“Gone Girl” Gives you a Run for your Money
By Michael S. Goldberger
Even the twists have turns in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” an extremely well written sleuther about a woman who goes missing. Starring Rosamund Pike as the lady who mysteriously vanishes and Ben Affleck as her flummoxed husband, this film will have you guessing right up until the closing credits and beyond. It’s the thinking person’s whodunit. Not simply content to have you figure out the puzzle, the highly sophisticated thriller also sprinkles the scenario with all sorts of emotionally compelling life issues that demand pondering. Yep, this is a good one.
In a prologue scene that initiates in the bar Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne owns with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), Nick reflects on the courtship, joys and complexities of his marriage to Amy, superbly played by Rosamund Pike. Today is their fifth anniversary. But no ordinary surprise gift awaits upon his return home. Instead, things are eerily in disarray, as if there had been a struggle. A blood smear here and there seconds the opinion. Nick calls the police.
Detective Rhonda Boney, portrayed by Kim Dickens, isn’t one to jump to conclusions. Possessing the downhome sort of conjecture and anecdotal patter Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson evinced in “Fargo” (1996), she neither accuses nor exonerates, at least not right away. Oh…just to make things a little more interesting, be apprised that Amy is the famous “Amazing Amy,” the much loved real-life model for the children’s book series her parents wrote.
In short, it’s high profile stuff, and the traveling media circus popularizing the heartache, gossip and ugliness that’s become an American pastime soon lands in North Carthage, Mo., the little burg where the pair moved in order to care for Nick’s sick mom. In time, the press as well as the court of public opinion grow antsy. The clues begin to pile up, albeit curiously, and still no Amy. It starts to look bad for Nick. We’re repeatedly reminded that Missouri has the death penalty.
Hence, quicker than you can say Johnnie Cochran, Nick hires celebrity lawyer Tanner Bolt, etched with droll conviction by Tyler Perry. Parodying the thought that we’ve become a nation of rubberneckers, they do the talk show circuit, where the carefully coached husband sings the blues and assures his undying love for the cause célèbre.
By this time, we are adrift and at a total loss as to what gives, a feeling director Fincher, working from the nomination-worthy screenplay by author Gillian Flynn, repeatedly engenders with devilish success. Just as deceitful as some of his characters may or may not be, he feels no obligation to play fair, causing us suspense-heightening frustration. One grows wary. When he does unveil so-called truths meant to sway our opinion, we suspect they may be infected with a virus that can instantly mutate to cause a contradicting viewpoint.
Meanwhile, while we’re scratching our heads and furrowing our brows, the depicted deceptions, treacheries and hypocrisies, essentially mirroring nothing less than what we’re regularly treated to on the nightly news, give us philosophical pause. Tellingly dramatized so well here, it is hammered home that we’ve become absurdly inured to the bad behavior perpetrated by both culprits and a scandal-hungry public. As the lines blur between the players on “reality” shows and our everyday lives, the general rules of decency are muddied in direct proportion.
Compounding the moral and investigatory miasma, the storyline, which adroitly moves between the present and a steady supply of flashbacks that fill us in on the now famous duo’s chronology, introduces a couple of Amy’s ex-beaus. Neil Patrick Harris is a real piece of work as rich boy Desi Collings, an old prep school pal.
Point of disclosure: I’m terrible at figuring out these things and am always amazed that someone can conjure such deception and intrigue. Do they begin at the end? So, when some cloak and dagger enthusiasts at the gym eagerly inquired if there were hints along the route, I informed I wasn’t sure, and anyway, that’s not quite how it works. This is a tale of human behavior: everything is a clue.
More to the point, what’s most beguiling about this saga of right and wrong is not who did what and why, but rather the gradations of good and evil folks rummage through in attempting to mine some absolute truth. It’s the relativity of the gray area as Einstein might have called it had he forsaken physics for a study of ethics. All of which is my fancy way of informing that filmgoers looking for a real lollapalooza of a mystery will find it in “Gone Girl.”
“Gone Girl,” rated R, is a Twentieth Century Fox release directed by David Fincher and stars Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck and Carrie Coon. Running time: 149 minutes
By Kim Dannies
Always on my to do list is to lose the five stubborn pounds that perpetually come and go, and recently, I did (again). Not to humblebrag, but it was easier this go round. Instead of strictures and restraint, I focused MORE on food, not less. This notion, counter-intuitive to anyone who has ever dieted, came as a revelation to me. The fresh thinking was sparked while reading about chefs who have lost a significant amount of weight while on the job. Much of the advice was simple common sense — portion control, exercise, knock off the booze.
