RICH PICKINGS FOR; CULTURE VULTURES

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (15)

The real Steven Spielberg (as opposed to the anaemic, fake Spielberg responsible for The Lost World and Amistad) returns with this Second World War drama in which soldiers are dispatched to rescue a colleague, missing behind enemy lines and the only son in his family to have survived the war. The opening 25-minute battle scene has already caused a sensation due to Spielberg's unsparing use of graphic gore, and there has been acclaim for the cast, which includes Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Edward Burns.

When: release scheduled for 11 September.

In short: Spielberg returns to form.

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2

THE SEAGULL & PRESENT LAUGHTER & THE TEMPEST

When Ian McKellen starred opposite Clare Higgins in Napoli Millionaria at the National, everyone remembered what a great comedy actor he is. The pair of them are now heading north to lead a three-play season. McKellen is back as Garry Essendine in Noel Coward's Present Laughter. The season ends with The Tempest, but book now for Chekhov's The Seagull with Higgins as the grande dame Arkadina.

Where and when: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds (0113-244 2111) 29 Oct-27 Feb.

In short: the stuff of dreams.

3

PULP

Many thought that Pulp couldn't repeat their legendary Glastonbury '95 performance, but they proved detractors wrong with a full-on show at Finsbury Park this summer. Their latest album, This is Hardcore, though nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, was less successful than the previous two, but it's been re-released with a second CD featuring several songs from this year's Glastonbury event. With singles scheduled as well, Pulp should be big news by the time this tour rolls around.

Where and when: Wembley Arena, London (19 Nov), then on tour around Britain.

In short: the same old Pulp class.

4

THE LIFE OF BIRDS

A new David Attenborough series is always an event. All his previous offerings have become worldwide best-sellers. This new 10-parter, using state-of-the-art technology to portray bird behaviour, should not disappoint. It is the usual globe-trotting affair, taking in 42 countries and 175 miles of film shot over three years. There are penguins chatting to their chicks in the egg, crows using cars to help them crack nuts, and Australian choughs swooping to kidnap their neighbours' young. The sort of programme we pay the licence fee for. When: late October.

In short: Attenborough's latest blockbuster.

5

STEVE COOGAN

This comedian is rapidly turning into the Peter Sellers of our times - in another era, he would have been described as "a master of disguise". He possesses an uncanny ability to merge with a character so completely that you can no longer tell where he ends and the role begins. In The Man Who Thinks He's It, Coogan takes on many exquisite roles, including the excruciating Alan Partridge, and the student-hating Mancunian yob, Paul Calf. Don't miss this rare live run.

Where: Lyceum Theatre, London (0870 606 3446)

When: from 27 Sept.

In short: a master of disguise.

6

WAGNER'S RING CYCLE

Chances to hear the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen are comparatively rare, so these semi-stagings by Andrew Sinclair, featuring the conducting of major Wagnerian Bernard Haitink (above), returning to the podium for the first time since heart surgery earlier this year, are unmissable.

Where: Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0171-589 8212).

When: Rheingold, 28 September, 7.30pm; Walkure, 29 Sept, 5.30pm; Siegfried 1 Oct, 5.30pm; Gotterdammerung, 10 Oct, 4pm.

In short: mammoth musico-mythopoeic tetralogy.

7

PIETER DE HOOCH

Amazingly, this is the first-ever museum exhibition devoted to Pieter de Hooch, one of the masters of 17th-century Holland and second only to his contemporary Vermeer as a painter of the Dutch interior. De Hooch's best pictures combine intense observation with a kind of easy domesticity to give a very real impression of the time and place in which he lived. It promises to be a fine show and a real coup for Britain's oldest picture gallery.

Where: Dulwich Picture Gallery, College Road, London SE21 (0181-693 5254).

When: to 15 November.

In short: good stuff.

8

JOSHUA REDMAN

A youthful saxophonist who burst onto the scene in the early Nineties with a brace of albums - an eponymous debut and Wish - that had the sense of tradition associated with Wynton Marsalis plus an up-to-the-minute freshness. Has since consolidated his reputation and has a striking new record, Timeless Tales for Changing Times, out on Atlantic on 14 September.

