Stand and Deliver (1988)
|Year Of Production||1988|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Ramón Menéndez|
Warner Home Video
Edward James Olmos
Lou Diamond Phillips
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There is an entire genre of film that could be described as the "Inspirational Teacher" group. There's Goodbye Mr Chips, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, To Sir With Love, Dead Poets Society, Mr Holland's Opus, and the more recent inclusions Finding Forrester and The Emperor's Club - just to rattle off a few that spring immediately to mind. Perhaps we're drawn to these stories because in our past we either had, or wished we had, a giant of inspiration and instruction - a mentor who truly understood that the word "education" is rooted in the Latin "educatus", which means "to draw out" rather than "to stuff in", which is our more common experience of pedagogy!
The protagonist of Stand And Deliver is one Jaime Escalante. This Bolivian born son of two educators came to America and eventually came to be a teacher at Garfield High School, East Los Angeles. In 1982, he embarked on a bold and audacious program to teach his senior class Calculus. This was a group of sub-literate, unmotivated and disenfranchised Hispanic youth who expected to coast through their final year before sprawling out to serve the burger bars and grease monkey shops around the district. Instead, they were challenged with working harder than they ever had before, putting all excuses behind them, and stretching beyond their wildest imaginings to sit an exam that historically, only a small percentage of high school students managed to pass.
With Escalante with them every step of the way, nagging, bullying, rallying and supporting; speaking their language and accepting nothing but the best they had to offer, 18 of his students went on to be the genesis of a school mathematics program that has thus far been unequalled in the USA. In the pursuit of their dreams, each one learned personally of the bigotry and racist lack of expectation that society held out for them, but also came to experience the potency of belief. Escalante believed in them, and ultimately, his confidence spread like a contagion.
Edward James Olmos is absolutely superb in his portrayal of Escalante. His shuffling mannerisms, hokey behaviour and absolute commitment to his charges develops over the course of his performance into a portrait of a fully dimensional human being. No doubt the involvement of the real life Escalante in the making of this program markedly influenced this bravura portrayal. Each of the ensemble cast contributes ably, and the genesis of Lou Diamond Philip's acting career is prescient in his performance as Angel - the tough but very sharp student.
Escalante himself has said of this film that it is "90% true and 10% story," and coming from a mathematician, I imagine the numbers to be pretty accurate! Certainly, when searching for data on the real Escalante and Garfield High School, it was clear that apart from some judicious truncation of time lines, the basic facts are pretty much spot on.
Although these sorts of superlatives tend to get overused these days, Stand And Deliver is truly an inspiring movie. I watched it with my 16 year old niece who, in spite of her derision of the very 80s music and the oh-my-God hairstyles, was totally drawn in to the story line and cheered at the statistics which succeed the film. It has that effect. It grows on you. And it stays with you. And that's a very good thing.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced , as opposed to its cinematic release at 1.85:1.
It's actually not too bad a print, with generally good contrast levels, minimal low level noise, good shadow detail, reasonably fine grain and acceptable sharpness. There is some mild halation on extra areas of some scenes, but generally its luminance is well controlled.
Although the colour palette is not very often particularly vibrant, mostly the skin tones are accurate and the balance acceptable. There is a brief segment at 76:29 where the colour lock temporarily becomes a little unstable, but it quickly resolves itself and presented no major distraction.
Aliasing is incidentally present, but not to too great an extent. There is some evidence of macro-blocking marring the mid and long distance detail, and there are bursts of film artefacts present throughout the presentation, but none of these presented major impediments to the enjoyment of the experience.
Subtitles were fairly accurate, though somewhat abbreviated. They did have a tendency to either "rush" a little, appearing on the screen before the dialogue had been uttered, or lag a little behind the verbal action.
This disc is single sided and single layered.
The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0.
The dialogue was problematic on a number of levels. To the unaccustomed ear, the Latino expressions and pronunciations can be difficult to pick up; Olmos is a bit of a mumbler anyway; and the sound was very unidirectional. The dialogue was generally very tinny in the speakers, and occasionally quite unpleasantly shrill, and this compounded with a strange sound through the classroom scenes. This peculiar low grade humming may well have been ambient air conditioning sound but it was quite distracting on a number of occasions. Audio sync occasionally looked a touch out, but not to a frustrating or infuriating degree.
The music dates this film most decidedly. Our love affair with the polyphonic analogue synthesiser was in full bloom in that decade, and there are times when it comes across now as a little, well, as my niece described it, "cheesy." Perhaps it was an economy drive to get the synth to pretend to be an orchestra. We probably thought it was marvellously clever back then, but we're over it now. Still, in spite of this "Synth on 45s Does Latin rhythms" kind of thing going down, most of the time it reflected the action well.
The surround speakers were left alone in this presentation, although the subwoofer got a bit of work - never in an inappropriate way - just enough to push some depth into what was otherwise a rather tinny & "toppy" soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras on this disc.
The menu is 16x9, static and silent.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
No contest, R4.
It's sometimes nerve-wracking to revisit a film you've enjoyed in the past - one risks the disappointing disparity between what one remembers and what one finds as the current reality. Despite the fact that this film has aged into a decade-specific period piece, it is still a very good piece of theatre. The acting is energetic and convincing, the plot is well presented, and the truth is just as exciting now as it was then.
In doing my research for this film, I discovered that the Garfield High Maths Program did not survive much longer than Escalante's resignation. Perhaps this is indicative of the "power of one" - that it takes personal commitment and a very special kind of belief to keep such an audacious dream burning. Let us hope that others can and do pick up the Escalante baton - for all of our sakes.
|DVD||Singer SGD-001, using S-Video output|
|Display||Teac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Teac 5.1 integrated system|
|Speakers||Teac 5.1 integrated system|