Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the directing sisters responsible for The Matrix, are simultaneously two of Hollywood’s most bankable and most off-beat creators. Every now and then they’ll release a smash-hit of an action movie that kicks megatons of ass, yet they have released some weird and poorly received stuff too. Fairly or not, nobody is clamoring for another movie like Cloud Atlas, and cheaply produced B-tier action movies shot in Bulgaria are not taking their costuming cues from Speed Racer.
For as hit-or-miss as their work can be, they’re unquestionably beloved directors. And, as trans women who have transitioned during the years when they’ve been producing their most high-profile work, they’ve been at the highly visible center of the conversation around LGBT rights. So it’s not surprising that the two have put up for auction some interesting curios from their time in Hollywood in order to support issues close to their hearts.
Since the auction is running until May 12, since it benefits a good cause (helping trans youth, who need all the help we can all give them right now) and since some of this stuff is really cool, I have taken the liberty of applying my completely scientific and objective ranking criteria to help you, the savvy bidder, determine which lots are most worth your money. Dubbed “Enter the Matrix: The Wachowski Collection,” the auction at Potter & Potter is well worth checking out, especially since it allows absentee bidding.
As I’ve done in the past for another juicy Hollywood star’s auction, I’ve ranked the most noteworthy items here in rough accordance what kind of value you’re getting for your bid, how much of a connection each lot has with the iconic film to which it’s related, and how much silly fun you can get up to by wearing or waving around the item in question.
16. Lot 187: Comic book art by Steve Skroce (ink by Rob Hunter) from Gambit #5 (April 1999), featuring thugs bearing the likenesses of the Wachowskis
Current bid: $1,500
One of the things that makes the Wachowskis’ catalog so interesting is how informed it is by media other than film: The siblings also are big into videogames. Many folks might not know that they also have a history in comics. Their production company, Burlyman, never really got off the ground, unfortunately. The artist of this particular piece, Steve Skroce, created storyboards for The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. It’s no wonder so much of their film catalog has a comic-booky feel to it.
15. Lot 173: Poi pounders gifted by Keanu Reeves during the Matrix trilogy
Current bid: $1,600
It’s true that there are a number of iconic props and pieces of memorabilia up for auction in this collection and that these implements are not among them. It’s also true that, as they are bidding at $1,600 as I write this, there are certainly cheaper ways to outfit yourself for those nights when you have a hankering for the taro root pudding popular in Polynesia and Hawaii. But it’s also true that there is no other kitchen implement that could better help you imagine the feeling of having your poi pounded by Keanu Reeves. And if the actor is as dedicated to pounding poi as he is to all the other things he’s only gotten better at over his career, we can assume he’s become very skilled over the years, indeed.
14. Lot 112: Freaking ninja costume from Ninja Assassin
Current bid: $200
The Wachowskis did not actually work on the 2009 film Ninja Assassin, but who cares? This is a ninja costume from a movie about ninjas. And, as it is bidding at just a couple hundred bucks right now, I will not judge anybody for putting in a bid, nor for whatever they may get up to while dressed in this should they win it.
13. Lots 107, 170 and 188: Bears helmet signed by 1985 Bears team member Willie Gault; Poster of Chicago skyline signed by Wachowskis and other Sense8 creators; Lilly Wachowski’s photograph of the Picasso statue in front of the Daley Center
Current Bids: Starting at $275
The Wachowskis are directors who reliably crank out bonkers movies. But they’re also dyed-in-the-wool (green dye for St. Patrick’s Day, presumably) Chicagoans, and this is my bias showing. The Windy City figures into many of the Wachowski’s projects: Sharp-eared Bulls fans will recognize the cross-streets from The Matrix as being some major intersections in the Loop, Sense8 featured the Second City as a major location and the city also served as the backdrop for a big gravity-defying dogfight (with a literal dog-man) in Jupiter Ascending. For a few hundred dollars, you can bid on some extremely Chicagoan items once owned by these proudly Chicagoan filmmakers.
12. Lots 32-34, 37 and 47: Various totally sick prop guns from Jupiter Ascending and the freaking lightning gun from The Matrix
Current bids: $325-$24,000
The Wachowskis love shooting movies in which things get shot, repeatedly and gleefully. Jupiter Ascending had some pretty handsome prop weapons, several of which are relatively affordable as of this writing. But the real jewel of the collection, of course, is the lightning rifle from the Matrix, the weapon which blasts the hell out of Joe Pantoliano’s traitorous Cypher. It’s not functional and your house guests may not recognize it on sight, but at a current bid of $24,000, it’s a pretty cheap way to feel like a cyberpunk action hero.
11. Lot 103: Mr. Whispers helmets from Sense8
Current bid: $400
Apart from Agent Smith, Mr. Whispers is probably the most interesting and menacing villain the Wachowskis have ever dreamed up, and, at a current bid of just under your Toyota Sienna’s monthly payment, you can whip up a nice, obscure Halloween costume modeled after him that will freak out several of your friends.
10. Lots 43-44, 55-58: Matrix sentinel and Armored Personnel Unit models
Current bids: $1,300-$2,200
People didn’t like The Matrix’s sequels as much, but I doubt anybody would claim the visual design was lackluster or the worldbuilding unimaginative: Look at how pumped everybody was for The Matrix Resurrections. And the gnarly machines—both the killer robots and the tech the last surviving humans use to fight them—are one of the most distinct things about those movies. Any one of these intricately designed scale model maquettes might be a bit on the pricey side, but they will spark immediate recognition from anybody you have over.
