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Finding the Art in Shia LaBeouf's Antics

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Feb 10, 2014 | 1:41pm EST

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Shia LaBeouf sure had a wacky weekend. While walking the red carpet for his new film Nymphomaniac, the actor wore a paper bag over his head with the words' "I am not famous anymore" scrawled across it in thick black writing. If that phrase doesn't sound familiar, it should, since LaBeouf has been repeating it non-stop on his twitter account since about mid January. The actor has long had a rash for questionable behavior, but things have escalated to even weirder heights ever since the actor was embroiled in a scandal after plagiarizing much of cartoonist Daniel Clowes work in his short film, HowardCantour.com. In a move that's possibly even weirder, when fielding questions about his role in Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac, and specifically, the films numerous and graphic sex scenes, LaBeouf sidestepped the question and instead uttered, "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea," a quote famously said by footballer Eric Cantona at the close of the French film Looking for Eric. Labeouf has said that his bouts of plagiarism have been "performance art," and these recent outbursts of strange behavior are no doubt a part of whatever message the actor is trying to send the world. We've decided to try and analyze Shia's recent behavior through the artistic lens, and see if we can make any sense of his recent actions.

Skywriting his apology to Daniel Clowes
LaBeouf is clearly a classicist. With his ambivalence towards the notions of modern social media and celebrity, instead of apologizing on Twitter after his scandal with comic book creator Daniel Clowes (a tactic that has become de rigueur of Hollywood), the renegade artiste decided to use the more artistic approach: Skywriting. The Twitter of the 1940s. How else were you supposed to broadcast a message to your fans or random people on the street in 140 characters or less? Instead of retweeting with their own airplanes, the intellectually void of Hollywood used regular old Twitter to respond. Lena Dunam tweeted, “I've always felt, utterly and unchangeably, that only sociopaths hire skywriters.” Oh sweet dim Dunham, with your critically acclaimed television show and approaching literary publication. What know you of true art? What know you of pain? What know you of aviation?

Filming a girl vomiting
LaBeouf knows the beauty of refuse, what was used can be used again. Why is food only art on the plate. It can too be art while spewing out of the maw of drunk Londoners. Shia knows this so he videotaped a woman vomiting on the streets. What? That’s embarrassing for the sick woman? Pshaw! She doesn’t appreciate the beauty created by her warring insides! The intoxicating scent, the chunky particles. It arcs through the air like the equations of Fibonacci, and it splatters on the dirty London road like the paint of Pollock. It’s beauty born again, just like his plagiarism. Words used again, because thinking of new words is way too pedestrian.

Taking acid while acting
As the great Shia LaBeouf once famously said, “All of the world’s a stage.” Living up to his own quotation, Shia reportedly took real acid on the set of his film Charlie Countryman in order to complete a scene where his character was high on drugs. How else is an actor supposed to convey the realities of drug use? By acting or something? No. Real acting is living, and the only way to pretend to be on drugs is to actually be on drugs. That’s commitment. Luckily Shia was never cast in 127 Hours, and still has both of his arms.

"I am not famous anymore."
Any Shia LaBeouf will tell you, Shia LaBeouf is the father of the modern performance art. He’s dedicated himself to showing the world what art really is, and has become a recluse like J.D. Salinger. And everyone knows that the best way to become a recluse is by posting how not famous you are to millions of people on Twitter every day. How else are you supposed to get people to leave you alone. Don’t you get it? He’s not famous anymore. So when he wears a paper bag with the words "I’m not famous anymore" scrawled across the front in heavy black marker. He’s doing his best to hide away from attention, by constantly letting everyone know he's hiding away from the attention. It's meta, guys. You just don't understand.

The seagull quote
While doing a press conference about Nymphomaniac, Shia was asked about the various sex scenes into the movie. Shia replied with the simmering quote, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” There's so much compleixity in the quote. Who are the seagulls? Who’s the trawler? Is Shia the sardines? Are we the sardines? And why did he artistically re-purpose this quote from controversial footballer Eric Cantona? It probably just flew over our heads. Like the seagull. Oh my God, I just got it.

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