Arts and Entertainment
 

New Channel 4 drama Utopia combines conspiracy theories, edge-of-your-seat tension and dark humour with a talented cast. It could turn out to be one of the TV hits of the year

It's true: tobacco can seriously improve your life

THE MEETING was about to start and, at one end of the boardroom table, my friend Roddy was puffing on one of his aggressively large cigars. It was going to be a long, dreary morning, so I lit up a more modest half corona.

`Examiner' looks doomed

DESPITE A long and colourful history of newspaper publishing, San Francisco appears doomed to follow the path already trodden by most other big American cities and become a one-newspaper town.

Interview: Marian Salzman - The future is in her head

Marian Salzman is paid to know how we're going to live, and what we're going to buy, in the next century. Cole Moreton gazed into her crystal ball

The Three Best Films

Out of Sight (15)

Film: Out of the closet, into the fire

`Out' is no longer cool in Hollywood, if ever it was. Take Anne Heche: a bankable star turned film promoter's nightmare.

Slowly chewing it over

The Michael Nyman Band

Film: Fan facts: Sharon Stone, star of `Sphere'

Burger Queen: Before she made her film debut at 22 in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (she played a beautiful woman fleetingly glimpsed from a moving train), Stone had been a successful model in Ford adverts. Her resume also includes a less auspicious stint flipping burgers for McDonald's in the Seventies.

Film: Also showing: A mouse that roars

Mousehunt Gore Verbinski (PG)

Cries & Whispers: Stuck for words? I think I can help

MUCH AS we enjoy making governments tremble and share-prices tumble here at Cries & Whispers, we never lose sight of our primary purpose, ie, helping you out with your pub conversation. Bearing that in mind, here are six topics you might want to turn to when your chats about the Oscars start to flag.

Film: Sex and violence? It's only satire

The nudity in `Showgirls' was numbing, the derision deafening. `Starship Trooper' has had Paul Verhoeven labelled a Nazi. He says his movies satirise the States. Nick Hasted wonders if he, too, has been seduced by what he would mock

Choice: Film: The Game, MAC, Birmingham

The Game, MAC, Birmingham (0121-440 3838) 8.30pm

Books: SHELF LIFE

The Sharon Stone Story by Michael Munn (Robson Books, pounds 17.95). "She was posing from the day she arrived," says Dorothy, her mum. "I was never a kid," says Sharon (IQ, apparently, an eggheady 154). "I was, like, 40 at birth." At 15, she was skinny and homely. Then she saw a magazine article about makeovers. "I just looked at them and thought, `I can do that' ... It was like a math problem: How do you get it to equal what you want?" She was 34 years old when she first hit stardom, with the no-knickers- plus-icepick part in Basic Instinct (1992). "BI," she said, later, "was not a documentary. It was a stupid-two-box-of-popcorn movie, not as important as people want to make it out to be." Raunchier than Pfeiffer, brainier than Winona and warmer and more human than Demi Moore, Shazza seems like fun to spend time with. And she is of course very pretty too.

Teenagers from hell

Popular films, and a rise in families without a father, appear to be factors in an alarming trend towards young female violence. Glenda Cooper reports

Sharon tries to tone down, but like a screaming queen trying to pass for straight, she can't

I hold aloft the scrap of the true knickers (not the ones she removed and handed to Billy Baldwin in Sliver, but the ones she didn't wear in Basic Instinct) and the coven chants the chant: "Sharon Stone is our role model. Sharon Stone is our destiny." Shaven heads are bowed, 13 frenzied male voices take the vow: "We will dedicate our worthless existences to being the best Sharon Stones we can ... barring summer breaks, and the occasional lie-in on Sunday mornings." "Say it loud! Say it proud!" I shout, narrowing my eyes and pursing glossy scarlet lips the way Sharon does at the very thought of having to perform the horizontal mambo with Michael Douglas. Hear our song: "I Am Sharon Stone. I Am Sharon Stone. I Am Sharon Stone." Respectful silence falls. "Insert the tape of ... Diabolique!" I command. We fall to our knees - practice makes perfect! - brush flick- ends into our blonde wigs and prostrate ourselves before this remade, but terribly, terribly, helpful primer on how to off the sexist pig in your life - Sharon's career theme. We laugh. We cry. We almost call our therapists. Almost.
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