A Seat at the Shia LaBeouf Buffet

Entertainment news outlets were ablaze this past week with the visage of a stoned-looking, bearded guy staring ahead in a dimly-lit theater. This was none other than actor-turned-performance artist Shia LaBeouf.

He made headlines after deciding to revisit his entire body of work during a three day marathon dubbed #AllMyMovies. LaBeouf, along with his partners Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner, staged this production at the Angelika Film Center in SoHo, Manhattan.

The trio placed cameras in the theater and streamed LaBeouf’s face reacting to the various movies online. Since the binge screening was open to the public, I had the opportunity to be in the midst of this artistic gluttony–or, at least, in line for it.

I arrived at the theater just before noon–expecting to find a line of people waiting around the block to join LaBeouf in his filmography feast. To my surprise, there were only about 40 people in the theater lobby trying to get in. The majority of the people in line were New Yorkers in their 20’s, like the 29-year-old LaBeouf himself.

To pass the time, some were reading novels while others were glued to their smartphones. Groups gathered together on the floor to swap stories of LaBeouf’s mesmerizing film career. The only real distraction the theater offered for patient filmgoers was a screen showing the live feed of LaBeouf.

While we waited, LaBeouf’s reactions ranged from horrified to teary-eyed to asleep on the floor. For those unsure of why, one look at the actor’s IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes page reveals a smattering of very mixed public reception. While the “Nymphomaniac” films are considered modern classics, movies like the “Transformers” series and “Eagle Eye” are universally panned.

Given these ratings, film critics would most likely call the people attending #AllMyMovies gluttons for punishment. Or perhaps they just share a supremely poor taste in cinema.

The theater provided a film schedule, which revealed the show would begin with his most recent film, the fittingly titled “Man Down,” and finish with his voice acting in the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.”

Even with a career spanning less than two decades, there are still some who feel nostalgic for LaBeouf’s earlier work. Several people expressed their love for his lead role in Disney’s “Holes” adaptation, as well as his enduring Louis Stevens character from “The Even Stevens Movie.”

Since the Shia-fest took place for 72 hours straight, audience members could watch along with the star for as long as they wanted. This meant that anyone who wanted to get into the packed theater had to wait until someone left to take their place. It seemed like the line was moving at a steady pace in the first few minutes I got there, but after a while it more or less became stagnant. There weren’t any mass exoduses, only the occasional couple leaving after the short intermission between “Surf’s Up” and “Disturbia.”

“Most people stay for one or two movies, but some people have been making a competition out of it,” an Angelika employee told me.

From what I could see, though, the audience wasn’t really in full survival mode. People didn’t have huge backpacks, pillows, or bags of food with them. The hardcore fans had likely taken their seats over a day ago.

When I inquired about how bad the theater must smell with a few hundred people sitting for hours on end, the employee informed me that the staff went in after every few movies and “cleaned things up.” One line member joked that LaBeouf could be taking a sponge bath in his seat each day.

A young woman visiting the city from Australia was a few people behind me in line.

“I really came to this as a spur-of-the-moment thing,” I overheard her say. “My flight home is tomorrow, but I had to see this when I heard about it.”

After an hour and a half of waiting, I had only made it a little over halfway to the front of the line. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” had just started, and it didn’t seem like anyone was bailing anytime soon. I was getting hungry and a little tired, since attendees weren’t allowed to step out of line to grab a snack or soda from the tantalizing concession stand. It didn’t seem worth it to keep on waiting for LaBeouf.

By the time I left, I could see the number of people waiting had grown to be as many as I initially anticipated. I passed dozens of fresh and hungry faces as I walked down the steps.

I almost felt like I had betrayed LaBeouf; I simply couldn’t “just do it.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons