Review (DVD): Temple Grandin

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Claire Danes, Mike Jackson, Christopher Monger

5.0 out of 5 stars Six Stars & Beyond–A Mind-Altering Cinematographic Phenomenon, September 8, 2011

I bought this on the recommendation of a reader-reviewer at Amazon, shortly after I reviewed A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. Normally I defer to other reviewers for something like this, and just do a short review for the record to join the other 100+ DVDs for smart people that I recommend at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, but in this instance, I am not satisfied with the top-rated review; they do not do the combination of acting, story, and cinematographic representation justice.

I watched this movie twice, the first time on background (a second screen), suffering through very low sound until I finally realized that it is imperative to use the DVD software controls to set it on stereo (at least for my configuration–if you get very low sound it is not a defective DVD, you just need to run through the audio settings); and then a second time.

Here are some of the things I would itemize about what makes this one of the most extraordinary movies I have watched in my 59 years.

+ The story takes second place to the human acting, the human portrayal by the actress playing Temple Grandin. This is one of the most nuanced amazing performances I have ever seen, from body posture to eye control to voice to everything. This is a phenomenal performance.

+ The cinematographic depictions of how Temple Gradin “sees” are perfection in every possible sense. The use of angles and measures and black and white rapid motion design sketches combined with very rapid run throughs of everything she remembers (e.g. all the shoes she has ever seen in a couple of seconds) are stunning in their effectiveness at teaching what the autistic person is seeing.

+ The cinematographic depictions of how Temple Gradin “hears” and fears loud noises and how she relates one instance in front of her to hundreds of other instances in memory, many of them deeply frightening, it perfectly blended into the movie.

+ The other actors, from those who understood and supporter to those who mocked her and blocked her, are all perfection in themselves. This is practically a Norman Rockwell depiction–a panorama–of America.

+ The specific scenes from stockyard to town to school are all enchanting–not the perfect word, but on second viewing, this is a movie where every single “bit” seems perfect to the moment.

+ I am deeply engaged, often moved, and occasionally in tears as I see both the genius of autism, the genius of the actress, and the importance of the theme. More than once I think to myself that this specific movie should be shown to every schoolchild and perhaps more than once. If Stephen Hawkin in one stellar example of an almost completely disabled person who embodied genius, then Temple Gradin–and this movie’s telling of the story–is a second.

Over-all I would say this is a “triple” six-star movie: six plus for the actress, six-plus for the combined script-writer and the team that put this together, and six-plus for the utterly brilliant integration of every aspect of the cinematography.

I’ve tried to think of other books and DVDs that I might fit into here to use the Amazon link feature that I like so much, but none comes to mind. This is a “one of a kind” movie as best I know. To browse the other 130+ DVDs that I recommend for smart people, visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, in the middle column down at the very bottom, click on Reviews (DVD Only).

This is a total wow. Everyone with a brain should watch this and share with as many others as possible.