Where: Barbican Centre, London EC2 (0171-638 8891).

When: Friday 13 Nov.

In short: an exciting heir to Sonny Rollins.

9

START THE WEEK

The BBC having suddenly discovered that Melvyn Bragg is left-wing, and therefore unsuitable for interviewing novelists and scientists, the job of running the country's most highly charged cultural forum has been given to Jeremy Paxman (above). Questions have been asked about how Paxman's combative style, so effective with politicians, will work on normal human beings; but compared to grouchy Melvyn, the smoother, more ironic Paxman could well look rather genial.

Where and when: 9am Mondays from 5 Oct, Radio 4.

In short: Paxo batters artists and academics.

10

FRANKFURT BALLET

The overdue British premiere of WiIliam Forsythe's acclaimed company brings three varied pieces he has made for them over a decade. Quintett is quietly elegiac with its moving score by Gavin Bryars, while Enemy in the Figure shows Forsythe's more dramatic side. Knotty groupings in Hypothetical Stream demonstrate Forsythe's latest risk-taking choreographic procedures.

Where: Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1 (0171-863 8000).

When: 24-28 Nov, 7.30pm.

In short: adulated abroad; now see why. 11

VELVET GOLDMINE (18)

Todd Haynes's glam-rock epic Velvet Goldmine (winner of an award for special artistic contribution at Cannes) is not only the American director's finest work, it's the most original and invigorating film of the year. Built around a Citizen Kane-style structure, it delves into the life of a Bowie-style glam-rock legend (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his Iggy-esque inspiration (Ewan McGregor). Toni Collette is the star's shrill wife, Eddie Izzard plays his unscrupulous manager.

When: release scheduled for 23 Oct.

In short: dig out your platforms.

12

THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY

The late Patricia Highsmith was the thriller writer's thriller writer. Her 20-odd throat-clutchingly tense, claustrophobic chillers have inspired film directors from Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train) to Wim Wenders, from Claude Chabrol to Anthony Minghella. Now, leading dramatist Phyllis Nagy turns her vividly theatrical imagination to Highsmith's amoral hero Tom Ripley in a world premiere production by Giles Croft starring Joseph Millson, up-and-comer Lou Gish and, in the title role, the very talented John Padden.

Where: Watford Palace Theatre, Watford (01923 225671).

When: 2-24 Oct.

In short: friendship can be murder...

13

NEIL FINN

The man behind New Zealand's Crowded House was probably in the highest echelon of the songwriting league even before the release of this year's Try Whistling This. With his debut solo album, packed with pop gems like "Last One Standing" and "She Will have Her Way", he's done much to enhance that reputation. An excellent choice of support for the entire tour is London trio Arnold, whose Hillside album was one of the British highlights of the year.

Where and when: Royal Albert Hall, London, 4 Oct; Royal Festival Hall, London, 12 Oct; Apollo, Oxford, 17 Sept; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 18 Sept; Regent, Ipswich, 19 Sept; Dome, Brighton, 23 Sept; Colston Hall, Bristol, 25 Sept.

In short: a night of great tunes

14

THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL

The BBC has poured an awful lot of resources into this lavish new version of the classic novels by Baroness Orczy. Following in the suave footsteps of Leslie Howard and David Niven, Richard E Grant (above) is well-cast in the lead of Richard Carpenter's adaptation. He is the Superman, Batman and James Bond of 1793 France: top-hole English aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney by day, and The Scarlet Pimpernel, swashbuckling defier of The Terror by night. Martin Shaw plays his arch-enemy, Chauvelin. Relish the seductive "killer in a cravat".

Where and when: BBC1, October.

In short: Richard E Grant swashes his buckle.

15

PAUL MERTON

Best known as the acerbic and often inspired panellist on Have I Got News For You, Merton is also a gifted contributor to such radio programmes as Just a Minute and The Masterson Inheritance. But it is in the live arena - where he can bounce ideas off the audience - that he really comes into his own. In And This Is Me, he discusses, among other things, "his critically acclaimed near-death experience and the truth about his short but instructive spell in the Maudsley Psychiatric Hosiptal". His return to the live circuit after several years' absence is eagerly awaited.

