler as Adam/Felicia. [41]

Following the season in South Africa, the production was transferred to the Lyric Theatre in the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts from 29 September to 22 October 2017. [42]

Munich and St. Gallen (2017–) Edit

From 14 December 2017 to 12 April 2018, a non-replica production ran at the Gärtnerplatztheater, Munich, with Armin Kahl as Tick/Mitzi, Erwin Windegger as Bernadette, and Terry Alfaro as Adam/Felicia, before transferring to the Theater St. Gallen, Switzerland, from 23 February to 31 May 2019. Additional engagements included new runs at both the Gärtnerplatztheater (from 15 to 24 July 2019, and from 4 to 16 February 2020) and the Theater St. Gallen (from 15 September 2019 to 4 January 2020). [43] [44]

Australia (2018) Edit

A tour to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the show began performances on 21 January 2018 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, with David Harris as Tick/Mitzi, Tony Sheldon reprising his role of Bernadette, and Euan Doidge as Adam/Felicia. After visiting the Capitol Theatre in Sydney and the Festival Theatre in Adelaide, the production played its final performance on 4 November 2018 at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane. [45]

Italy (2018–2020) Edit

Another Italian tour started on 15 December 2018 at the Creberg Teatro in Bergamo, starring Cristian Ruiz as Tick/Mitzi, Manuel Frattini as Bernadette, and Mirko Ranù as Adam/Felicia., [46] and finished on 21 April 2019 at the Gran Teatro Morato in Brescia. After an hiatus, the tour restarted on 12 December 2019 at the Teatro Brancaccio in Rome, with Cristian Ruiz reprising as Tick/Mitzi, Simone Leonardi as Bernadette, and Pedro Antonio Batista González as Adam/Felicia, and concluded on 16 February 2000 at the Teatro Municipal in Reggio Emilia. [47]

Tokyo (2019) Edit

Three years after its Japanese debut, Priscilla returned to the Nissay Theatre, Tokyo, for a second limited engagement from 9 to 30 March 2019, with the same lead cast. [48]

UK National Tour (2019–20) Edit

On 5 September 2019 a non-replica UK tour launched at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, starring Joe McFadden as Tick/Mitzi, Miles Western as Bernadette, Nick Hayes as Adam/Felicia, Daniel Fletcher as Bob, Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop, and Aiesha Pease as The Divas, Miranda Wilford as Marion, Jacqui Sanchez as Cynthia, and Kevin Yates as Miss Understanding. This version of the show is produced by Jason Donovan and includes new designs by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith, lighting by Ben Cracknell, sound by Ben Harrison, musical supervision by Stephen 'Spud' Murphy and Richard Weeden, musical direction by Sean Green, choreography by Tom Jackson-Greaves, and direction by Ian Talbot OBE. [49]

Original Australian and New Zealand production Edit

  • Overture – OrchestraThe Divas and CompanyTick and the DivasMiss UnderstandingBernadette, Tick and Company (†) – Felicia and the BoysBernadette, Tick, Adam and CompanyTick and the DivasShirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felicia and Company (†) – Bernadette, Tick and Adam
  • Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata) – Felicia and the DivasAdam, Tick, Bernadette and CompanyBernadette, Adam, Tick, Jimmy and Company
    The CompanyYoung Bernadette and Les GirlsMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the DivasCynthia and Company
  • A Fine Romance (reprise)BobThe Divas and AdamFelicia, the Divas and BernadetteBernadette, Tick, Adam and CompanyMarion and CompanyMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the Divas
  • Go West (reprise)Adam (*) – Tick and BenjaminFelicia (^) – Felicia, Mitzi and Bernadette / Shake Your Groove Thing / Hot Stuff / I Love the Nightlife / I Will Survive – The Company

Amendments for the West End production Edit

  • (†) "I Say a Little Prayer" is the fifth number, and is again reprised as the ninth number of the show in the West End production. This, therefore, means that each number (from the fifth number onwards) in Act I is one number delayed. This gives a total of fourteen numbers in Act I of the West End production.
  • (*) "Go West (reprise)" is replaced by "Come into My World" in the West End production.
  • (^) Although replaced by "Kylie Medley" in the West End production, "Confide in Me" appears in that medley.

