Sean Penn has a Ukraine tantrum and says the Oscars better listen
Sean Penn is having a tantrum.
Tonight's the Oscars night and he wants Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to take time out from his busy schedule to address Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at its big red-carpet shindig, and the Academy won't let him.
He's going to hold his breath now, or well...
According to the Washington Post:
American filmmaker Sean Penn called for a boycott of the Oscars ceremony on Sunday if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky isn’t on the program, saying he would smelt his own awards in public if that turns out to be the case.
The actor and activist was on the ground last month in Ukraine filming a documentary on the Russian invasion. During a CNN appearance on Saturday, he responded to rumors of a possible virtual appearance by the former comedian turned president, with an ultimatum for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Approve Zelensky’s invitation or face a potential walkout.
“Now, it is my understanding that a decision has been made not to do it. … If the academy has elected not … to pursue the leadership in Ukraine, who are taking bullets and bombs for us, along with the Ukrainian children that they are trying to protect, then I think every single one of those people, and every bit of that decision, will have been the most obscene moment in all of Hollywood history,” he told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Penn, who took home best actor awards for the films “Mystic River” (2003) and “Milk” (2008), called on people to boycott the ceremony in protest if Zelensky is not on the program, saying: “I will smelt [my awards] in public.”
Which is kind of disgusting. We don't even know if Zelensky wants to address these people, what with the Russian bombing campaign on and all. It looks as though Penn is volunteering him for the mother of all virtue-signaling.
Now, the idea isn't a totally bad one. Zelensky, after all, is an actor, and actor of the kind that Hollywood types like -- get a load of some of his acting feats here and here and here. (Warning: you can't unsee them).
(I'm not sure about "vomit-inducing" -- based on the blackout squares on the chickens and cucumbers as well as those kitty cat shapes, it appears to be a satire ridiculing censorship. But cripes, he likes to get naked for the cameras.)
However, the event is a showbiz event, not a political one. Zelensky is a head of state. Yes, he has formidable public relations skills, and he may be as heroic as he now appears: "I need ammo, not a ride" was a tremendous rallying cry at the onset of the Russian invasion. He doesn't actually need the Academy Awards to use to get his message across -- he's spoken to the European Union, to the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, to Vladimir Putin and the Russian people, to the U.K. parliament, to dozens of heads of state by phone, and on daily messages seen on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube and beyond.
The Academy Awards is kind of ... small, actually, it's not like Hollywood can actually help him much, although it may theoretically help to have them in his tree.
The problem is that Hollywood is not what it used to be. The Oscars are shrinking. Audiences are shrinking, and the entire Academy gets most of its budget from that big show. Few plan to watch them this year, not just because Hollywood fare is full of wokester duds, and comedy is dead in the era of P.C., but the Oscars ceremony itself is box office poison, given that the recipients who get up there on stage no longer do pushups or thank their moms and agents, but give godawful wokester speeches denouncing President Trump, all Republicans, and spew other alienating drivel. Half the audience, and maybe more than half, is turned off right there. The purpose of the entertainment industry is to entertain. It doesn't do that anymore, it now hectors and offends.
Maybe this isn't the venue for Zelensky, who's got more important things on his mind right now, or should have.
The other problems come from Sean Penn himself -- and there are at least three of them.
Anybody like to be blackmailed into doing the political bidding of a has-been actor? Yes, he won twice, but it's been more than a decade, so it was kind of a long time ago. Penn's threatened "smelt" stunt, where I guess he plans to melt down his two Oscars for the cameras, is kind of a throwback to
Jon Carry John Kerry throwing his medals over the White House fence, or Sean's pals burning their Vietnam-era draft cards. Been there, done that. Now it seems a little ... dated.
Problem two is just what the heck Penn stands for. He was Vladdie Putin's biggest apologist not too long ago, back in his days when he was defending and promoting Hugo Chavez as the savior of Venezuela. Chavez was a vile Marxist narco-dictator, but that was precisely what the left liked about him. They sandanista-ed up to him in great numbers, political pilgrims from the great white north. What was it that kept Hugo in power? Not the mass sentiment of the people, who were protesting in the streets in "avalancha" numbers. Nope, it was Putin's money, and Putin's "sponsorship" that kept Hugo firmly ensconced in power no matter what Venezuela's people thought about the matter. That was Penn's baby at the time, sucking up to Chavez instead of listening to the locals and now Venezuela is a ruin, with millions of refugees just as surely as Ukraine has refugees. We didn't see Penn doing much for those refugees and he now claims to be doing for Ukraine's. Old Poots is pretty good at triggering refugee waves and wrecking other people's countries, that's what he does. Penn was filming a documentary in Ukraine (perhaps there were some leftist political machinations we don't know about, as we know there are leftists on the Ukraine side in disorganized ways) and now he wants everyone to embrace the cause that he's involved in, so he's roping in the Oscars for the task. Prior to that, it was Chavez, Hurricane Katrina, and Haiti, now it's Ukraine. The contradictory causes don't exactly suggest a principled mind.
That brings us to the third problem -- the one that Hollywood pays attention to: That he's selling a movie. He's out there filming a documentary on Ukraine, he got there at just the right time for the invasion, and now he wants to make the Oscars about helping Ukraine rather than celebrating the best in film production. Everyone in Hollywood is going to notice that -- he wants his film to make money, draw attention and get awards.
It's all well and dandy to want to do that, but to force the Oscar awards ceremony into service for the task is kind of yucky. It might explain why the academy said 'no' to the idea but being them, they could cave. If they do, it will mark another downhill step in the great slide downward of motion pictures. Some are actually predicting the genre's extinction now, and this is exactly why.