David Fincher’s new movie Gone Girl is an experience. Say what you will about its qualities as a piece of film art. But, if nothing else, the experience of sitting down in a darkened theatre and taking in Fincher’s dark, sometimes funny, and often profoundly messed up flick about marriage and relationships was, for me, one of the most affecting, involved, and flabbergasting experiences of all this year.

On paper, Gone Girl looks like a dime novel thriller. It’s the story of a man, whose beautiful and charming wife is kidnapped. Her disappearance becomes a massive media event, throwing scrutiny on their not-so-happy marriage and casting him as the prime suspect. But rather than being seen as a hero, Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) innocence in this whole rigmarole is continually undermined, not just to the media and public, but to the audience of the film, leading to an exercise in suspense and mystery, in which the audience literally doesn’t know who to trust.

Gone Girl posterOk, so let’s get the formal stuff out of the way first. As we have come to expect from a craftsman like Fincher, Gone Girl is beautifully shot and edited, about as broody and dark as we’ve come to expect from the Se7en director, just under-lit enough to make the everything feel slightly sinister, and accompanied by a thumping minimalist score by Fincher’s frequent collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. All of the cast knocks it out of the park, with Rosamund Pike’s Amy, the missing wife, delivering a performance that will probably enrage a lot of people when it gets passed over at next year’s Oscars. The supporting cast are full of standouts, with a possibly career re-defining turn from Neil Patrick Harris and a shockingly good but understated supporting performance by Tyler Perry. The one who may get passed over a lot, unfortunately, is Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister. It’s not one of the “in your face good” performances in the flick, which may lead to a lot of people not noticing that she’s seriously good, especially given that this is her first film role ever.

As for Affleck? He’s good. Not amazing, not terrible, but good. He pulls of what he needed to pull of, and, if nothing else, the fact that I wasn’t thinking “So you gonna be a good Batman?” every time he was on screen is proof enough that he did a good job.

For virtually the entire second half of the screening, my mouth was ajar. As you may have heard, Gone Girl, like a novelty drinking straw, or my small intestine, is a wee bit twisty. Virtually every 20 minutes or so there’s some new twist, some new shocking development, something that completely throws you off from where you think this is all going, to the point that by the halfway mark I’d completely given up trying to make predictions and just sat there in gobsmacked awe, completely going along for the ride. I could almost see David Fincher perched above the screen, a puckish grin on his face as he lobbed the occasional flashbang grenade into the audience, mouthing the words “Oh what, were you getting complacent? Bored even? Well, let’s change that!” And then there’s a soft thud on the floor next to me and suddenly my ear drums are bleeding.

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And of course it’s all ridiculous – a collection of twists and turns that would make Gone Girl a laughable soap opera of a movie in the hands of any other director. But because it was Fincher at the helm, stringing you along with expertly maintained tension and suspense, it’s an incredibly engrossing experience. This is in no small part because it spends almost the entire second act walking an absolute razor’s edge between being credible and incredible, constantly teetering on the edge of being completely and utterly ridiculous. And then it does a backflip, a pirouette and a handstand on that edge, just to show off how much it can be silly without breaking its hold on you.

It’s a rollercoaster, a spinning teacup of twists and turns that leaves you disoriented and a bit nauseous. The only point at which it really let me down was in the ending, which is the kind of ending where the credits suddenly roll and all you can do is let out a little, deflated “Oh.” It’s not a bad ending, but it comes out of nowhere, sneaking up on you. It’s anticlimactic, but that’s not the problem. It’s meant to be anticlimactic. But I think it’s rather the wrong sort of anticlimactic, a bit too deflating and not nearly sinister and chilling enough as it could have been.

Gone Girl is a pretty darn good movie. Eminently well-made, fantastically acted and masterfully suspenseful. But its true value, I think, is the experience it leaves you with upon first viewing. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie this year that engrossed me this much, that kept me this on the edge of my seat, even when a part of my brain was going, “This is ridiculous, this is utterly ridiculous” while another bit went, “Shut up, will you, I wanna see where this goes!!” And if you can’t appreciate it for that, you can appreciate it for being a deeply layered meditation on relationships and manipulation, a searing take down of the news media (particularly ones named for a certain small, red member of the Canidae family) and a seriously well made and acted thriller.

That’s it, it’s over. Bill Maher, we’re through.

If you’ve ever left a relationship because your partner’s bad traits start making it impossible to appreciate their good qualities, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t care if he’s funny, and spot on when it comes to things like pot and the militarization of police. He’s downright ignorant and bigoted when it comes to anything related to Islam.

I first saw signs of trouble in his film Religulous, when he poked fun at the Christian Right, criticized Muslims in a much harsher way. He pretty much gave Judaism a pass, except for some Orthodox Jews, and was critical of the State of Israel. I chalked it up to his fervent atheism, remembered that he really did a great job with the Christians and forgot about his unfortunate bias for a few years.

Fast forward to a few months ago. While Israel was indiscriminately bombing Gaza, Maher tweeted this:

As if glibly justifying a willful humanitarian catastrophe wasn’t enough bile for 140 characters, he managed to throw in a bit of misogyny too. I decided to watch his next HBO show Real Time, a show which, to be honest, I generally like.

This time, though, I was watching to see if he would apologize or defend the tweet. He didn’t even address it, but he had George Takei as a guest, and I adore George Takei.

I don’t ignore him enough to forget why I was watching, so I decided to be wary of Maher, applaud him when he deserves it, but be ready to call him out when he crosses the line again. I was giving him a third and final chance and he blew it.

Two weeks ago, he closed off his show, as he always does, with New Rules, a comedy bit that is usually quite insightful and funny. This time, though, it was neither.

He started off by making a point that it is easier to poke fun at Christianity than Islam in a Western context. Fine, it is. But Christianity is the dominant religion in the West, and the same point was much funnier when South Park made it.

If he had left it at that, then fine, boring but fine. But instead, he proceeded to make an argument that you can’t call yourself liberal if you don’t speak out against Islam. Here it is, if you want to watch for yourself:

Forget for a moment that no one made this guy the arbiter of what is liberal or progressive, just what does he mean by speaking out against Islam? If he’s referring to objecting to extremism, then fine, religious extremism is a bad thing regardless of the religion, but that’s not what he means.

The following week, the topic came up in the panel section of his show. It had to. The comments had caused such a stink that even Reza Aslan, noted religious scholar, progressive and practicing Muslim appeared on CNN and deflated the argument.

In the discussion on HBO, Maher made it clear that he was, in fact, talking about condemning the religion as a whole. Another panelist, Sam Harris, clarified even more by trying to argue that Islamic extremism wasn’t the exception but rather the rule.

I would have called bullshit and bigotry, but fortunately Ben Affleck did it for me. That’s right, an uber-mainstream, Hollywood A-lister who was on the show primarily to plug a movie called the host a racist. Give it a watch:

To paraphrase Michael Moore, one of Maher’s celebrity leftist friends: “When progressive scholars and Batman are against you, Mr. Maher, you just might be a bigot.” Moreover, you’re probably not a liberal at all.

What’s so liberal about telling people what they can and can’t believe? As an agnostic who also thinks, I find Maher’s comments offensive, and worse, ignorant.

When supposed progressive allies start sounding like the radical right they claim to despise, it’s time to move on.

No, I don’t want people to boycott HBO; I need my John Oliver and Game of Thrones as much as you. I also don’t think guests should refuse to appear on Real Time, as long as they make sure to call Maher out when needed, just like Affleck did.

I do think it’s time the progressive left realizes that a bigot is a bigot. Maher and his ilk aren’t allies, despite making good points from time to time.

Bill Maher, we’re done!