July 5, 2009

All-Star Break

With baseball's All-Star game coming up and Dominican star Manny Ramirez back from his 50 game suspension for steroids, here's the full-length version of my review from The American Conservative of the film "Sugar:"
“Sugar” is a critically acclaimed indie film about a 20-year-old Dominican pitcher’s minor league baseball season in Iowa. “Half Nelson,” the last collaboration of its married auteurs, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, brought Ryan Gosling a Best Actor nomination as a caring white liberal teacher in a Brooklyn slum school attended by African-Americans and Dominicans. Because numerous Dominican immigrants in New York City are failed minor leaguers, “Sugar” was a logical next film for the pair.

This movie is about a black Dominican, but it was very much made for white Americans. Indeed, “Sugar” exemplifies Sundance movies. It’s so sensitive, subtle, soft-spoken, averse to crowd-pleasing gimmicks, and generally beholden to the Stuff White People Like rulebook that few ballplayers of any nationality would pay to see it. Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez would snore so loudly through it that the audience couldn’t hear the soundtrack’s climactic song: Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah sung in Spanish.

Boden and Fleck wanted not a tale of triumph, but a statistically representative illustration of the typical Dominican athlete’s brief career. We see the young pitcher Sugar (portrayed by Algenis Perez Soto, an amateur second baseman who visibly can’t throw his character’s supposed 95 mph fastball) at the Kansas City organization’s training academy in the baseball-mad small city of San Pedro de MacorĂ­s (birthplace of 73 major league players, including Sammy Sosa). We follow him to spring training in Phoenix, then to Single A ball in Iowa. There, he’s lonely because there are no Spanish-speaking girls to chat up. After an injury, he’s demoted to the bullpen. His pride too wounded to return home, he quits the team and hops a bus to the South Bronx, where he pursues a career in illegal immigration.

Although most Dominicans (such as the American-born Alex Rodriguez) are some shade of beige, San Pedro ballplayers tend to be descended from black Jamaicans brought in to chop sugar cane. Last year, the 88 Dominicans made up almost 12 percent of major league rosters, despite the Dominican Republic having only three percent of America’s population. The average major league salary is approaching $3 million, so Dominican big leaguers earn around a quarter of a billion dollars annually.

The young ballplayer claims he’s nicknamed “Sugar” because he’s “so sweet with the ladies,” but Boden and Fleck want their film’s title to convey that by signing so many Dominican teens, baseball teams are, like sugar companies, neocolonialist exploiters. To the filmmakers, American ballclubs are to blame both for exploiting Dominicans and for not exploiting African Americans. Fleck complains that the black American share “has gone down to somewhere around 8 or 9 percent now, while the Dominican population in baseball has risen dramatically. Major League Baseball has taken money out of the inner cities … and flipped it into the Dominican Republic, where they can sign players much cheaper.” In the Sundance worldview, whatever happens is white people’s fault; blacks can’t make choices for themselves.

In reality, while MLB teams would love to employ verbally charismatic African Americans instead of tongue-tied Spanish speakers, black American kids these days mostly consider baseball boring. The Dominican Republic represents one of the few sizable concentrations of fast and strong youths of West African descent who find baseball more fascinating than basketball, soccer, or cricket. (Also, steroids can be bought legally without a prescription in Dominican pharmacies.)

The real scandal is that big league baseball has facilitated the illegal immigration of tens of thousands of washed-up uneducated jocks. MLB privatizes profits and socializes costs.

The irony in this trend of dramas striving to be “more documentary-like” is that the best documentaries are far more satisfyingly dramatic than “Sugar.” For example, Werner Herzog’s popular documentary “Grizzly Man” culminates with the annoying protagonist being devoured by a bear. Documentaries that follow somebody as ho-hum as Sugar are unlikely to get widely distributed or even finished.

Boden and Fleck are garnering critical kudos for refusing to create an intriguing plot. Yet, they didn’t have to redo “Rocky” They could have, say, made the kid not a 20-year-old prospect but an 18-year-old prodigy. Once the audience is rooting for him, they could then have yanked the rug out by revealing that the phenom’s agent, like previous Dominican talent hustlers (such as, ironically enough, their own technical advisor, ex-Cincinnati Red Jose Rijo), had defrauded the Americans: the sensation’s not 18, he’s really 22, with just a journeyman’s natural talent. Now, that would be a story.

