Joining Shia LaBeouf in Watching ‘#AllMyMovies’
Matt McMahon | Friday, November 13, 2015
The feeling of being watched is universal, but that doesn’t make it any less eerie an experience. This phenomenon often occurs within us when we are at our most vulnerable or most uncomfortable with our surroundings. Changing in an empty house with windows, walking down the street alone or in a crowded bar after a drink or two — even in the most unfounded cases, the feeling can overwhelm your entire body.
So, what does it mean to voluntarily put yourself in this position, for three days straight? Not only that, but also to do so while subjecting yourself to prior recordings of yourself? To actor and self-proclaimed former-celebrity Shia LaBeouf, this means art.
Beginning Nov. 10, LaBeouf consecutively showed all of his movies in reverse chronological order at the Angelika Film Center in New York City. Concurrently, LaBeouf streamed an online feed of himself sitting in the theatre watching his films for three straight days. His #AllMyMovies event was open to the public, with LaBeouf inviting his fans to join him at the theatre or to watch him watch his movies online, both for free.
The camera capturing LaBeouf at his seat stayed tight and focused on the actor’s face for the entirety of the event. Catching all of his reactions, from tears to laughs, it reminds us of what it feels like to watch a movie in the conventional manner. LaBeouf takes his seat after intermissions between each film, stands up to let other audience members enter and exit his row and shares his chair’s armrest with the person seated next to him. We see him scratch his face and rub his eyes, having been staring at a movie screen for hours. #AllMyMovies can be seen as LaBeouf celebrating not his own movies — though it doesn’t hurt as a plug for everything that he has starred in since the start of his career — but as celebrating the act of going to a theatre and watching a movie in itself.
With the myriad alternatives to seeing a movie in theatres available to us, LaBeouf, already known for goofy, absurd stunts, reminds us of what used to be the chief activity in cinematic entertainment. At the same time, he challenges himself and his audiences to think about the nature of his experiment.
LaBeouf’s stunt blurs the line between truth and performance. In taping himself, can we know whether his reactions — or even more acutely, his little physical ticks — are genuine or the product of some type of act? Yet, being a believer in metamodernism, he might argue that it transcends both. Instead of distinguish between actor and character, LaBeouf blurs the two into one cohesive being. After confronting people with a discomforting performance art piece called #IAmSorry, in which he sat in a Los Angeles gallery for six days crying with a paper bag over his head that read “I am not famous anymore,” #AllMyMovies could not be a more wholesome representation of his ideology.
The art piece also causes reflection on that human experience of feeling watched, something that LaBeouf interacts with as a celebrity recognized in public and as an actor in front of a camera. Did he constantly feel the camera focused on him as a persistent presence, thousands of internet browsers watching him from the safety of their computer? What about the very real judgment and accusations of pretention and self-absorption that could come from him genuinely responding to his own acting?
As the screen flashed and dimmed on LaBeouf’s face throughout the stream of #AllMyMovies, you couldn’t help but connect with the sometimes chastised actor. He feels the same discomforts as anyone else, yawning, fixing his hoodie and shifting in his theatre chair.
We assume his status affords him an obvious better quality of life, but as a result of his fame he faces a harder time trying to convey his own discomforts to an audience who doesn’t want to hear it. So, why not use his fame and penchant for artistic stunts to show us instead of simply, unsuccessfully trying to tell us.