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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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home