Rated R for language, some sexuality, and brief drug use.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you run the numbers, African Americans now make up roughly the same percentage of American born MLB players as they do Americans on the whole.

The decline in the number of black players in MLB has been from a highpoint of overrepresentation (relative to the general population).

guest007 said...

The decline of black americans in baseball is due to the lack of coaching. Whites who are interested in baseball start practicing when they are very young. Pitcher in particular benefit from a high level of coaching that suburban middle class parents can afford.

Also, in baseball it is harder to spot the most talented player. It is much easier to spot talented basketball players or cornerbacks than spotting talented second basemen or catchers.

Anonymous said...

What's your source on the Fleck quote starting with the sentence "Fleck complains...?" And though a casual reader can take your opinion as fact, it's only your interpretation of what Boden/Fleck means (unless you interviewed them). Your interpretation is unique from the reviews I read on RottenTomatoes.com.

Anonymous said...

How in the ***** can you stand watching movies and TV Steve?

Oh, right. You're married.

I mentioned in passing once to my cubicle mate that Hollywood movies sucked back in 2002. He became very angry. Four years later on another consulting gig I ended up working with him again and he was still mad at me. It's primal, and it's all about the pee yew ess ess why.

What you guys will do for a piece of ai ess ess is astounding. I just broke up with a very comely lass because there is a line of approximately 3.2 billion men far more willing to put up with her B.S. than I am. Friggin' sellouts; dog is too kind.

"The decline of black americans in baseball is due to the lack of coaching. Whites who are blahblahblah suburban middle class parents can afford."

This has to be Malcolm Gladwell. Is lack of coaching why blacks suck at Mixed Martial Arts too? By "coaching", do you mean the ability to show up to practice on time with a good attitude?

Steve Sailer said...

Anonymous says:

"Your interpretation is unique from the reviews I read on RottenTomatoes.com."

Thank you.

Steve

Tom V said...

Anonymous drunk:

What you guys will do for a piece of ai ess ess is astounding. I just broke up with a very comely lass because there is a line of approximately 3.2 billion men far more willing to put up with her B.S. than I am. Friggin' sellouts; dog is too kind.

Take your crude, incoherent crap elsewhere, Mr. Alfaux. This is a quality site.

Steve: you let that stuff through? What can Lucius Vorenus possibly say that's more unedifying than that?

Peter Lehmann said...

Offtopic, but highly instructive - a piece on immigration on an information tech news service:
http://gigaom.com/2009/07/04/americas-secret-innovation-weapon-immigration/

Talk about non-sequiturs.

I think Steve shows too much interest in constructing a theory of inevitable doom. I don't see any progress on the immigration and affirmative action fronts with conservatives getting all Buchananite and Spenglerian, talking trash about climate change and ecology in general, avoiding to develop "populist" economic concepts
and even failing to distance themselves from the neocons.

Steve Sailer said...

Anonymous demands:

"What's your source on the Fleck quote starting with the sentence 'Fleck complains...'?"

It's really not hard for you to look up yourself where quotes come from. There's this thing called Google, and you just copy and paste a part of the quote into Google, and ... it tells you where I got the quote!

Namely, from Andrew O'Hehir's interview with director Ryan Fleck in Salon on April 3, 2009:

http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/btm/feature/2009/04/03/sugar/print.html

Anonymous said...

"Take your crude, incoherent crap elsewhere"

Looks like I hit a nerve.

It is impossible to decouple race and gender anymore, as some of the smarter folks like Kevin MacDonald are beginning to understand.

White women vastly outnumber, and outgun, the hostile ethnics who make life miserable for white men and are every bit as ardent participants as their comrades in the Grand Coalition against white males.

