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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A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
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Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
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What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

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The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
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A Bible for billionaires

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Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

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Magna Carta Island goes on sale

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The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

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We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

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The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

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