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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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
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Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee