Hollyhock

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has been a subject of great personal interest for more than a decade. In the last few years I have been fortunate to visit several of his California structures. Today, however, was a special treat because I finally was able to see the Hollyhock house in Los Angeles!

The house recently underwent an extensive restoration and the result is quite stunning. Unfortunately, they don’t allow visitors to takes picture of the interior–so you’ll have to venture there yourself to see just how beautiful it is. You would be better off doing so anyway because a photograph can’t quite capture the experience of being within and moving through a Wright-designed space. Everything detail is worth seeing!

Upon crossing the threshold, I was immediately struck by the low ceiling over the foyer, loggia, and connecting corridors. (Pun intended.) I’m fortunate not to be any taller than I am (6’1″) because the ceiling was, quite easily, only three or four inches above my head! The entryways and foyers of Wright homes frequently feature low ceilings. This as done to increase the visual impact upon entering the large central spaces of the house, which typically feature high ceilings. Normally, I don’t like low ceilings because they seem to make a space feeling uncomfortable more often than not but in Hollyhock they felt well-attuned to the other spaces and perfectly proportioned.

Despite its rather formidable appearance and intricate design, the house feels surprisingly cozy.

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One view of the house.

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One of several decorate urns featuring the hollyhock motif.

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This highly decorated niche once housed a statue of the bodhisattva Tara. She has since moved into the interior of the house.

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This abstract hollyhock motif can be seen all throughout the house, inside and out.

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A view of one side of the house.

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The reflecting pool by the “bridge.”

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Pacific Rim (Film Review)

Pacific_Rim_FilmPosterIt has been more than a year (more than two, really, but who’s counting?) since Pacific Rim was released in theaters and I have waited patiently to see it at home. That might seem like a long time to wait to see a single movie but it was easy enough because I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing it in the first place. As fond as I am of Guillermo Del Toro’s films, the subject and genre of this film have never appealed to me personally. Despite my reservations, I found myself enjoying it immensely. Granted, it is not a personal favorite of mine but this is entirely due to personal taste and not to the quality of the film.

Some of Del Toro’s fans tend to dismiss his more popular and action-oriented films as being shallow, superficial, and generally lacking any emotionally depth. However, I find this to be utterly untrue. What differentiates films like Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, or the Hellboy films from The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth is not the quality of the content but rather the approach to conveying meaning.

Pacific Rim conveys a strong message about cooperation and human survival. At varies moments in the story, personal antagonisms arise but are ultimately put aside, and sublimated, for a common cause. It might seem a little trite in our post-90’s culture to talk of things such as morals but I would have serious doubts regarding anyone who is insensible to this relevance of this message.

One aspect of the film that deserves praise is the diverse cast and unique character development. Hollywood films are frequently whitewashed and female characters tend to fall in love with the white male hero. Fortunately, none of this happens in Pacific Rim. Stacker Pentecost and Mako Mori, played by Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi respectively, are both wonderfully written characters and play an instrumental role in the plot. Neither are reduced to cultural stereotypes and are given complex, compelling depth to their characters.

The acting, in regards to all his primary characters, deserves special praise. A lot can be said with nonverbal communication (“body language” for those not studying psychology) and  was pleasantly surprised to see how effectively the actors use this to convey to the view their character’s underlying feelings, thoughts, and states of mind. It is a unique quality to find in an actor’s performance and one quite often overlooked in film, as well as in life.

Some viewers may find it an inferior product compared to its much lauded predecessors but to me Pacific Rim demonstrates Del Toro’s ability to make a popular action film meaningful and compelling as a drama, far surpassing many contemporary or past attempts in the genre.

P.S. : As a fan of the Portal games, I was more than pleased to hear Ellen McLain as the voice of the Jaeger A.I..