The United States has given him $18.9 billion dollars in aid so far. Great Britain has delivered him 120 armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems. And Germany has sent him $1.16 billion to support the effort.
But none of these paltry stocking stuffers approach the generosity or sheer enormity of what actor Sean Penn has done for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky: He’s loaned him his Oscar.
No, the above is not the plot of the “Veep” Christmas special. This is somehow a real news story, which the world’s press reported on Tuesday with the straightforwardness of a water treatment plant being built down the block. Even though it’s utterly ludicrous.
Hollywood just can’t help itself.
A wannabe Winston Churchill with a gross goatee, Penn, 62, strolled into Kyiv, Ukraine, this week, handed Zelensky an Academy Award and said, “This is for you. It’s just a symbolic silly thing, but if I know this is here with you then I’ll feel better and stronger for the fight.”
Could Zelensky pawn it off for cash? Michael Jackson bought the 1939 “Gone With The Wind” Best Picture trophy for $1.5 million. No can do.
Because Penn’s BS had a P.S.: “When you win, bring it back to Malibu.”
Penn has actually won two Best Actor Academy Awards, for “Mystic River” and “Milk,” and he couldn’t even let the celebrated leader of a country fighting a costly and devastating war keep one? He has the gall to tell a brave president, whom the Kremlin wants to assassinate, to “bring it back to Malibu”?
At first, Zelensky refused the trivial present, but eventually accepted it. Probably because he was put in an extremely awkward and surreal situation by the star of “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.”
Unless Penn has secretly fashioned the statuette into a useful pipe bomb and “bring it back to Malibu” is coded intelligence for how to strategically end the war tomorrow, this ranks among his dumbest stunts ever.
And there have been plenty of blunders to speak of.
When not recording a voice role in “The Angry Birds Movie,” Penn cavorts around the world acting as a self-appointed ambassador. In 2002 and 2003, Penn reported on the Iraq War for the San Francisco Chronicle. He’s diddled in the United States’ relationships with Cuba and Venezuela. In 2015, he conducted an unauthorized interview with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, a guy whose hobbies include dismembering his enemies, for Rolling Stone.
But it doesn’t get more tone-deaf than toting your meaningless Oscar to a war zone for an Instagram photo opp.
This is a conflict that has killed at least 5,500 Ukrainian civilians (some estimate the number could be in the tens of thousands). Its effects have reverberated around the world. Russia, a close ally of China, has become increasingly unstable and aggressive toward the West. One result of the international stand-off is that energy and gas prices, especially in the UK and Europe, are pushing wallets to the brink as the weather gets colder.
Nothing about the atrocities in Ukraine screams out for the red-carpet treatment.
And yet for Penn, the cure-all is bequeathing an award he won for acting to a man who is trying to keep his country from being subsumed by a violent takeover. And then demanding he fly out to California to return it.
Penn lives his life like he’s in a movie with a 0% score on RottenTomatoes. Critical consensus: “Self-absorbed and unrealistically absurd.”
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