Comic performances overlooked again at Oscars

When Sean Penn won this year’s best actor Oscar for his role in the crime drama “Mystic River,” it was a vindication for an actor whose great talent had never been officially recognized by a statue from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. But this year’s crop of nominees featured a rarity in not one but two nominations for comic roles — “Lost in Translation’s” Bill Murray and Johnny Depp of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The award almost always goes to a dramatic actor (and Penn’s roaringly intense Jimmy Marcus certainly qualifies). Only a very small subset of the winners in any of the acting categories have won for funny roles.

Originally published at March 1, 2004. Read the complete article.

Can Stephen King bring horror back to TV?

Miraculous healings, corpses covered by swarms of ants, an artist afflicted with terrifying telepathic powers and haunted by the dead. It’s the latest frightfest from Stephen King, the most trusted brand name in the horror genre. His new 15-hour miniseries, “Kingdom Hospital,” premieres March 3 on ABC.

Though inspired by Lars von Trier’s acclaimed Danish series “The Kingdom,” the American version has lots of signature King touches, including the character Peter Ritter (played by Jack Coleman of “Dynasty”), who’s brought to the hospital when he’s run over by a drug-impaired driver, which happened to King himself in 1999.

King has brought his work to television roughly a dozen times over the years, with varying success. The best of his small-screen set was the 1994 miniseries of his sprawling post-apocalypse novel “The Stand,” but like King’s “The Green Mile,” that was a fantasy with dark overtones rather than an outright scarefest.

However, TV is now taking to King’s pure-horror works with a bloody vengeance. Besides “Kingdom Hospital,” there’ll soon be a new miniseries of his vampire novel “Salem’s Lot,” and ABC plans on an adaptation of his Richard Bachman book “Desperation” in 2005.

King’s previous attempts to bring pure horror to TV have been markedly less sanguine. This goes especially for the pointless TV retreads of “Carrie” and “The Shining,” which had already been perfected on film and seem more like attempts to capitalize on King’s profitable marquee name. It’s nice to see that “Salem’s Lot” is being tried again, though — the first TV adaptation, in 1979, was a disaster despite the directorial effort of “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” helmer Tobe Hooper. A nonsensical script and poor acting staked it long before it rose from its coffin.

Originally published on March 1, 2004. Read the complete article.

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