What really got my attention was the concept of the “umami bomb.” Umami is why we go bonkers for bacon; it is the fifth flavor delivered by goodies such as aged cheese, ripe tomatoes, seaweed, pork, seafood, mushrooms, poultry, soy and fish sauce. Chefs who regularly infuse food with umami bombs are consistently more satisfied with their food, faster. This means less consumption and more opportunities to eat foods they ENJOY. The result: less hassle with the scale.
ENJOY is the operative word here. I don’t deprive myself of what I like, within reason. For example, I could easily eat 600 calories of healthy stuff I don’t particularly enjoy, and be haunted for the next three hours feeling unsatisfied. (So then maybe I backslide by eating another 400 calories of raw cashews.) I’d rather just eat 600 calories of something I really like in the first place. Savoring food, not suffering over it, makes me happier, healthier and more committed to my target weight.
Amplifying the flavors of food helps to satisfy cravings. I aim to steer clear of processed ingredients, white flour and sugar, but enjoy adding combinations of sautéed mushrooms and onions, tomatoes, shaved parmesan, anchovies and soy and fish sauces, to dishes. Dream meals contain bits of bacon, sausage and Emmentaler Swiss cheese. Other tricks of the trade — poach garlic in olive oil until soft and use it like butter, cut way back on red meat by eating more seafood, especially clams and scallops.
Takeout portions are for two and loaded with sugar and butter—take control of your own destiny by cooking umami bomb meals and you won’t surrender even one precious notch on your belt.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.
Observer staff report
Center for Technology, Essex students and staff invite those age 60 and older to benefit from their skills on Thursday, Nov. 6 or Friday, Nov. 7.
All services are free, including manicures, haircuts, computer and cell phone help, health and wellness information, auto winter safety checks, tire rotation, photo restoration and more. The day begins at 9:30 a.m. (no early birds, please) and ends with a live jazz concert by the Essex High School Performing Arts students from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.
All activities are offered by students who are eager to share their skills.
A buffet lunch will be served, and the day includes games, arts and crafts.
No appointments or reservations are necessary.
Mounting snow tires will be limited to the first 10 cars each day and you must register at 9:30 for this service.
For information, call 879-5558.
Dear Savvy Senior,
What resources can you recommend for researching hospitals? I need to get a knee replacement next year and want to find a good, safe hospital to have it done in.
— Shopping Around
Most people don’t give much thought when it comes to choosing a hospital, but selecting the right one can be as important as the doctor you choose. Here are some tips and resources to help you research and check up on your area hospitals.
While you may not always have the opportunity to choose your hospital, especially in the case of an emergency, having a planned procedure can offer you a variety of choices.
When shopping for a hospital, the most important criterion is to find one that has a strong department in your area of need. A facility that excels in coronary bypass surgery, for example, may not be the best choice for a knee replacement. Research shows that patients tend to have better results when they’re treated in hospitals that have extensive experience with their specific condition.
In order to choose a hospital that’s best for you, it is important to discuss your concerns and alternatives with the doctor who is treating you. Some doctors may be affiliated with several hospitals from which you can choose. Or, if you’ve yet to select a doctor, finding a top hospital that has expertise with your condition can help you determine which physician to actually choose.
Another important reason to do some research is the all too frequent occurrence of hospital infections, which kill around 75,000 people in the U.S. each year. So checking your hospital’s infection rates and cleanliness procedures is also a wise move.
Today, there are a number of online resources that provide hospital safety and performance data to help you research and compare facilities. Because hospitals are such complex places, it’s wise to get information from a variety of sources. Here is a summary of some top guides.
Hospital Compare (medicare.gov/hospitalcompare): Operated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this free tool lets you compare general quality of care, as well as care for many medical conditions and surgical procedures in more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals.
Consumer Reports Hospital Rankings (consumerreports.org/hospitalratings): If you don’t mind spending a few dollars ($7 for one month or $30 per year), Consumer Reports ranks 4,500 hospitals in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The reliable resource provides information on up to 34 performance and safety measures.
U.S. News & World Report (usnews.com/best-hospitals): This online publishing resource identifies the best hospitals for 16 specialties and provides rankings by metro area and by specialty for free.
Healthgrades (healthgrades.com): A private, for-profit organization, they provide free hospital ratings on patient safety and medical procedures and score hospitals using a 5-star scale.
The Commonwealth Fund (whynotthebest.org): This is a private foundation that provides free performance data on all U.S. hospitals.
The Joint Commission (qualitycheck.org): This is a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the U.S. Hospitals receive a checkmark for each set of measures they have met. But there’s no way to tell whether a hospital is stronger in one area over another.
