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Family valued 12.15.04

'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events'

If you loved a book, as Lila loved the Unfortunate Events volumes, you want a filmmaker to show love for his source. But film is its own medium, and has to be approached differently. It's a tough balance.

Here, director Brad Silberling and --- especially --- cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and production designer Rick Heinrichs (Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow) get it close to right. The film looks great, dark but with cutting blues and grays, drab but utterly alive. And the makers seem to love the smart, cynical books.

Lila liked it for lots of reasons. "The characters are great," she says, "great actors. Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) was really good. All the kids were good, too." The kids are great, especially the eldest Baudelaire orphan, Violet, played by the stunning Emily Browning. Star cameos stop short of overbearing, with Billy Connolly's Uncle Monty especially fine. Jim Carrey occasionally dwarfs the material, as is his wont, but is mostly wonderful in a role he just had to play.

I wondered how Lila felt it compared to the books. "Both are very good," she said, "but the movie ends a little bit happier than the books." That's true; the filmmakers put a tad too much syrup on the ending, but what do you want from Hollywood?

Lila says it's good for ages five and up, and that sounds about right. People die, though not onscreen. It has humor that will go over little heads, but the cracking pace will keep everyone enthralled.

--- Lila and Adam Wilcox

This week for families:

Breakfast with Santa Sat, Dec 18, kids ages 10 and under, Webster Community Center, 530 Webster Ave, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Tix: $1. 428-7828. | Sat, Dec 18, kids ages 12 and under, Edgerton Community Center, 41 Backus St, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Tix: $1. 428-6769. | Sat, Dec 18, Adams Street Community Center, 85 Adams St, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. $1. 428-7266

Choo Choo's Express 5138 W Ridge Rd, Spencerport.Various dates through Dec 22, "Ask Santa" parties, ages 1-10. $10 includes train ride. Call or log-on for times and reservations | "Winter Wonderland Express," holiday dinosaur train ride, $2-$3.50 | 352-4422, www.choochoosfun.com

Double Dutch Wednesdays. Double Dutch, ages 6-12, 2:45-3:30 p.m., #30 School Gymnasium, 36 Otis St. Register, 428-6769

Genesee Valley Park Ice Rink 131 Elmwood Ave. All ages open skate, Mon-Thurs 12-1:15 p.m., Fri 12-1:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.-12 a.m., Sat 9 p.m.-10:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.-12 a.m., Sun 2-3:15 p.m.; Skate & Shoot (helmets required) Mon-Fri 1:30-2:45 p.m., ages 13 and up, times subject to change. $2-$4, 428-7889

Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul St. Family nights, ZooDiscovery classes. Hours: daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $2-$5, 467-9453, www.senecazoo.org

Silent night, holy night

The farther you enter into the truth, the deeper it is. --- Japanese Zen Master Bankei

Our mind is pure and simple. When it is emptied of thought, it enters the pure and simple light of God, and finds nothing but the light. --- Symeon

I'm a pastor, so my children are surrounded by a swirling flow of faith-filled sights, sounds, and activities. That being said, the holiest moment I have shared with them involved simply a dark back yard and a warm August night. We watched a meteor shower for a time, and then lay quiet, staring into the yawning emptiness of space. How long did it last? An hour? A week? It was too pure for measurement or description.

Perhaps the greatest gift parent can offer child is silence --- not simply a lack of sound, but a stillness that is cultivated, appreciated, and embraced. We put noise and busy-ness in our lives, but, come now, what "urgent" task really must be done?

Acknowledge the foundational reality of blessed emptiness. True emptiness is not the opposite of full, sated, or enriched. Empty is purest being. Let's not resist emptiness, but recognize its constancy even as we place more and more temporal flotsam and jetsam within it. Embrace this emptiness and all else in life takes on its proper shape and form.

In this time of glittering joy and wonder, let us seek and surrender to holy silences. Rest quiet with a child. Find nothing but the light.

--- Rev. Corey Keyes