The 15th film in 35 years written and directed by Henry Jaglom, that love-him-or-hate-him iconoclast of American independent filmmaking, is also one of his warmest and most inviting, despite the potential for cynicism inherent in its premise—that old saw about a would-be starlet (newcomer Tanna Frederick) living out of her car and scrounging for a gig. (In one hilarious scene, she's refused a role in an amateur video being made by schoolchildren!) The movie buzzes with the quirky rhythms of Jaglom's patented improvisational shooting style, and those of Frederick herself, whose go-for-broke zaniness recalls that of a former Jaglom ingnue, Karen Black. By the time Black appears here, as an actress musing with a mix of melancholy and acceptance about her former stardom, it's clear that Hollywood Dreams is something of a walk down memory lane for its own maker, stuffed with references to earlier Jaglom films and appearances by many members of his stock company. Consider it a wistful contemplation of the fickle nature of movie success. (Scott Foundas) (Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana)
Hard to remember but, back in the early 1990s, Hal Hartley was regarded as the hot young American indie filmmaker, and the 1997 Henry Fool, a seriously frivolous allegory on art, fame, fate, and the power of the Internet, was hailed as his breakthrough. Hartley's career promptly stumbled; as Henry Fool's belated sequel, Fay Grim seems nearly an act of desperation. Three of the principles return: the Queens sanitation man turned poet Simon Grim (professionally affectless James Urbaniak), his sister Fay (Parker Posey), and, briefly, the saturnine mystery tramp who changed their life, Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan). A decade has passed as the CIA comes to Queens in the form of Jeff Goldblum, who appears as a duplicitous spook. Not lacking for ambition, Fay Grim adds a topical, national-security subtext to Henry Fool's more romantic concerns: The MacGuffin is a series of confessional notebooks that Henry may have written in a code that amounts to a secret, highly damning history of the Reagan Era. Off to Paris in search of the notebooks, Posey looks smashing in a fitted town-coat ensemble and, for perhaps 40 minutes, Fay Grim actually sort of works as a comic thriller. But it's precisely when Fay Grim strains for the big narrative revelation that it seems least consequential. (J. Hoberman) (Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana)
PARIS, JE T'AIME
Paris, Je T'aime's brimming declaration of love to the City of Lights leaves one breathless but dissatisfied. Paris's quartiers and the rainbow coalition of people who inhabit them are the connective tissue for this spotty omnibus's 18 segments; five minutes each, these trifles come and go before they've registered in the mind. Only Tom Tykwer attempts to redress this constraint by evoking a blind man's romance with an actress as a spastic glitch in time. Isabelle Coixet and Nobuhiro Suwa's contributions are endearingly bittersweet suck-ups to love and death, but both treat the Paris setting as superfluous. Sylvain Chomet, Olivier Assayas, and Alexander Payne more sensitively consider the feelings of elation the city's exquisiteness rouses, while Oliver Schmitz conveys the complex politics of Paris' racial diversity with a heft and economy that evades Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas. Leave it to the Coen brothers to show everyone up with their acerbic Tuileries, in which Steve Buscemi's encounter with a hellish couple inside a Metro station slyly hints at a raison d'etre for the Mona Lisa's smile—a symbol for the transfixing allure of the most beautiful city in the world. (Ed Gonzalez) (Countywide)
SHREK THE THIRD
See "Ogreload." (Countywide)
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THE WENDELL BAKER STORY
See "Brothers Grim." (Edwards University, Irvine)