FILM / Scenes from the grief brief: Adam Mars-Jones on The Joy Luck Club and My Life where crisis is shoehorned into the fake conflicts and resolutions of soap opera

This has been an extraordinary season for the film of direct emotional appeal, known in its less ambitious forms as the tear-jerker. Audiences have been called on to identify with the sufferings of whole peoples (Schindler's List), of disenfranchised minorities (Philadelphia) and of extraordinary individuals (Shadowlands). The boom in cinema-related tissue sales will be with us for some time yet, but to judge by the latest offerings in this cycle, The Joy Luck Club (15) and My Life (12), film-makers are already aiming at a tear-duct too far.

I'm James. Hire me: It's not a dating service, it's not a marriage bureau, and - most

You're a successful professional woman who's been invited to a lavish dinner at which your firm is in line for one of the industry's major awards. Everyone is expected to take a partner but you don't have a current boyfriend and all your male friends are otherwise engaged. What do you do?

ARTS / What's more

The BBC has won the Christmas Day ratings war: the Demi Moore / Patrick Swayze film Ghost topped the charts with an estimated 19 million viewers, with Back to the Future III and Only Fools and Horses the next most popular shows . . .

Obituary: Emile Ardolino

Emile Ardolino, film director: born Maspeth, New York 1943; died Los Angeles 20 November 1993.

Rallycross: Dirty dancing on four wheels as Britain's rallycross drivers put their skills to the test and stretch their nerves to the limit

Mike Mantel is hard on Mike Manning's heels during their British Rallycross Championship Division 3 heat at Brands Hatch yesterday.

ARTS / Show People: Beauty and the beach: Keanu Reeves: Meanwhile, at the other end of the Hollywood firmament . . . He's a star, but is he an actor?

FOR A young man with mild, deferential manners, a blank if undeniably beautiful face and a comparatively minor part in Much Ado About Nothing, Keanu Reeves cut a surprisingly controversial figure at this year's Cannes festival. The divide fell along generational lines, roughly speaking, with the older half of the journalistic establishment unsure what the other half was so excited about. He is one of the few stars who hold dual nationality as a teen idol and film actor for adults.

FILM / Cut from the scenes of the crime: John McNaughton makes movies about murderers. It's enough to make you sick, says Sheila Johnston

You wouldn't exactly say that John McNaughton's films were sleazy but . . . The Borrower was a sci-fi thriller about an alien whose head keeps exploding and who has to 'borrow' a series of new ones from his human hosts. The Chicago Tribune wrote of it, 'McNaughton has emerged as the most spectacularly pessimistic film- maker to come along since the heyday of the film noir masters in the Fifties.' Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll showcased Eric Bogosian (he of Talk Radio fame) and his glorious cavalcade of scumbags.

Dirty dancing drives Tokyo crowds crazy: British company teams up with Japanese to turn porno peep shows into pop entertainment

PEEP shows are normally found in the shabby backstreets of red-light districts, visited by men in raincoats with impure thoughts. But in Tokyo a British company has turned the peep show into mass entertainment for young people by combining disco rave music with vaudeville, miniskirts, clever marketing and the impure thoughts of 2,000 people a night.

TELEVISION / Think of England: Andy Gill is distinctly un-wooed by the blanket coverage in this weekend's festival of romance

As with pubs and drinking, 'theme' television is ruining viewing. Schedulers need only the merest hint of an anniversary to replace normal programmes with blanket coverage, as if they were organising an NFT season rather than running public television. So, for Valentine's Day, we got Last Tango, Dirty Dancing, Truly Madly Deeply and wall-to-wall Barry White, which is pretty much the way it is with Barry anyway.

FILM / Ripping Yarn: Life's a beach: As Big Wednesday breaks again, John Lyttle traces the history of surf culture from the beach to the silver screen, and provides a guide to surf slang

Check it out. The early Sixties, the acrid smell of sun-tan lotion, the roar of the waves, the clamour of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean pouring out of the automobile radio, chirping surf 'n' turf songs of sun, sea, sex and the American way:
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Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before