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Look beyond the bold face for real quality viewing

Dan Webster

Above: "That Thing You Did!" is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. (Photo/20th Century Fox)

My first real look at the business of advertising came in the early 1970s when I read a book titled “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War.”

Written by Jerry Della Femina, the book was an often hilarious look at the inner workings of Madison Avenue – and is said to be one of the influences on what became the AMC series “Mad Men” (though that series was hardly comic).

I think of that book, not to mention the series, whenever I see a TV ad. And let’s face it, those of us who watched the recent men’s NCAA championship basketball tournament – in ad-speak known as “March Madness” – saw a lot of ads. Too many, actually. Do you ever want to see Lily from AT&T again?

Anyway, those of us who work in the media are always trying to make a point, if not actually sell something – though sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Take a list of the April Amazon Prime streaming options that was printed in Vulture, a digital subsidiary of New York magazine. At the top of the page, the story carries the following note: “Each month, several films and TV shows are added to Amazon’s library; we recommend the titles worth watching.”

My only problem with this is that it ignores a number of films that, if you haven’t seen them, are arguably better than those listed in bold face. At least, I would make that argument.

Example: “Chato’s Land” (1972): In this revisionist Western, Charles Bronson stars as a mixed-race Apache who, hunted for having killed a bigoted lawman, lures each member of the posse to his death. Directed by Michael Winner, and co-starring Jack Palance and Simon Oakland, the film is both a commentary on racism and the futility of the Vietnam War.

Example: “Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995): Carl Franklin directed this adaptation of the Walter Mosley novel that stars Denzel Washington as “Easy” Rawlins, a guy hired to find a missing woman. Most notable: Don Cheadle as Easy’s sociopathic friend, Mouse.

Example: “Monster’s Ball” (2001): Halle Berry won a Best Actress Oscar for playing the wife of a man due to be executed, while Billy Bob Thornton is the executioner who falls in love with her. Look for: the late Heath Ledger as the executioner’s son.

Example: “That Thing You Do!” (1996): Tom Hanks wrote, directed and stars in this original film about a band that has its first hit song – and then must face the demands of success. Note the cast, many of whom would go on to have far bigger careers, including Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Tom Everett Scott, Jonathan Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry and Giovanni Ribisi.

And that’s just a small look at what Amazon Prime has to offer in April. But, hey, don’t take my word for it.

It’s not like I’m trying to sell anything.

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