Broadway and Internationally Edit

  • Overture – Orchestra – The Divas, Tick and CompanyMiss UnderstandingTickBernadette, Tick and CompanyFelicia and the BoysBernadette, Tick, Adam and Company / Like a Virgin* – Adam, Tick and Bernadette
  • I Say a Little Prayer (reprise)* – Tick and The DivasShirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felicia and CompanyBernadette, Mitzi and Felicia
  • Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata) – Felicia and the DivasAdam, Tick, Bernadette and CompanyBernadette, Felicia, Mitzi, Jimmy and Company
    * – The CompanyYoung Bernadette and Les Girls(reprise)* – The CompanyMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the DivasCynthia and Company
  • A Fine Romance (reprise)BobAdam and the DivasFelicia, The Divas, and BernadetteBernadette, Tick, The Divas and Company * – The Company
  • The Floor Show* – Mitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and Company
  • Always on My Mind/I Say a Little Prayer – Tick, BenjiFelicia and CompanyFelicia, Mitzi, Bernadette and Company
  • Finally (Finale) – The Company

UK Tour Edit

  • Overture – Orchestra – The Divas, Tick and Company <UK Tour 2015/16> – The Divas, Tick and CompanyThe Divas and Tick <UK Tour 2015/16> – Miss UnderstandingTickBernadette, Tick and CompanyFelicia and the BoysBernadette, Tick, Adam and Company
  • I Say a Little Prayer (reprise)* – Tick and The DivasShirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felicia and CompanyBernadette, Mitzi and Felicia
  • Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata) – Felicia and the DivasAdam, Tick, Bernadette and CompanyBernadette, Felicia, Mitzi, Jimmy and Company
    * – The CompanyYoung Bernadette and Les Girls(reprise)* – The CompanyMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the DivasCynthia and Company
  • A Fine Romance (reprise)BobAdam and the DivasFelicia, The Divas, and BernadetteBernadette, Tick, The Divas and Company * – The Company
  • The Floor Show* – Mitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and Company
  • Always on My Mind/I Say a Little Prayer – Tick, BenjiFelicia and CompanyFelicia, Mitzi, Bernadette and Company
  • Finally (Finale) – The Company

10th Anniversary Australian Production 2018 Edit

  • Overture – Orchestra – The Divas, Tick and CompanyMiss UnderstandingTickBernadette, Tick and CompanyFelicia and the Boys (†) – Bernadette, Tick, Adam and Company /The Locomotion/Can't Get You Out of My Head – Bernadette, Tick, AdamTick and the DivasShirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felicia and CompanyBernadette, Tick and Adam
  • Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata) – Felicia and the DivasAdam, Tick, Bernadette and CompanyBernadette, Adam, Tick, Jimmy and Company
    * – The CompanyYoung Bernadette and Les Girls(reprise)* – The CompanyMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the DivasCynthia and Company
  • A Fine Romance (reprise)BobAdam and the DivasFelicia, The Divas, and BernadetteBernadette, Tick, The Divas and Company * – The Company
  • The Floor Show* – Mitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and Company
  • Always on My Mind/I Say a Little Prayer – Tick, Benji
  • Kylie Medley/Confide in Me – Felicia and CompanyFelicia, Mitzi, Bernadette and Company
  • Finally (Finale) – The Company
  • (†) Replace Venus from the Original Production which was replaced by Material Girl in the International Productions.

A cast recording of the original Australian production was released on 29 September 2007 [50] both in stores and on the Australian iTunes. All songs, with the exception of the reprise of "Go West", from the original Australian production are present on the recording and are performed by the original Australian cast. A Broadway cast recording was released on 5 April 2011.

