February is such a blah month for movies. New releases are often films that people see only because nothing else good is around (Pink Panther, I am looking at you). In Austin, the SXSW film lineup just went public and it seems like forever until the fun starts in March. Still, local theaters have managed to put together some enjoyable screenings this week, including Valentine's Day (or anti-valentine) special events. In addition, both Ross McElwee and Peter Bogdanovich will be in town to show their movies and participate in Q&As, and that's not blah at all.

  • This week's AFS@Dobie films, in which Austin Film Society collaborates on Dobie Theatre programming, are the feature Before the Fall, held over from last week, and the documentary Protocols of Zion. The films will play all week long at the Dobie.
  • Free coffeehouse movies: Austin Java on Barton Springs is showing Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight (Friday) at 8 pm. Cafe Mundi is showing Existenz, the 1999 David Cronenberg film, on Monday 2/13 at 8 pm.
  • Alamo Downtown has started a new series, Soul Cinema, on Monday nights at 7 pm. The Monday 2/13 film is tick ... tick... tick ..., a 1970 drama about a black sheriff in a rural Southern town. The cast list alone is fascinating: ex-football player Jim Brown, George Kennedy, Dub Taylor, Bernie Casey, and of all people, Fredric March. It's not available on DVD, and admission is just $1.
  • The Austin Film Society series "Official Evil: Political Thrillers in Cinema" continues this week with The Edukators, a 2004 film from Austria and Germany. The film plays Tuesday 2/14 at Alamo Downtown.
  • Last week, I listed all the hearts-and-flowers Valentine's Day events that local theaters are offering in Austin. However, Alamo Downtown offers an alternative for people who aren't feeling schmoopy: "Love Bites: 80s Power Ballad Sing-Along," on Tuesday 2/14. If you have other plans on that day, they're reprising the event on Thursday 2/16 and Sunday 2/19.
  • The Texas Documentary Tour brings filmmaker Ross McElwee to town this week, to hold a Q&A after a screening of his latest film, Bright Leaves. The 2003 film about North Carolina tobacco screens on Wednesday 2/15 at Alamo Downtown. Anne S. Lewis interviews McElwee about the documentary in this week's Austin Chronicle.
  • The series "Marching On: Independent African American Films from 1935-1950" features two films this week. On Wednesday 2/15, the 1949 drama Souls of Sin screens at the Texas Union Theatre. On Sunday 2/19, the moral tale The Blood of Jesus plays twice at the Carver Museum theater. The museum also is presenting an exhibit of film posters and other promotional film materials.
  • Owen Egerton of The Sinus Show is hosting "The Best of Sex Ed," a collection of bizarre clips from sexual education films from the Forties to the Seventies. It's a benefit for Ashera Project, a local teen sex-ed program. The screening takes place on Wednesday 2/15 at Alamo Downtown. Shouldn't this have been scheduled before Valentine's Day, so we could feel properly prepared?
  • Flicker, the bi-monthly short film festival, is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Thursday 2/16 at Alamo Downtown. The event features not only short films but also live music and lots of giveaways.The shorts are all less than 15 minutes long and originated on film.
  • More shorts: The McGuffin Film Festival takes place on Friday 2/17 at the Texas Union Theatre, with an evening of short films and awards. Admission is free. If you can't be there, the winning shorts are posted to the festival Web site afterwards.
  • The Sinus Show guys are busy next weekend: on Friday and Saturday, 2/17-18, you can see them take on Flashdance at Alamo Downtown. Sunday 2/19 is "Choose Your Own Adventure" night (also at Alamo Downtown), where they will work their improv magic on films that the audience brings with them on DVD.
  • The Harry Ransom Center is honoring Stella Adler, who taught acting to young people who became quite well-known later, such as Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro. As part of a two-day event focusing on Adler's teaching career, Adler student Peter Bogdanovich will participate in a Q&A followed by a screening of The Last Picture Show. Best of all, this event is free: Saturday 2/18 at 7 pm at the Texas Union Theatre.