Where and when: national tour starts at Harlequin Theatre, Redhill (01737 765547), on 11 Sept.

In short: master improviser turns stand-up.

16

SPIRIT GARDEN

A major retrospective for the significant Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who died in 1996. Under the artistic directorship of Oliver Knussen, Spirit Garden brings together a number of artists who were close to Takemitsu during his lifetime. His haunting scores are also nicely contextualised by music which influenced him, primarily Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen. Takemitsu's titles often allude to his "soundworld": wind, rain, trees, sea, islands, birds. He also said his works were like Japanese gardens, repositories for contemplation, spiritual reflection and sensual delights.

Where and when: South Bank Centre, London SE1 (0171-960 4242), 2-28 Oct.

In short: catch up on an intriguing modern master.

17

PICASSO CERAMICS

Picasso the painter has long loomed large over the 20th century and, increasingly, Picasso the sculptor is given equal billing, but Picasso the maker of plates and pots has never been taken quite so seriously. That says something about attitudes to ceramics in general, but it's silly given that his works in clay are often a fusion of both of the other arts. Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay, featuring nearly 200 pieces, should help redress the balance.

Where: The Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London W1 (0171-300 8000).

When: 17 Sept-16 Dec.

In short: clay stuff.

18

ALVIN YOUNGBLOOD HART

Ostensibly one of a small band of acoustic blues revivalists that also includes the likes of Corey Harris, Guy Davis and Eric Bibb, Hart stands out because he can - like the great Taj Mahal before him - do so much more. His latest album, Territory, is a rich melting pot, taking in flavours as diverse as ska, Captain Beefheart and Twenties pop tunes as well as the more predictable Mississippi Delta tunes.

Where and when: Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow (0141-287 5511) 21 Oct; Live Theatre, Newcastle (0191-232 1232) 23 Oct; Borderline, London WC2 (0171- 734 2095) 25 Oct.

In short: a crossover star in the making.

19

DANUBE WEEK

The Last Night of the Proms goes out next Saturday night. On Sunday morning, before you remember to retune to Classic or Radio 2 or whatever, Radio 3 launches into one of its biggest projects: a week of broadcasts along the course of the Danube. This takes in two major music festivals - the Brucknerfest at Linz and the Haydntage at Eisenstadt - plus no end of concerts, operas and features from Vienna and Budapest, two of Europe's great musical centres. Highlights include Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, live from the Vienna State Opera on the Monday, and the excellent Adam Fischer conducting Haydn's The Seasons on the Wednesday.

Where and when: Radio 3, 13-19 Sept.

In short: melodious Mitteleuropa.

20

RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY

Britain and America's best living choreographers provide premieres for Rambert's season - which launches the rebuilt Sadler's Wells. Christopher Bruce's creation on opening night is danced to music for strings by the British composer Dave Heath. On the same bill are Paul Taylor's lovely, lyrical Airs, performed to Handel music. Programme two features Siobhan Davies's swift-moving, wide-ranging Embarque and Merce Cunningham's August Pace. Contrasting pieces by the Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian and the Israeli Ohad Naharin make up the programmes.

Where and when: Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1 (0171-863 8000), 12-17 Oct.

In short: new dance for a new stage.

21

THE TRUMAN SHOW

The last time Jim Carrey was involved with a satire about television - The Cable Guy in 1996 - it earned the dubious distinction of being his first flop, though it remains his most intelligent work. Until The Truman Show, that is. Peter Weir's sharp and adventurous movie (the screenplay is by the writer of Gattaca) has Carrey (above) as Truman Burbank, a man whose world falls apart when he discovers that since birth he has been the subject of the world's highest-rating television show. A hit with American audiences and critics alike, it looks certain to repeat its success here.

When: release scheduled for 9 Oct.

In short: a surefire critical and commercial hit.

