On Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 10), Shia LaBeouf went to the movies. To watch his own movies. All of them.
At the Angelika Film Center in New York, Shia planned out nearly 50 hours of cinema viewing featuring every film he's ever appeared in (either physically or as a voice actor), starting with this year's "Man Down" and going all the way back to the 1984 Hayao Miyazaki animated feature "Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind."
The cool part? Shia watches movies, even his own movies, like we do. He shuffles in his seat when he's uncomfortable. He cups his hands over his mouth when things get intense. He buries his face in popcorn bags and apparently makes a mess (as one of the theater clerks reported, though he still "cleaned it up happily").
Even when Onscreen Shia is getting graphically intimate with "Nymphomaniac: Vol. I" co-star Stacy Martin -- seriously, seriously NSFL -- Offscreen Shia's gaze doesn't break. He wants to see the scenes just as much as we do. And you can see the whole thing right now, too, at the live stream Shia set up that focuses entirely on his face.
But it's only half the story. The rest is in his body language, like the way he smiles at his character's bravado in "Charlie Countryman" after he drunkenly botches ballet dance moves for co-star Evan Rachel Wood or how he slinks down in his seat after a while, adjusting and letting the blood flow. Or, like, taking a big slurp of a movie theater soda cup.
Sitting down in a T-shirt and a big beard, Offscreen Shia can watch himself become anyone and everyone he's ever been. It's meta as hell, and it's absolutely bonkers that we get to watch him do it. Here we are, no more than 60 of us nestled into a small Soho theater, one person coming in when another files out (after getting waved down with a metal detector), watching two separate spectacles at once. "The Truman Show" come to life, or maybe more accurately, Plato's Allegory Of The Cave.
Getting inside and settling into a row directly behind Shia on the opposite side of the aisle was cool, especially since I had a direct line of vision to the dude himself. But the whole experience would've been incomplete without the two-hour wait before. Queued in a serpentine line around the lobby of the cinema, we were each given a ticket, IDed (18 and over, sorry kids) and instructed of the strict "no phones" policy. That means no live-tweeting Shia's faces.
"He's probably wearing a diaper. A men's Depend." This girl in front of me is NOT respecting Shia at all. #LiveTweetShia— Patrick Hosken (@patrickhosken) November 10, 2015
Not all who begun the Shia quest made it, of course. As a woman in front of me exclaimed moments after two fellow line-waiters bailed, "This is survival of the fittest...millennial style!" Oh how right she was.
For millennials, and specifically millennials in New York, this Shia trial was an experiment we were more than willing to participate in. We were watching him watch himself, and he wasn't watching us much. But before anyone could watch anything, we all had to wait. Shia had to wait, too, for the 10-minute intermissions between films, which he always took as a cue to bolt out and presumably pee and grab more popcorn.
One theater-goer attempted to break the experiment's fourth wall and asked him a question. I couldn't make out what she said, but I saw Shia's response very clearly: a head shake, a mumbled "I dunno" and, finally, a turn-away. Understandable.
And then, another experimenter dared: "You were really good in that," she said. Shia smiled and said thanks. We all knew why we were there, what we wanted out of this whole thing. Shia knew, too.