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Dissecting The Wachowskis!

02.03.2015by: Jake Dee

THE WACHOWSKIS!

Can you think of an American filmmaker, or filmmakers, who so unapologetically march to the beat of their own drum than Andy and Lana Wachowski? The Coens perhaps? Tarantino maybe? If so, the number has to be minimal...the current risk-averse economic climate of moviemaking simply dictates such. But the Wachowski's were that way even before the Hollywood paradigm-shift, as we'll get to when examining their work in what is still considered to be one of the most fecund year for filmmaking, 1999. And really, since then, the Wachowski's have continued to do their own thing, avoiding needless press and public fame in favor of making thought-provoking entertainment. As you know, their bold new effort JUPITER ASCENDING flies into theaters this Friday, which makes this a perfect opportunity to shed an even bigger and brighter spotlight on their work up until now. You down? Good! It's high time we Dissect the careers of Andy and Lana Wachowski!

BEST WORK

Get THE MATRIX Trilogy Here

You serious? Who wouldn't think it foolish, if not blasphemous, to consider anything other than THE MATRIX as the Wachowski's most accomplished achievement so far?! Not just as a singular film - wholly unique in its bleak vision of a technocratically enslaved future - but also for the unspeakable impact the film continues to have an audiences and filmmakers alike. Simply put, THE MATRIX is an absolute game-changer! Culturally, diegetically, technologically (bullet time yo)...outside of maybe Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, I honestly cannot think of another movie that inspired such a collective sit-back and "WHOA" response upon its release. Minds were f*cking blown!

Not that I was there for the release of 2001, but you know what I mean. The movie resonated so profoundly, so universally, and was made at such a salient time as the internet just began to really overtake the globe. It was the perfect movie for the perfect time - a zeitgeist movement of sorts - that absolutely challenged the ever-blurry notion of what makes a human, what makes a machine, and how the two are hurling toward inextricably linked union. THE MATRIX is actually quite frightening in its prescience, and seems to prove even more and more prophetic by the passing year.

WORST WORK

In a more appropriate forum, we just might deem SPEED RACER as Andy and Lana's biggest misfire, but because of the ungodly expectations put forth by the first MATRIX movie, those damn sequels strike disappointment of another kind. In particular the last, MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, which the siblings were given $4 million to direct (plus gross points). It's an inexcusably poor effort all around...as a standalone flick...and definitely as an addendum to that, for lack of a better word, revolutionary original chapter. A strain, a stretch, a slog...either as a byproduct of inorganically planned trilogy or not...REVOLUTIONS feels like a movie struggling to go through the motions and finish what was so thought-provokingly started back in '99. It felt like the story ran out of gas, plodding and trudging along on fumes redolent of that first film. Of course, simultaneously producing and releasing REVOLUTIONS with the bridging MATRIX RELOADED didn't much help matters.

TRADEMARKS

Get SPEED RACER Here

While writing this here piece, I realized that the single most consistent attribute across the Wachowski's canon is rebellion. Both in terms of subject matter, and in terms of the technology used to achieve such onscreen. From BOUND to THE MATRIX, from SPEED RACER to CLOUD ATLAS and even their screenplay for V FOR VENDETTA...the theme of rebellion, uprising and/or revolution holds true. Think about it. BOUND broke from traditional heterosexual movie love-affairs, THE MATRIX broke molds both technically and thematically, SPEED RACER introduced a whole new visual/technological modality, as did CLOUD ATLAS in many ways. V FOR VENDETTA, which they merely scripted, was literally about the uprising in a totalitarian society. And while I've yet to see it, JUPITER RISING, which we highlight a bit below, seems to continue the trend. Hell, even in terms of press, these dudes made an unprecedented deal in their contracts for THE MATRIX sequels which stipulated they did not have to partake in any press junkets or interviews (or even be photographed publicly). Now if that's not rebellion, what is?

HIDDEN GEMS

Get BOUND Here

I realize it's difficult to stash buried treasure away in a filmography of only seven pictures, but hey, when three of those movies happen to be the gargantuan MATRIX trilogy, the others tend to, if not get overlooked completely, fall by the wayside a bit. I mean, when the syllables Wahcowskis are uttered, what's the first thing that leaps to mind? Case rested!