22

THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL

Cheek by Jowl may be dead but its great director/designer team of Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod is very much alive. After countless award-winning productions at the National they make their RSC debut with Sheridan's classic Restoration comedy of fortunes and men's lascivious eyes. The unbelievably strong cast includes comedy experts Deborah Findlay and Celia Imrie (above), plus Kenneth Cranham, Emma Fielding and Matthew McFadyen.

Where and when: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (01789 295623), 9-24 Oct; The Barbican, London EC1 (0171-638 8891), 29 Oct-21Nov.

In short: high-grade lust and laughter. 23

MORCHEEBA

Since Big Calm, their second album, was released in March, south London's eclectic beatsters have never been out of the Top 40. They're basically one of those "word of mouth" bands, and on stage they're tight when they need to be but inject more party vibes than, say, Massive Attack or Portishead, to whom they're often compared. Behind the backdrop of subtle hip-hop, psychedelia, beats and blues, vocalist Skye Edwards, though only 5ft 2ins, has shown she's got magnificent presence - as well as that glorious voice.

Where and when: Olympia, Dublin, 4 Nov; Waterfront, Norwich, 5 Nov; Colston Hall, Bristol 6 Nov; Foundry, Sheffield, 8 Nov; Royal Albert Hall, London SW7, 9 Nov; Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth, 11 Nov.

In short: watch them go massive.

24

NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND

It has been one of the publishing sensations of the 1990s. Now writer Bill Bryson's huge best-seller has been transferred to television. In the company of a film crew, the likeable American author undertakes a tour of Britain, to be shown in six parts. Like the book, he starts in Dover, where in 1973 he entered into a land of rain, sweet tea and disagreeable landladies. As he travels round visiting some new destinations, he displays his familiar combination of exasperation at and affection for what he encounters.

Where and when: ITV, starting in November.

In short: an amusing American view of the UK.

25

LEE EVANS

Described by one critic as "a one-man special effect", this comedian is perpetual motion personified. He puts so much into every show, you almost fear for his health, and look on in awe as he hurls himself into acting out everything from a drunk trying to urinate to the last item of luggage left on the carousel: "Don't leave me here, I don't know anybody." Towelling himself down on stage, he remarks at one point: "If I went to the toilet now, I'd pass steam." Prepare to be exhilarated and exhausted.

Where: Apollo Theatre, London W1 (0171-494 5586).

When: from Monday 14 Sept to Saturday 21 Nov.

In short: a dazzling bundle of energy.

26

MAHLER: THE SPECTACLE

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra launches into a two-part examination of virtually the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler - nine symphonies and a number of the song cycles. The first five concerts this autumn take in the first four "Wunderhorn" symphonies. Daniel Gatti conducts the first two events, which neatly juxtapose Parts I and II of Das Knaben Wunderhorn with the 1st and 4th Symphonies. Gilbert Kaplan is entrusted with the "Resurrection" Symphony; Neeme Jarvi gives Das klagende Lied; and Yuri Temirkanov presides over the 3rd Symphony.

Where: Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0171-589 8212).

When: 17 & 20 Sept, 5 & 11 Oct & 10 Nov, 7.30pm.

In short: symphony as world - all-consuming.

27

JOHN SINGER SARGENT

A long-awaited survey of the quintessential cosmopolitan. Sargent was an Italian-born American who trained in Paris and lived in London at the turn of the 20th century. He's probably best known for his swaggering portraits of fashionable Edwardians, but on the evidence of other pictures, like the Tate's sweetly impressionistic Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and the Imperial War Museum's deeply disturbing Gassed, he looks like one of the major figures of his day.

Where: Tate Gallery, Millbank, London SW1 (0171-887 8000).

When: 15 Oct to 17 Jan 1999.

In short: fancy stuff.

28

DIANA KRALL

A sort of female version of Harry Connick Jr who has had critics and audiences alike eating up her sublime pianist/singer act on a string of classy records and concert appearances. Obviously hugely indebted to Nat King Cole, Canada's biggest jazz export since Oscar Peterson has recorded with such huge talents as Ray Brown, Stanley Turrentine and young lions Russell Malone and Christian McBride. She can surely lay claim to the mantle of Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn.