In reviewing the West End production, the London Evening Standard (thisislondon) reviewer wrote: "From the first moments when three divas hang suspended high above a silver-spangled bridge and belt out Downtown, the show never loses its spectacular, helter-skelter momentum of songs to which the drag queens lip-sync." [51]

Reviews for the Toronto production include praise for the costumes from the Globe and Mail: "The costumes designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, the same team that won an Oscar for the movie, are a fabulous mix of Village People meet Tim Burton culminating in, at the curtain call, a whole crass menagerie of dragged-up koalas and 'roos." The Star favorably wrote: "This eye-popping, ear-pleasing, toe-tapping honey of a show moves like a cyclone from start to finish and will leave you gasping for breath on numerous occasions, thanks to its spectacular spectacle, its raunchy humour and its virtuoso performances." [52]

Use of a recorded string section in the Broadway production of Priscilla led to a dispute between producers and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). The AFM argues that using recordings in place of live music is a marginal cost-saving measure which cheats audiences of the full, rich sound of a live orchestra. Producers argued that the artistic conception of the show requires a "synthetic pop flavor" that can only be achieved with recorded music. AFM member Scott Frankel, who composed the music for Grey Gardens, stated: "What is most special about seeing a Broadway musical, rather than some other art form, is the interaction between the orchestra musicians and the performers onstage". The dispute was still awaiting arbitration as of 2011. [53]


Noh theatre

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Noh theatre, Noh also spelled No, traditional Japanese theatrical form and one of the oldest extant theatrical forms in the world.

Noh—its name derived from , meaning “talent” or “skill”—is unlike Western narrative drama. Rather than being actors or “representers” in the Western sense, Noh performers are simply storytellers who use their visual appearances and their movements to suggest the essence of their tale rather than to enact it. Little “happens” in a Noh drama, and the total effect is less that of a present action than of a simile or metaphor made visual. The educated spectators know the story’s plot very well, so that what they appreciate are the symbols and subtle allusions to Japanese cultural history contained in the words and movements.

Noh developed from ancient forms of dance drama and from various types of festival drama at shrines and temples that had emerged by the 12th or 13th century. Noh became a distinctive form in the 14th century and was continually refined up to the years of the Tokugawa period (1603–1867). It became a ceremonial drama performed on auspicious occasions by professional actors for the warrior class—as, in a sense, a prayer for peace, longevity, and the prosperity of the social elite. Outside the noble houses, however, there were performances that popular audiences could attend. The collapse of the feudal order with the Meiji Restoration (1868) threatened the existence of Noh, though a few notable actors maintained its traditions. After World War II the interest of a larger audience led to a revival of the form.

There are five types of Noh plays. The first type, the kami (“god”) play, involves a sacred story of a Shintō shrine the second, shura mono (“fighting play”), centres on warriors the third, katsura mono (“wig play”), has a female protagonist the fourth type, varied in content, includes the gendai mono (“present-day play”), in which the story is contemporary and “realistic” rather than legendary and supernatural, and the kyōjo mono (“madwoman play”), in which the protagonist becomes insane through the loss of a lover or child and the fifth type, the kiri or kichiku (“final” or “demon”) play, features devils, strange beasts, and supernatural beings. A typical Noh play is relatively short. Its dialogue is sparse, serving as a mere frame for the movement and music. A standard Noh program consists of three plays selected from the five types so as to achieve both an artistic unity and the desired mood invariably, a play of the fifth type is the concluding work. Kyōgen, humorous sketches, are performed as interludes between plays. A program may begin with an okina, which is essentially an invocation for peace and prosperity in dance form.

Three major Noh roles exist: the principal actor, or shite the subordinate actor, or waki and the kyōgen actors, one of whom is often involved in Noh plays as a narrator. Each is a specialty having several “schools” of performers, and each has its own “acting place” on the stage. Subsidiary roles include those of attendant (tsure), of a “boy” (kokata), and of nonspeaking “walk-on” (tomo).

