Stand and Deliver (1987): Starring Edward James Olmos in Oscar-Nominated Performance

Ramon Menendez’ tale of a teacher, Stand and Deliver, belongs to the genre of earnest, uplifting Latino films.

Edward James Olmos gave a tour-de-force, Oscar-nominated performance as the tough math teacher, Jaime Escalante, who inspired his East L.A. students to take an Advanced Placement Calculus Test. The film is based on the actual experiences of Escalante, a businessman turned school teacher, willing to go the extra mile for inner city students most adults would rather stay away from, let alone teach. Set in 1982, the movie chronicles Escalante as he pushes his students to prepare for an especially difficult college calculus exam. Only two percent of all high school students nationwide pass this test, and the notion of this group even attempting was understandably daunting.

Nonetheless, Escalante is unwavering in his relentless efforts to gain the trust of his students. Using unorthodox teaching methods and setting extraordinarily high standards, Escalante develops individual relationships with each student. By the end of the film, however, the formula of an unorthodox teacher and lovable-though-troubled kids struggling for success against odds yields predictable results. The only loose, unanticipated element is the kids’ disappointment at the Educational Testing Service’s suspicion of the unanimous results.

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