Hospital Inspections (hospitalinspections.org): Established by the Association of Health Care Journalists, this focuses on violations and inspection reports.
The Leapfrog Group (hospitalsafetyscore.org): This national, not-for-profit organization grades hospitals on their overall performance in keeping patients safe. Use your city, state or ZIP code to search more than 2,500 hospitals.
VA Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.va.gov): If you’re a veteran, you can research and compare VA medical centers here.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
By Mal Boright
Riding fourth in Division 1 soccer rankings, the Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team defended the home pitch Wednesday (Observer press time) against a challenge from 7-4-1 Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans.
The 8-3-1 Redhawks needed a victory over the Bobwhites and another at Mount Mansfield Union Saturday morning to clinch at least fourth place in the seedings for postseason play. Mount Mansfield was 3-6-2 entering the week.
The Redhawks can use some scoring punch.
That was evident Saturday when Essex High, on a header off a second half corner kick, nipped CVU 1-0 at Essex, the Hornets’ first win over the Hawks since 2009.
The Blue and Gold dude with his head really into the game was Nate Miles, who knocked in the corner floater from teammate Liam Donahue.
CVU had its scoring chances but either had shots a tad wide or high, or Essex goalie Ben Wood got his mitts on them among his five saves. CVU’s Oscar Kelly also made five stops.
Coach Katie Mack this week continued to ponder her lineups with the postseason at hand with the possibility of meeting Essex (second or third seed at 9-2-1) again shortly.
The Champlain Valley Hawks Youth & Junior High Wrestling Program is signing up athletes for its winter season.
The non-profit program offers wrestling to students from the Hinesburg, Charlotte, Shelburne, St. George and Williston who would like to learn or refine their wrestling skills. The junior high season starts Nov. 18 and signups are underway.
Teams practice out of the United Fighting Arts Institute on Williston Road in South Burlington Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Registration is $75 per child, not including tournament fees.
The Hawks will host an open house on Oct. 22nd at the United Fighting Arts Institute from 6 to 7:30 PM with a sign-up option. Registration is open, the coach can be reached at [email protected] or call 999-4200. For more information, visit www.champlainvalleyhawkswrestling.com or find the program on Facebook.
By Mal Boright
They bagged visiting Mount Abraham Union for the second time this season 2-0 Tuesday at their Hinesburg nest. Now, the Champlain Valley Union High field hockey Redhawks must get a road victory Thursday over the Middlebury Union High Tigers to assure a number two seeding in the Division 1 playoffs starting next week.
The pairings will be announced Monday by the Vermont Principals Association.
“Middlebury is always tough,” said CVU coach Kate McDonald, following the win over the Eagles. Middlebury is 6-4-2 after its Tuesday game with South Burlington High was called off due to the South Burlington teachers strike. CVU nipped the Tigers 1-0 Sept. 24 in Hinesburg.
The Redhawks boosted their record to 9-3-1 Tuesday and trail only 12-0-1 Essex High in the Division 1 rankings. Right behind are Hartford High and South Burlington High with 8-4 marks.
Goal getters Tuesday for the Red and White were Kate Burke (her third in a week) and Caroline Hern. Burke scored just under four minutes into the contest by getting position in front of the Eagles’ cage and scoring from point blank range.
Hern, with four minutes and 24 seconds to halftime, got some space on the left side of the Mount Abraham net, took a couple of steps, and then deposited the ball behind netminder Danielle Morse.
Burke noted that getting the game’s first goal was very important.
CVU dominated play, getting seven shots on the Eagles’ net while the CVU midfielders and defenders kept the visitors from getting even one shot on goal keeper Tashia Pashby-Rockwood.
Last Friday, the Redhawks lost to South Burlington 2-0 in a night game on the Rebels’ turf. CVU outshot South Burlington 10-6, but bowed after two second-half goals, one on a penalty stroke.
Last Wednesday (Oct. 8) CVU, again on the road, laid a 4-0 defeat on Colchester High, with Burke firing a pair of goals while Lily Schmoker and Kate Machavern also tallied.
By Mal Boright
The imaginary football playoff bells will be tolling—pleasurably or painfully—Friday night in St. Albans after 3-4 Champlain Valley Union High clashes in the regular season finale with 3-4 Bellows Free Academy with playoff seeding at stake.
The two foes had differing outcomes last weekend. CVU went to Bennington and used a huge fourth quarter rally to pull out a 33-20 victory over underdog Mount Anthony Union High.
In the meantime, BFA had a double dip into the loss column. On Friday night, the Bobwhites fell to Rutland High 28-13. On Saturday, BFA completed a suspended game with unbeaten St. