"Every critic, even the most mainstream hack, thinks of himself as a rebel. But in the culture of self-indulgent, experimentalist, naval-gazing, a real rebel believes in truly subversive ideas. Like escapism and universality.”
Judging from his new short film, “HowardCantour.com,” Shia LaBeouf is worried about the state of modern film criticism. The “Nymphomaniac” star's main character, played by Jim Gaffigan, is the main behind the titular URL, a holier-than-thou blogger-type who lives, breathes, and vomits up cinema. But he also goes to junkets — those interview circuses that result in everything from Entertainment Tonight sound bites to embarrassing, celeb mockery viral videos. There he witnesses the scum of the film crit pond, print journalists. “Honestly, sometimes I think I'm the only person in modern alternative film criticism who isn't thoroughly brainwashed,” he mutters.
LaBeouf passes judgment on today's critics a.k.a. anyone with an internet connection strong enough to post condemnations on a blogging platform. Cantour holds film art to an impossibly high degree, yet he still pines to impress people with his writing. The paradox proves his head is firmly up his ass. The question is whether LaBeouf thinks criticism was ever getting it right. Perhaps there was never a moment where film critics were positively contributing to culture, even when the musings of Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert helped turn film crit into an art that could be tainted. Maybe it was all a way of either sucking up or trolling, no matter how fancy the syntax.
Having played Cannes Film Festival, Palm Springs International Shortfest, and Aspen Shortsfest, “HowardCantour.com” is now available to view via ShortsoftheWeek. It's a film of morose atmosphere and dizzying soundscapes — one aspect of the entertainment journalist lifestyle LaBeouf gets very right.