It’s no secret that Hollywood’s main priority is making entertainment that makes money, but it’s always uncomfortable when it tries to pretend otherwise. Ahead of the 2022 Oscars, many people wondered how or if the show would contend with the war in Ukraine. As it turns out, the show itself didn’t seem to know how to do that.
Much like with the ACLU ribbons of 2017's awards circuit and the decision to wear all black to support Time’s Up in 2018, plenty of celebrities on the red carpet this year chose to show their activism and support for Ukrainians amid the ongoing Russian invasion with blue and yellow ribbons. Some ribbons were even emblazoned with the hashtag, #IStandWithRefugees. Actors like Jamie Lee Curtis, Youn Yuh-jung, Diane Warren, and more were seen donning the accessory:
Actor Jason Momoa went an even quieter route, wearing a handkerchief with blue and yellow coloring:
With the appearance of such tokens of solidarity, it seemed all but certain that the show would address the crisis in a meaningful way and not offer something deeply lame like a canned statement alongside a “moment of silence.” But, hoo boy, that’s exactly what we got!
Rumors had swirled prior to the Oscars broadcast that presenter Mila Kunis would speak out about the crisis in Ukraine, as she’s a self-proclaimed “proud Ukrainian” who—alongside husband Ashton Kutcher—has been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine since the war broke out several weeks ago. Kunis and Kutcher have even raised over $30 million for aid to refugees fleeing the country. So, it was particularly weird when Kunis was brought in to introduce “Somehow You Do” by Reba McEntire from the film Four Good Days and didn’t manage to say the word “Ukraine” once in her speech.
Kunis addressed the crowd with a short statement, saying: “Recent global events have left many events feeling gutted. Yet when you witness the strength and dignity of those facing such devastation, it’s impossible not to be moved by their resilience. One cannot help but be in awe of those who find strength to keep fighting through unimaginable darkness.” Why have an actress from Ukraine, who has been vocal about the war, not mention the very country she’s from by name?! Seems like an odd omission!
After McEntire’s performance, the broadcast aired a series of slides declaring that it’d be taking a moment of silence “to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict, and prejudice within their own borders.”
“While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services. Resources are scarce and we—collectively as a global community—can do more,” read another slide.
The moment, which lasted about 30 seconds, ended with a request “to support Ukraine in any way you are able. #StandWithUkraine.”
Later in the show, co-host Amy Schumer, in commentary between awards, briefly mentioned that there’s a “genocide” happening in Ukraine. The country wasn’t acknowledged again.
Prior to the broadcast, there were more than a few pleas for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Zoom into the show. Last week, Schumer told Drew Barrymore on her talk show that she had been hoping to “highlight the sort of current condition” in Ukraine during the Oscars broadcast and even pitched the idea “to have Zelenskyy satellite in or make a tape or something, just because there are so many eyes on the Oscars.” Schumer added that she wasn’t “afraid to go there, but it’s not me producing the Oscars.”
Shortly after Schumer’s statements made the rounds, actor Sean Penn told CNN—quite emphatically—that “there is nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give [Zelenskyy] an opportunity to talk to all of us.” He went on to slam the Academy, charging that if it “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 also said he’d boycott the awards ceremony if he got confirmation the Oscars actively were choosing not to let Zelenskyy satellite in, pledging to “smelt” his own Oscar statues in protest.
Surely to the dismay of both Schumer and Penn, Zelenskyy made no appearance on the show. Might want to get to smelting, Sean.