George Clooney will present Sean Penn with the Joel Siegel Award at the Broadcast Film Critics Association's 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards this coming Thursday. Siegel was the “Good Morning America” film critic for over a quarter of a century as well as a BFCA member. The award is meant to “honor those who understand, as Joel did, that the greatest value of celebrity is as an enhanced platform to do good works for others.”

Among other charitable and political endeavors he is and has been associated with, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. “We are extremely proud to be able to make this presentation to Sean on this night in particular, exactly two years after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti,” BFCA President Joey Berlin said via press release. “While it was heartening to see such an outpouring of support and aid for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the long-term commitment made by Sean and his organization is particularly notable. The Joel Siegel Award was created to spotlight such above and beyond efforts by the leading lights of our industry and its spirit is truly personified by Sean Penn.”

Penn was subject to some perplexing criticism following his efforts in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but I have always admired his commitment to philanthropy. I understand that it becomes en vogue to deride celebrities that are frequently in the media supporting their various chosen causes. Bono, Angelina Jolie and Penn are some notable examples of the trend. But I can see no better use of the (sometimes frightening in its scope and scale) influence that actors, singers and filmmakers are afforded via their creative careers than to try and assist, in whatever way they can, those in need.

In addition to the Joel Siegel Award, Penn has been nominated for seven Critics’ Choice Movie Awards throughout his career, including two wins in the Best Actor category (for "Mystic River" and "Milk").  It is interesting that the release makes mention of Penn’s attachment to “The Tree of life” (nominated for Best Picture), given his public criticism of the film (particularly as it relates to his character) earlier in the year. Perhaps that is all just water under the bridge at this stage in the game.

Martin Scorsese is also slated to receive the Critics’ Choice Music+Film Award during the ceremony.

The show will air on VH1 Thursday, January 12 at 8:00pm ET/PT.

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