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Sundance Gives Us Some Sugar

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Look for Sugar to pick up award love on Saturday when the Sundance Film Festival hands out its merit badges. Among the other fifteen contenders in the dramatic competition, only Lance Hammer's Ballast and Courtney Hunt's Frozen River have the creative juice to make it a race. Sugar, written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden — the team who gave us the formidable Half Nelson in 2006 with an Oscar nominated performance by Ryan Gosling — practically defines what independent cinema is. Miguel Santos, nicknamed Sugar, and played with disarming naturalness by Algenis Perez Soto, has only one thing to lift him out of the poverty of his life in the Dominican Republic — his pitching arm. Chosen by scouts for the minor leagues, Sugar — who barely speaks English — is sent to Iowa to train and to learn about America first-hand. His lessons involve curve balls, sexual twists, racial rivalry and the underside of winning. I won't say more since the movie brims over with surprises. But Sugar is immensely satisfying in the way it drives a stake into the heart of the cliches that send most baseball movies to the benches. If they can stay this trenchant and uncompromisd, Fleck and Boden are good news indeed for the future of movies. Sugar lights up the landscape of film. It's a triumph that doesn't just belong at Sundance, it rocks it.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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