The Films of John Cassavetes: A Poor Man’s Guide

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Do you want to experience the classic films of John Cassavetes but don’t want to dish out $30 on each Criterion Collection DVD? Are you not the Amazon type? Do you want to impress your girlfriend but only have $10? Let me help you out. There are five classic films directed by John Cassavetes that you can watch tonight, and all you need is a HuluPlus account. Yes, the Criterion Collection is online and you can have it all for only $7.99 per month. Take my word for it – I am not the owner, but am a member and you won’t be disappointed. Just remember who told you about these gems and slip me a five when you see me.

John Cassavetes was an independent filmmaker who poured his heart and soul into cinema, and left the world with a catalogue that can be enjoyed by both the young and old. The films of this New York City director grew with style and substance over the decades, just as Cassavetes did himself. Johnny C was one cool character, a guy that you would like to hang out with, and a personal friend of mine. Ok, he was not a friend, but I am a friend of his Facebook fan page. Cassavetes was madly obsessive about his work and was the husband to the legendary Gena Rowlands, whom appeared in several of his greatest films. John Cassavetes did not compromise his ideals and acted in Hollywood films solely to finance his latest productions. The Cass once tried to collaborate with Hollywood executives on a script he had written, but had a few choice words for the producer that tried to change the plot. That was John Cassavetes and these are five of his greatest films that you can watch instantly. Click the title and enjoy.

5. Opening Night (1977)

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John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands team up in this tale of an aging Broadway actress. Myrtle Gordon (such a great name!) is confronted with the grim realities of life after she witnesses the death of a fan. Rowlands won Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival and Opening Night currently has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

4. Shadows (1959)

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If you are a fan of independent film, then Shadows is a must-see. Cassavetes shot two versions with a 16mm hand-held camera in New York City and the film examines the perplexities of an interracial relationship in the Beat Generation. What is the Rotten Tomatoes rating for Shadows? How about 100%?

3. Faces (1968)

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Gena Rowlands earned an Oscar nomination for this Cinéma vérité, black and white film. Before actor John Marley had the precious head of his horse sliced off in The Godfather, he played Richard Forst, a gentleman disgruntled with the American Dream and his failing marriage. He spends the night with rambunctious business men and prostitutes while realizing that everyone might just possibly be full of shit, including himself. The conversations are loaded with sharp dialogue and Cassavetes brings the viewer directly into the room. Faces has a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.

4. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

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Who doesn’t like Ben Gazzara? Well, maybe everybody in this movie. Benner plays Cosmo Vitelli which is the perfect name for a sleazy stripclub owner. The film takes place on the Sunset Strip of Hollywood, and Cosmo likes nothing better than getting his swag on by having a dame (or three) on his arm at all times. Money? Well, cash flow is a bit of an issue for the Cos-Man because he doesn’t have much and likes to borrow from the mob. What happens? The title might be an indication, but prepare yourself for a few surprises along the way. Benjamin Gazzara is dynamic in this gritty art-house film about wanting more than you need. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie has a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.

1. A Woman Under The Influence (1974)

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A Woman Under The Influence is my favorite film of John Cassavetes. The director earned an Oscar nomination for his work along with his wife Gena Rowlands, who is unforgettable as Mabel, a psychologically damaged wife. The story centers around Mr. and Mrs. Nick Longhetti of Los Angeles who try to deal with the disturbing flaws of one another. Nick (Peter Falk) is a construction worker who loves his wife Mabel, but realizes that she might be slowly losing her mind. Despite acting strange in social situations, Mabel feels that she is not crazy, but different, and her husband does little to accept or deny the condition of his wife. Nick Longhetti is faced with a difficult decision that can either destroy his marriage or save it. A Woman Under The Influence has a rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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