All that considered, I'm about to argue the unheralded nature of two Wachowski flicks...their very first and most recent release (JUPITER ain't out yet yo). That's right y'all, I'm talking about the searing sapphic crime-thriller BOUND and the awe-inspiring multi-stranded CLOUD ATLAS. Two wildly disparate flicks, yet both worthy of more attention. So let's give it to them...

How many of you have been wrapped-up by the carnal grasp of BOUND, Andy and Lana's 1996 debut feature? Sexy f*cking movie, right? Good grief, Jennifer Tilly has more than enough unadulterated sex appeal for one movie, but locked in a lesbo-love-affair with Gina Gershon? SMOKE! If you've not seen it, the plot concerns $2 million in stolen mafia money that the two lasses lasso from Tilly's boyfriend. Things turn fatally flawed when the frame-job of the boyfriend turns out not so convincing. Trust, BOUDN is a slick, super cool little original crime flick ($4.5 million), made at the apogee of the American independent cinema spree. And in typical Wachowski fashion, one you aren't soon to forget!

Get CLOUD ATLAS Here

And speaking of unforgettable, polarizing as its proven to be over the last couple of years since its release, is the wildly ambitious multi-strand, multi-character opus CLOUD ATLAS. What a flick! Now, I'm fully aware that this film is as divisive as they come, fostering zero middle ground, instead only two camps of ardent love and fervent hate. I for one am in the former camp.

If it's eluded your sight, CLOUD ATLAS makes the case that everything is connected, and how, in true butterfly effect style, each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction somewhere across space and time. Lofty, sure, but executed so wonderfully by all involved - the A-list international likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry (she can still act), Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Xun Zhou, Jim Sturgess, James D'Arcy, Hugh Grant - as well as Andy and Lana behind the camera. Visually arresting, spiritually uplifting, utterly thought-inducing...CLOUD ATLAS is, like THE MATRIX, one of those movies far ahead of its time. Unlike THE MATRIX however, it's nowhere near as popular.

NEXT PROJECT

As you must be aware by now, Andy and Lana are launching their newest reign into the cosmos this Friday with JUPITER ASCENDING, another lofty looking sci-fi thriller of high visual panache. So far early word on the film is mixed, with a cascade of public disapproval coming out of Sundance just last week. Until we hear more from the critical mass, consider the plotline of the flick underneath:

Jupiter Jones was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning toilets and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along - her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

As per usual with a Wachowski work, there's a lot going on there, particularly in terms of the ever-relevant topic of genetic engineering. We shall see how it all plays out when the flick drops on February 6th.

Additionally, albeit with a less concrete release date, the Wachowskis have also developed an original sci-fi Netflix series called Sense8. Peep the intriguing logline below:

A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world's order.

Sounds pretty damn bonkers, no? Wachowski faithful Joe Pantoliano is set to star, as will Doona Bae. Jamie Clayton, Daryl Hannah and Larry Clarke are just a few more recognizable names in the gigantic cast. Stay posted for more!

OVERALL

Get V FOR VENDETTA Here

Oh come on. You don't need this idiot to tell you how talented and unique the Wachowskis are as filmmakers. It started with the seedy-sexy crime thriller BOUND in 1996 (they actually wrote the '95 Stallone/Banderas action flick ASSASSINS), with their originality reaching a critical mass a few years later with the mind-blowing, technologically game-changing first MATRIX movie. After a dipping a bit in subsequent years, Andy and Lana bounced back in a major way in 2012 with CLOUD ATLAS...a movie that, while not as universally loved, certainly as loftily original as THE MATRIX. These two push the f*cking envelop for ideas and visual ways of realizing them onscreen, never yielding or compromising their vision. Love them or hate them, you have to respect that kind of unwavering integrity (SPEED RACER and Matrix videogames notwithstanding). Let's hope the siblings Wachowski continue challenging audiences for a long, long time to come...starting with JUPITER ASCENDING this Friday.

Extra Tidbit: Which Wachowski work is your favorite?

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