Where: Barbican Centre, London EC2 (0171-638 8891).

When: 12 Nov.

In short: jazz can be fun.

29

THE SUNDAY PLAY

While Radio 3's music programmes have been dumbing down in recent months, speech and drama have had a new lease of life, especially drama. The season starts with Peter Brook's Sixties anti-Vietnam play, US, with Adrian Lester; that's followed by Harriet Walter in Hedda Gabler; Terence Rattigan's last play, Man and Boy, starring Alan Bates as a fraudulent tycoon in 1930s New York; and two West End transfers - Peter Hall's production of Major Barbara and Juliette Binoche in the Almeida production of Pirandello's Naked.

When: Sundays from 11 Oct, 7.30pm.

Where: Radio 3.

In short: quality drama for culture vultures.

30

MERCE CUNNINGHAM

The venerated and vastly influential veteran American choreographer brings two programmes to the Barbican's "Inventing America" season. Each includes one of his celebrated Events, where contrasted sections from some of his early works are shown non-stop - an amazing and unique dance experience. The visual element should be striking in two of the other works to be given: Pond Way, with decor by Roy Lichtenstein, and Scenario, designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons.

Where: Barbican, London EC2 (0171-638 8891).

When: 6-10 Oct, 7.45pm.

In short: American dance's Grand Old Man.

31

FUNNY GAMES (18)

The Austrian director Michael Haneke has railed against the desensitising power of media violence before (in his 1992 film Benny's Video for instance) but never with as much force and precision as he does in Funny Games. The premise is simple: two well-groomed young men ingratiate their way into a family's holiday home and torture the inhabitants. If the scenario is grim, Haneke is rigorously intelligent in his exploration of violence and its repercussions. This long-awaited release comes after months of deliberation from the BBFC.

When: release scheduled for 30 Oct

In short: a highly intelligent study of violence.

32

PHEDRE AND BRITANNICUS

Tickets cost as little as a fiver for these twin Almeida productions of tragedies by Racine. The season begins with Phedre, translated by Ted Hughes, while Britannicus joins the repertoire from 29 October. Both plays are directed by Jonathan Kent, who has a habit of creating productions in which actors shine. Diana Rigg certainly did when Kent directed her in Medea and Mother Courage - and she's back for more, heading a company which also includes Toby Stephens and Barbara Jefford.

Where: Albery Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (0171-369 1740).

When: to 28 Nov.

In short: power plays of love and death.

33

IAN DURY AND THE BLOCKHEADS

These reunited oldies proved that they still retain the punk panache, even though their leader (above) is seriously ill. Festival appearances at Guildford and Finsbury Park saw them blast through the old favourites, including "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", "Sweet Gene Vincent", " Reasons To Be Cheerful", "Wake Up" and "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick", with new numbers from this year's Mr Love Pants album fitting in well.

Where and when: Olympia, Dublin (9 & 10 Oct); UEA, Norwich (11 Oct); Junction, Cambridge (12 Oct); Rock City, Nottingham (14 Oct); Riverside, Newcastle (15 Oct); Garage, Glasgow (16 Oct); Forum, London (18 Oct); MDH, Manchester (19 Oct).

In short: don't miss the diamond geezer.

34

DINNER LADIES

There is quite a buzz surrounding Victoria Wood's first new television series in several years. Her debut sitcom is set in the canteen of a factory in the north of England. All Wood's usual cohorts are present and correct. Wood herself takes the role of Bren, the most dedicated of the dinner ladies. Duncan Preston plays Stan the maintenance man, and Celia Imrie is the bizarre Human Relations Advisor, Phillippa. In perhaps the most intriguing piece of casting, however, the wonderful Julie Walters plays Wood's 60-year-old mother, Petula Gordeno. Tuck in and enjoy.

Where and when: BBC1, November.

In short: Victoria Wood serves up her first sitcom. 35; LILY SAVAGE The British have long had a strange love affair with women who aren't all they seem - from Hinge and Brackett through Danny La Rue to Dame Edna Everage.

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