Accompaniment is provided by an instrumental chorus ( hayashi) of four musicians—who play a flute (nōkan), small hand drum (ko-tsuzumi), large hand drum (ō-tsuzumi), and large drum (taiko)—and by a chorus (jiutai) consisting of 8–10 singers. The recitation ( utai) is one of the most important elements in the performance. Each portion of the written text carries a prescription of the mode of recitation—as well as of accompanying movement or dance—although application of this may be varied slightly. Each type of dialogue and song has its own name: the sashi is like a recitative the uta are the songs proper the rongi, or debate, is intoned between chorus and shite and the kiri is the chorus with which the play ends.

About 2,000 Noh texts survive in full, of which about 230 remain in the modern repertoire. Zeami (1363–1443) and his father, Kan’ami Kiyotsugu (1333–84), wrote many of the most beautiful and exemplary of Noh texts, including Matsukaze (“Wind in the Pines”) by Kan’ami and Takasago by Zeami. Zeami also formulated the principles of the Noh theatre that guided its performers for many centuries. His Kakyō (1424 “The Mirror of the Flower”) detailed the composition, the recitation, the mime and dance of the performers, and the staging principles of Noh. These constituted the first major principle of Noh, which Zeami described as monomane, or the “imitation of things.” He advised on the selection of properly classical characters to be portrayed, from legend or life, and on the proper integration of the visual, the melodic, and the verbal to open the eye and ear of the mind to the supreme beauty he crystallized in the second main principle, yūgen. Meaning literally “dark” or “obscure,” yūgen suggested beauty only partially perceived—fully felt but barely glimpsed by the viewer.

Two factors have allowed Noh to be transmitted from generation to generation yet remain fairly close to earlier forms: first, the preservation of texts, containing detailed prescriptions of recitation, dance, mime, and music, and, second, the direct and fairly exact transmission of performing skills. On the other hand, Noh was subject to the changing preferences of new audiences, and new styles and patterns inevitably evolved. Further, there was constant refinement of received forms to express more clearly or intensely the objectives of Noh, but these were always only minor deviations from traditional form. Even the differences between the five schools of shite performers represent only slight variations in the melodic line of the recitation or in the patterns of the furi or mai mime and dance.

In the 20th century some experimentation took place. Toki Zenmaro and Kita Minoru produced Noh plays that had new content but adhered to traditional conventions in production. Mishima Yukio, on the other hand, took old plays and added new twists while retaining the old themes. Experiments to elaborate the humorous kyōgen interludes and the attempt to add (in the manner of Kabuki theatre) a long passage onto the stage through the audience and a spotlight on the shite received little public acceptance. Instead, Noh has been sustained in the postwar period by theatregoers who have come to enjoy it not simply for its status as a “classic theatre” or because of innovations but as a perfected and refined contemporary stage art.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Virginia Gorlinski, Associate Editor.


Film Review: ‘Benji’

Benji is back. The adorable stray returns in a family film that tries to recapture (and slightly improve upon) the feel-good formula of Joe Camp's 1974 underdog success.

Peter Debruge

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Before Air Bud, before Beethoven, there was Benji, one of the most beloved (and financially successful) canine characters in cinema history &mdash and yet, oddly enough, a name unfamiliar to an entire generation of kids who haven&rsquot seen a new installment since 2004&rsquos &ldquoBenji: Off the Leash!&rdquo That&rsquos 14 long years ago, which means there&rsquos no one in this film&rsquos target audience (unless you count &ldquokids at heart&rdquo) who was alive when the last film came out.

Now, thanks to Netflix, the shaggy mutt returns to the screen (although not the big one, alas) for a &ldquoBenji&rdquo reboot that proves this particular dog has more lives than most cats, more charm than most humans and more earnings potential than the proverbial golden-egg-laying goose &mdash which might explain why Blumhouse (the low-budget genre shingle best known for horror films like &ldquoGet Out&rdquo and &ldquoParanormal Activity&rdquo) got behind what is essentially a remake of the 1974 original, even if the family-friendly canine romp appears relatively far outside its wheelhouse.

