We all remember that exhilarating sense of anticipation whenever the teacher hauled in a clunky film projector. "A movie? We're going to see a movie!" was followed by a chorus of hallelujahs. The films' messages were usually forced, with awkward writing and horrid acting. But dammit, they broke up the day. You can relive those joyous respites from multiplication tables by viewing the quirky reels screening at the Media Archeology Film Festival. This miles-from-the-mainstream film festival looks at movie shorts of a broad range. A couple of exhibitors will bring old educational reels to the table, while others will offer up esoteric works, including industrial training films, animal-studies films, old home movies, test reels, early X-ray motion pictures, experimental cinema and a nature documentary from the 1890s. It's a cornucopia of kitsch and the bizarre.
Exhibitor Skip Elsheimer of AV Geeks has a favorite moment in his "Anatomy of a Brat" series, a little number named Me Too. "An angst-ridden little kid keeps smashing things," he says. "There's no explanation as to why he's angry. It ends very abruptly. There's no narrative and no resolution. It drives people crazy." The festival opens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 14. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora, 713-868-2101. It continues through Sunday, April 18, at locations including Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (1000 West Oaks Mall, 281-556-02047), Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515) and Rice Media Center (entrance no. 8, off University Boulevard, 713-348-3138). For a full schedule, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $5 to $25. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
Play in the Park
Imagine the perfect spring evening: you and your date lounging in the grass, holding hands and watching a young girl attempt suicide while being talked down by a puppet. (Ah, cheer up, it's a family show.) Opening this week at Miller Outdoor Theatre, Carnivalcenters on former ballet dancer Paul, whose mundane gig as a puppeteer in a traveling circus is pepped up when he meets the young, pretty Lili. Problem is, Paul can profess his feelings for her only via his puppet Carrot Top (marking the first time in history anyone named Carrot Top was useful for anything). Will our hero get the girl or spend the rest of his days with his hand up a redhead's ass? 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, April 8 through 17. 100 Concert Drive. For information, call 713-284-8350. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
On Seinfeld, George Costanza always wanted to pretend that he was an architect. Out of all the professions available to a liar, time and time again George chose architecture. Why? Because architects are sexy -- and George definitely was not. Architects have to be modern-day Renaissance men and women, using both halves of their brains to meld science and art into towering structures of concrete and steel. You can check out the product of their sexy lobes over at the Lawndale Art Center's "Snapshot: Houston Design" exhibition. Sponsored by the Rice Design Alliance, the exhibition features models and sketches from more than 40 Houston-based firms. It's a great chance to see what's going on (and up) around town. Through Saturday, May 1. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit www.lawndaleartcenter.org. Free. -- Keith Plocek
An exhibition of handmade toys harks back
It may be difficult to remember a time when kids amused themselves without inflicting chest wounds on Xbox bad guys, but "Playing Around: Toys Designed by Artists" is a reminder that having fun doesn't always require electricity. The 50 pieces in this traveling exhibition recall an era when playthings left something to the imagination. The toys -- made of everything from clay, glass, wood and found objects -- range from a pull-toy made of old garden spades and wheels, to a toy gun fashioned from tobacco boxes, to cool whirligig contraptions. Kids won't be able to touch the display (boo), so look for a hands-on exhibition of toys designed by Texas artists. Or just go home and cap some digital zombies. Opening reception: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, April 9. Through Sunday, June 6. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main. For information, call 713-529-4848 or visit www.crafthouston.org. Free. -- Greg Barr
Jesus, bunnies and eggs -- all three symbolize rebirth. Now add oranges to the list. Back in the medieval day, oranges were associated with weddings, because, well, weddings were all about making babies, and orange trees were pretty damn good at making baby oranges. Fast-forward to present-day Houston, where the Orange Show is keeping that vibe alive with its annual Easter Orange Hunt. After you and yours are done scavenging for vitamin C, you can sit back and munch on your finds while listening to the traditional African storytelling of Alafia Gaidi. Noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, April 11. 2402 Munger. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit www.orangeshow.org. $1. -- Keith Plocek