Arts and Entertainment Rome sweet Rome: Tony Servillo in 'The Great Beauty'

From its delirious opening montage of disco divas, ageing socialites and strippers at play – one imagines Berlusconi's bunga bunga in a nutshell – Paolo Sorrentino's Roman satire has its sights fixed on epic greatness. There's a touch of La Dolce Vita in its fluid portrait of the city as carnival, with its parade of nuns, tourists, freaks, hangers-on, performance artists and other jokers. It is overseen by the dapper, disenchanted Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who once wrote a great novel but is now more famous for his roof-terrace parties and languid cynicism. The haute bourgeoisie circles Jep moves in turn a blind eye and a Botoxed pout to the depressed, debased society around them, preferring to dance themselves dizzy and drink themselves silly. (Sample dialogue: "What job do you do?" "Me? I'm rich". "Great job"). Nor is there any recourse to religion when Vatican prelates offer not spiritual succour but top cooking tips.

Ben Hur star Charlton Heston dies

Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 best actor Oscar as the chariot-racing Ben Hur and portrayed Moses, Michelangelo, El Cid and other figures in Hollywood epics of the 1950s and 60s, has died aged 84, his family said today.

Rivane Neuenschwander, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Now you see it, now you don't

Innovation of the year: The blueprints for our future

As the Design Museum prepares to announce the award for the most stylish innovation of the year, Alice Jones introduces the seven category winners

My secret life: Tahita Bulmer, singer, age 26

The house/flat I grew up in ... was all over the world. Between the ages of 8 and 13, my mum and I travelled so we had no fixed abode and I was out of school for ages. It set me up well for the life I lead now, one based in rootlessness.

Cultural Life: Marcelo Alvarez, opera singer

Books
I am studying my contractual rights as an opera singer, so I am reading a lot of legal books, covering all of Europe. I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I've always been interested in philosophical and religious themes in books, and I studied these subjects at university. I enjoyed the way the author put Mary Magdalene back in the spotlight because the importance of the role of women in the Church is often ignored.

The 5-minute Interview: Steve Harley, Singer, actor, presenter

'Half of the world believes I've only recorded one album'

Robert Fisk: Film-makers must atone for their sins

Cultural censorship is like a disease. It moves among us unseen. Let me show you how it works. Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth gave Cate Blanchett a unique moment to recreate the Virgin Queen in his 1998 film. But the sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, is a clunker because – in the one vital scene where Elizabeth demonstrates to her soldiers that she is among them as their fighting sovereign – when she addresses her troops at Tilbury before the expected arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588, her most famous statement, learned by every schoolboy in Britain, has been ruthlessly expunged.

Has 'David' got too big for Florence?

A proposal to move Michelangelo's most famous sculpture from its home in a Florentine gallery has provoked uproar among the art elite. Peter Popham reports

The art of seduction

Are these images tasteless? Did the Old Masters simply produce a better class of pornography? A new exhibition offers some answers, says Tom Lubbock

Femi Kuti: 'We are in a state of anarchy'

Femi Kuti says he has cut down on interviews because they get him so worked up. But ask him to comment on Nigerian politics and there's instantly a venomous tirade, says Alex Hannaford

Buonarroti, Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam (1510)

The Independent's Great Art series

de La Tour, Georges: The Dream of St Joseph (c1640)

We know you saw something, says the scientific investigator to the haunted heroine in the classic scary film. We know you had some kind of experience. We don't think you're making it up. But as to whether what you saw was a genuine visitation, or all in the mind, or a trick of the light, we're not going to jump to conclusions. After all, we are living in the 20th century.

Injury to Djokovic eases path for Nadal

The French Open is usually the most unpredictable of the four Grand Slam events. Gaston Gaudio, the winner here two years ago, was unseeded, as were Martin Verkerk and Mariano Puerta, beaten finalists in 2003 and 2005. Semi-finalists in the last 10 years include never-to-be-remembered names like Filip Dewulf, Fernando Meligeni and Franco Squillari.

EU warned it will miss target on biodiversity

Climate change poses an immediate challenge to the European Union target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010, according to a report from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Bruegel the Elder, Pieter: The Strife of Lent with Shrovetide (1550s)

Caravaggio dismissed the work of a rival painter with the remark that his "canvases were playing cards". It's an occupational hazard for anyone painting images on a flat surface. However much the artist pursues a sense of deep space and rounded volume, there is the risk that the solid bodies he depicts will go as flat as those figures of kings and queens and knaves that appear on cards.

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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there