9. Lots 29, 30 & 31: Caine’s latex ears, anti-gravity boots (size 11) and gun from Jupiter Ascending
Current bids: $425, $1,800 and $1,500, respectively
Look, I liked Jupiter Ascending, okay? Was it stupid? Absolutely. Was it too long? Surely. Did they give Mila Kunis enough to do? Reader, they did not. But it had a few great ideas and there was craft behind it, all right?? And if you are going to have one of your characters be a dog-man bounty hunter, who is a better casting choice than Channing Tatum? I did not hate this movie and I really don’t hate the idea of putting on Caine’s latex ears and fake gravity boots and running around my backyard making pew pew sci-fi noises with his gun.
8. Lot 52: The Matrix Reloaded tie-in Samsung phone
Current bid: $2,200
I rank this higher for one simple reason: Since it is bidding at just above $2,000 as of this writing, I am sure that you, the person reading this, are wondering just how deep into your savings you want to dig in order to be the coolest lame person in your friend group. The lot description notes that this fully functional bad boy features “a spring-loaded earpiece which snapped up to reveal a screen with a scrolling green code against a black background. When the phone is turned on a message reading ‘Hello’ pops up and when it is turned off the message reads ‘Good-bye,’ reminiscent of Neo’s first encounter with The Matrix,” and that it is one of only 2,000 ever produced.
7. Lot 4: Life-size Cloud Atlas speeder
Current bid: $3,000 (Estimated $6,000-$8,000)
Whether you think Cloud Atlas is any good or not is immaterial. This thing is life-size and mountable, the sort of center piece you’d be proud to have in your room of geeky movie stuff, and is, as of this writing, bidding for half of its estimated sell price. It’s a great reminder that even when their films aren’t universally well-received, the Wachowskis never turn in a lazy product when they turn their ambitions toward building worlds.
6. Lot 77: Three Matrix 10-DVD boxed sets (with Keanu busts!)
Current bid: $325
The next few entries rank high in large part because who couldn’t use more Matrix swag, and because they are actually bidding within reach of the average debt-saddled American. There are a few movies released between about 1996 and 2002 that truly epitomize the “Now available on DVD!” craze of the turn of the century, and I submit that The Matrix is number one with a slow-motion bullet. Are there higher-def ways to watch the trilogy? Sure. But art should be viewed as close to its original context as possible, and just as there’s no substitute for an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade VHS tape complete with tacky-as-hell Diet Coke advert at the beginning, neither is there anything like watching The Matrix on DVD.
5. Lot 77: McFarlane Toys action figures of Neo, Trinity and Morpheus
Current bid: $800
Bidding at just $800 as of this writing, you could conceivably be the owner of the very sickest of action figures. Neo, Trinity and Morpheus all cut cool figures in The Matrix trilogy, and nowadays it seems as if we didn’t even realize what a groundbreaking lineup that was: A whole decade before The Avengers struggled to add women or people of color as headliners, the nation’s cinematic obsession starred a mixed-race man of Asian descent, a woman and a Black man. And upon rewatching those movies in the years since, it’s inspiring how much Keanu Reeves shares the spotlight with his co-stars. Morpheus and Trinity got ice cold one-liners and left trails of brass and fallen foes in their wake. So what could be more rad, and more late ‘90s, than some articulated models of our iconic trio courtesy of Todd Fucking McFarlane?
4. Lot 76: Pair of Trinity-in-mid-air-jumping-pose models
Current bid: $600
It was still possible not to know every last damned thing about a movie before you went to see it in 1999. A few slick commercials and some buzz from critics were what brought me to a theater by myself that summer, with no real knowledge of the movie’s story or characters. I had no idea what I was walking into, and I only discovered exactly what in the precise moment when Trinity leaps into the air, time pauses as our view warps around her in what seemed to be, at the time, completely impossible, and she then kicks a dude across the room. At this price, you will not be buying the feeling you felt when you first saw that moment, but maybe you’ll buy the memory of it.
3. Lot 46: Enter the Matrix pachinko machine
Current bid: $2,400
I don’t know what else can be said about this other than that it is a pachinko machine with Matrix stylings and that you either don’t care or, having now learned of it, will not rest until you have it.
2. Lot 48 & 49: Nebuchadnezzar concept model and designation plate
Current bids: $4,600 and $4,400, respectively
I’ve gone back and forth on why I ranked this particular model and accompanying piece of set dressing so high, and I believe it comes down to the lived-in feeling of The Matrix, a movie that stands on the edge of practical and digital effects. Trinity’s mid-air leap was one revelatory moment in the film, but the next absolute mind-fuck was Neo awakening in the real world and finding himself aboard the dark, cold, grody Nebuchadnezzar and among its ragtag crew of hacker heroes. It had a sense of place, and to be able to proudly affix the nameplate of the ship to your dorm room or above your mantle might not afford that space the same gruff grandeur, but will absolutely make your humble home the envy of all your movie buff friends.
1. Lot 106: Love letter from the Sense8 cast to Lana Wachowski, with signatures and kisses
Current bid: $2,800
Sense8 is not as well-known as other Wachowski projects, but those who tuned in defend the series with their very lives, and it’s for that reason—and because the show is at its heart about connections between people, overcoming distance, fighting for family—that this piece seems both to completely encapsulate what people love about the Wachowskis’ work and how people feel about these characters, who they’re always happy to see pop up in other stuff. The Wachowskis’ catalog is filled with hits, misses, false starts and even fiascoes. Not everything is great, but nothing isn’t interesting, and frequently the Wachowskis hit on stories, characters and themes that resonate with people in ways unlike anything else. The Matrix is the one of those concepts that hit paydirt, but Sense8 has the benefit of nearly two more decades of the Wachowskis’ storytelling craft evolving. In the case of this particular auction item, though: The cast is also stress-inducingly attractive, so it’s probably best to get ready for a bidding war on this item, which is already going for far more than it was originally estimated to sell. Give it to someone you love.
Kenneth Lowe loves dogs. You can follow him on Twitter and read more at his blog.