When I become emperor married white men will be the first thrown up against the wall. Neither dog, nor sellout, nor collaborator is unkind enough. Honestly, you could not pay me twenty five bucks to watch any Hollywood movie, I'd rather stock shelves for the money. For fifty, I'd do it, maybe. I keep an emergency stash of movies and downloaded TV shows only for the women I bring back to my place, something I am less inclined to do these days because they are simply unbearable. Utterly brainwashed into believe white men are the enemy, it's grotesque.

Don't go soft on women, Steve: at the moment bros trump hos but that will change, I predict, over the next 3.5 years. They are the greater enemy.

Anonymous said...

When I become emperor married white men will be the first thrown up against the wall. Neither dog, nor sellout, nor collaborator is unkind enough. ... I keep an emergency stash of movies and downloaded TV shows only for the women I bring back to my place, something I am less inclined to do these days because they are simply unbearable. Utterly brainwashed into believe white men are the enemy, it's grotesque.

LOL. This sounds like T99 in a few years, after a several more soul-scarring rejections. Is there some warp in the space-time continuum that allows Future Testy to post here now?

Anonymous said...

---Don't go soft on women, Steve: at the moment bros trump hos but that will change, I predict, over the next 3.5 years. They are the greater enemy.---

So we gotta go gay?

Svigor said...

Blaming white women is an easy way to pretend the problem isn't the abdication of white men and the Uncle Tommery of the white elite.

Women want status. That's it.

Men create status.

Anonymous said...

Steve, 90% of Dominicans are darker than Alex Rodriguez. Most people in the DR would be considered black by American standards. This stuff about darker Dominicans being descended from Jamaicans is misleading at best. Jamaica was once a Spanish colony, and no doubt many black slaves stopped there first. But ALL Dominicans are descended from West African slaves. There has not been a pure white or Indian Dominican since the early 19th Century at the latest. In the mid-1800's, DR had a kind of cultural inquisition against negritude. The result is that today Dominicans strongly identify as non-black, despite the obvious. They try to explain the obvious blackness of so many of their people away be claiming that those people are Haitians or what ever. It's all nonsense. It's like how years ago, 95% of Puerto Ricans claimed to be "white" in the census.

BTW, I would say DR has the most attractive women of any country in Latin America on average.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Jesus Christ.

Not again.

Anonymous said...

If Mariah Carey or Janis Ian is your idea of a hottie, DR chicks are da bomb. But before flying out for some love, ask yourself if you'll be able to do them any good. Dominican men are very possibly the most bejingled (i.e., packin', that is , endowed) on planet. The dimensions of Porfirio Rubirosa are legendary (they still call the pepper grinder in Parisian restaurants the Rubirosa!) but he was only somewhat on the large side by Dominican standards.

My father consulted for the Dominican air force and told me that in one squadron they had a contest to see who "measured up". The average was over eight inches, unexcited. One was 11 and a half.

Anonymous said...

"So we gotta go gay?"

No, we gotta go Lysistrata.

I'm telling you, in less than 4 years hos will trump bros and it's going to be very, very ugly. Talk to some Europeans or Canadians or Kiwis, they'll tell you what it's like living in a dictatorship of pudendum - not fun. With tax rates going up, men will be of less use to women, watch.

Truth said...

"I keep an emergency stash of movies and downloaded TV shows only for the women I bring back to my place, something I am less inclined to do these days because they are simply unbearable. Utterly brainwashed into believe white men are the enemy, it's grotesque..."

Been spending time at "Game" seminars I see.

Anonymous said...

"Been spending time at "Game" seminars I see."

Ugh, no. I don't even know what Game is, though I see reference to it here and there. Something about pretending you're a bigshot and being mean to women? A little too gamey to me, which was kind of my point. There is a long line of millions of suckers willing to do a lot more than I am to get laid, let them. It's really, really easy in this age for even a chump like me to meet women and get teh sex, it's just not worth the negative externalities for me.

Being single allows me among other things to attack feminism, something present company *ahem* seems a little too timorous to contemplate and something that needs to be done. It's cool not having to watch Grey's Anatomy and Hollywood movies too, that's a definite bonus of being a single man. Seriously, how the f**k can you guys stand it, being forced to watch TV shows and movies which portray us - white men - as boobs and the enemy?