Observations on Watching Shia LaBeouf Watch Shia LeBeouf Films

The art collective of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner (behind projects like #iamsorry and i am not famous anymore) issued a press release this morning, announcing a new project titled #allmymovies: the actor Shia LaBeouf at New York’s Angelika Theater, watching all the feature films he’s appeared in, in reverse chronological order.

At press time (a little after 12:00PM), Gothamist noted that the theater was mostly empty but by the time I arrived (at around 1:30PM), it was almost full —a testament to how many people have absolutely nothing to do on a Tuesday afternoon (no jobs? no classes?).

The thirst factor was apparent from as early as the entrance, when a group of three or four twenty-somethings stormed the ticket booth for more information as to this important happening. (The employee selling tickets pointed wearily to the left, past the little TV screen streaming the event’s live feed.) There were plastered signs prohibiting photography, a restriction reiterated verbally by the theater employees checking for ID. Downstairs, there was a small metal detector, and a security officer re-reiterating that photography was prohibited.

I arrived in time for the conclusion of Man Down, which premiered back in September at the Venice Film Festival but hasn’t received a wider release yet (a watermark of “property of man down LLC 090215” was embossed on the screen throughout the play through). I sat on the left side toward the back; LaBeouf was sitting in the middle, on the right side, in the aisle seat of Row E. Akin to a classroom or a school-bus, everyone was in the back, crowding around LaBeouf, and/or craning their necks in unnatural angles in the hopes of getting in the live-stream shot.

After the film credits finished scrolling, LaBeouf quickly exited his seat, presumably to use the restroom. His absence prompted quizzical expressions (that seemed to ask “Do we follow him?”) and a general break in silence — people whisper-shouting declarations that fell into two categories: “I saw this on [name of social media]” or “[either I or my friends] saw [ether me or my friends] on the live stream.” When LaBeouf returned to his seat, he simply stared ahead — his unwavering focus on the blank screen contrasted with the excited commotion around him.

Eventually, the opening credits to 2014’s Fury were projected onto the screen. The audience mostly behaved throughout the establishing shots, until a large bald guy hovered near LaBeouf and took a photo (with flash, no less), prompting the actor to momentarily break his focus with a stern look. (This violation of the no-photo edict only took twenty minutes into my sitting, and I presume there were others prior to).

Thereafter, it mostly felt like a waiting game of imprudence and/or insolence, i.e., shedding light on people’s compulsion in needing to get photographic evidence. The pair directly behind LaBeouf, for example, took turns shuffling in and out of the theater with their phone in-hand (presumably to get better reception), with the other filling the seat. About 45 minutes into the movie, a couple finally broke the unspoken decorum and asked whether they could sneak past him to the unoccupied seats in his row.

But LaBeouf didn’t flinch, beyond moving aside so they could pass. He continued watching the movie unaffected, only moving to cram an occasional fistful of popcorn into his mouth, and then wipe the grease from his beard. He’ll still be there tomorrow, presumably, doing the same thing. Does watching a man watch movies count as art? The whole thing felt a little like watching John Cage’s “4’33,” which is to say that the question of art aside, it was … kind of dull.

#allmymovies will last until Thursday, November 12 (here’s the schedule.)