It&rsquos a win-win for all involved: Netflix gets a name-brand kids title, Blumhouse recoups on a modest investment and the Camp family renews its claim on an empire of merchandising that exceeded $1.2 billion in its heyday. Without wandering far from the tried-and-true formula, director Brandon Camp (son of &ldquoBenji&rdquo creator Joe Camp) brings a measure of style and competence to the project that the franchise has never seen.

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Making room for salt-of-the-earth supporting characters (like pawnshop owner Gralen Bryant Banks) and feel-good folk-song interludes (including a cross-country montage that echoes a scene from Todd Solondz&rsquos miserabilist &ldquoWiener-Dog&rdquo), &ldquoBenji&rdquo reintroduces a lovable dog in need of a good home, as well as a pair of latchkey kids, Carter (&ldquoThe Dangerous Book for Boys&rdquo star Gabriel Bateman) and Frankie (Darby Camp, no relation to the director), who find him wandering the streets of New Orleans.

Benji may not look like much at first, but he&rsquos the best-trained &ldquostray&rdquo in showbiz, clever enough to outwit animal control and foil a kidnapping plan. His enormous brown eyes and unkempt long hair are an essential part of the character&rsquos appeal, encouraging audiences to project whatever emotion is called for, while conveniently overlooking that any dog that knows this many tricks had to be taught by someone, and probably isn&rsquot homeless. If only there were some statistic for the number of rescue dogs who have been adopted as a direct result of the Benji movies.

In an endearing touch, this latest installment opens with a dogcatcher taking away Benji&rsquos mom and the tiny pup sitting alone in the street looking bereft. Actually, the dog looks like he&rsquos expecting to get a treat the instant Camp calls, &ldquoCut!&rdquo but that&rsquos part of the magic of the Benji movies: They are perhaps the best examples in contemporary cinema of the Kuleshov effect &mdash the basic principle of film editing, established by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov nearly a century ago, that audiences attribute emotion to a blank face according to the shot immediately before or after. (The experiment showed that if the same neutral closeup of an actor&rsquos face was intercut with a plate of soup, a child in a coffin, and an attractive woman, people projected the appropriate feeling &mdash hunger, sadness or desire &mdash onto the vacant expression.)

Dog acting works via a similar principle: If Camp can be clear enough in the way he constructs any given scene, audiences will do all the work of ascribing emotion and intention onto Benji&rsquos performance &mdash which mostly involves looking in the right direction, running across the screen and hitting his mark (although there are other more impressive cases where he must carry something in his mouth, push a trash bin or chair into position or run a few paces ahead of a ferocious Rottweiler).

The best example is an elaborate chase sequence, during which Benji appears to be fast on the trail of a van in which two thieves (Will Rothhaar and Angus Sampson) have tied up Carter and Frankie, en route to the run-down plantation home that serves as their lair. Benji and the vehicle are almost never seen in the same shot, which means that we must do all the work of guessing where they are in relation to one another. Carter drops strawberries out an open window, and somehow that&rsquos enough for Benji to go on.

Meanwhile, staring at a dog that can&rsquot speak (which was a key rule that has set the Benji movies apart from the beginning), the kids&rsquo single mom (Kiele Sanchez) and a friendly cop (Jerod Haynes) struggle to understand what Benji is trying to communicate &mdash and what any child watching can tell them: &ldquoFollow Benji! He knows where they&rsquove taken Carter and Frankie!&rdquo It&rsquos an effective dynamic that puts young viewers in that all-too-familiar position of trying to convince grown-ups to listen to them when they have something important to say.

&ldquoBenji&rdquo may be far too simplistic for adults to find much enjoyment in watching, but it rewards active viewing from kids and displays mostly model behavior on the part of its young protagonists (once they stop keeping secrets from their mother, that is). Parents should be warned, however, that everyone who sees it will want to adopt a dog of his or her own afterward.


Watch the video: DOVE TUTTO EBBE INIZIO.. !


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