We're big fans of the Harry Potter books, and of the five, The Prisoner of Azkaban is the best. It has the most depth of character and genuine gothic quality. So when Chris Columbus started making HP flicks, this was the one we were waiting for (goth makes good screen, you know). The first film spent too much time setting up the characters and situations. The second was actually an improvement on a fairly dull book. This one, directed by Alfonso Cuarón of A Little Princess fame, just rocks.
One strength of the HP movie franchise over, say, the Spy Kids flicks, is the endless string of truly interesting major-minor characters. In addition to Alan Rickman's sniveling Snape and Maggie Smith's prim McGonagall, The Prisoner of Azkaban gives us three terrific new characters. Emma Thompson's silly clairvoyant, Professor Trelawney, provides some needed comic relief. And Gary Oldman is as good as expected in the pivotal role of the deranged, titular Sirius Black.
But the movie flies largely on the basis of the moving performance of David Thewlis as this year's Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Lupin, a man with sadness and a secret. When you put a bunch of great actors in a climactic scene together, it can go a few ways. The climax here with Oldman, Thewlis, and Rickman, is as good as it gets, powerful, but not cartoonish.
Lila loved the movie, latching on, as always, to Emma Watson's scene-stealing as "the brightest witch of her age," Hermione Granger. But she had to hide several times. The Azkaban guards, the dementors, are downright creepy, and a certain classic movie monster had her digging her fingernails into my arm. We won't take our five-year-old, and you'll want to think hard about bringing young children.
--- Lila and Adam Wilcox
Cool Kids Thurs, June 10, Mad Vocals, BHS a capella group, 7-9 p.m. | Fri, June 11, Dinner Dogs, 7-8 p.m. | Sagawa Park, Erie and Main Sts, Brockport, Free. 637-3984, www.brockportny.org.
Cumming Nature Center 6472 Gulick Rd, Naples. Native Americans and sustainability, Sun, June 13, 1-3 p.m. Tix: $10, $5 kids. | Sustainability in the small woodlot, Sat, June 12, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Tix: $15. | Hours: Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tix: $3. 374-6160, www.rmsc.org.
Eat Your Veggies Sat, June 12. Kids' class, Bristol Garden Center, 7454 Victor Pittsford Rd, 10-11 a.m. Tix: $12. 473-5130
The Golden FishThurs, June 10. MCC Theater, Bldg 4, Brighton Campus, 1000 E Henrietta Rd, 6:30 p.m. Free. 292-2534
High School Graduates Banquet Fri, June 11. Puerto Rican Youth Development and Resource Center, Casa Blanca Party House, 1270 Scottsville Rd, 6:30 p.m. 325-3570
Irish Traditions Family Day Sun, June 13. Music, song, dance, stories, art activities, Eisenhart Aud, RMSC, 657 East Ave, 1-5 p.m. Tix: $2. 473-4000, www.irishrochester.org
RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium 657 East Ave. A Trip to Saturn and Pluto, Saturdays 1 p.m. | The Sky Tonight, Sat 10:30 a.m. | I See The Sky, for ages 3-5, Sat 9:30 a.m.| Dave Matthews Laser, Sat 9 p.m. | Reserve seats. Tix: $4-$7. See "Movies" section for large-format film showings. 271-1880
Rochester Boys Choir Now auditioning for 2004-2005 season, boys grades 2-7, Asbury First United Methodist Church, 1050 East Ave. 381-9228, www.rochesterboyschoir.org.
Rochester Museum and Science Center 657 East Ave. Surprise! It's Science, Sat, June 12, through May 2005. | Body Carnival: the Science and Fun of Being You, ongoing. | Rochester's Frederick Douglass, through Jan 2006. | Live Science Demos, Wed-Fri 3:30 p.m., Sat 2, 3, 4, Sun 1:30, 2:30, 3:30. | Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $5-$7. 271-1880, www.rmsc.org.
Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul St. Family fun night, Wed, June 9, 6-8 p.m. Tix: $8.75. | Golden Link folk singers, Sat, June 12, 3 p.m. | Mike Kornrich, one-man band, Sun, June 13, 12:30 p.m. | Hours: daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tix: $5, $4 seniors, $2 kids. 467-9453, www.senecazoo.org.
Stages Sat, June 12. Registration for summer theater programs, UpStage3, Auditorium Center, 875 E Main St, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. www.mjstages.com, 217-9491
Strong Museum 1 Manhattan Square. The Berenstein Bears Celebrate: The Art of Stan and Jan Berenstein, through June 13. | Long-term exhibits include National Toy Hall of Fame, Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street?, and Super Kids Market. | Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $7; $6 seniors, students; $5 children. 263-2700
Youth Talent Expo Sat, June 12. Baber AME Sanctuary, 550 Meigs St, 6-9 p.m. Donations. 544-0873, 461-1395
When our children's grandparents were babies, every neighborhood lost children to infectious diseases now prevented by immunization. There were no routine child health visits. Children played in unsafe places, swam in creeks without adult supervision, and labored in factories. This was a time before Lysol, air fresheners, and reality TV. During that era more than 48,000 people in the US contracted smallpox annually. Each year there were more than 170,000 cases of diphtheria, 16,000 of paralytic polio, and 500,000 of measles.
Times have changed. In 2001, only two cases of diphtheria, none of polio, and 116 of measles were reported in the US. The only smallpox in the world is in laboratory freezers. Twenty years ago, when I was a resident at Strong Hospital, children were admitted weekly with life-threatening Haemophilus influenza type b meningitis and infections of bones, joints, and blood. Pediatric Department Chairman Dr. David Smith developed a vaccine. Disease due to this germ plummeted 90 percent in a decade.
The infectious scourges of the previous century are nearly extinct. Pediatric focus has shifted to what Dr. Robert Haggerty called the "New Morbidities": chronic disease, stress-related problems, and learning and developmental disabilities, among others. Prevention and treatment of these conditions seem as overwhelming as those vaccine-preventable diseases did a century ago.
Now parents fear that vaccinations cause these modern diseases. Parents are alarmed by theoretical links blaming immunizations for autism, diabetes, mental retardation, learning disorders, and immune diseases. Rigorous studies of whole populations have thoroughly disproved these associations between childhood immunizations, various diseases, and immunological stress. The fears persist.
What's the point? Times are still changing. We don't seem to remember that infections now prevented by immunizations used to cause pain, death, and heartbreak. We want to blame modern diseases on the vaccines that prevent the old ones. If we are victimized by this historical blindness in our longing to protect our children, we put them at risk. It is time to move forward and look for more responsible answers.
Incidentally, nothing kills more children than automobile accidents. Fasten your seat belts.
--- Laurence I. Sugarman, MD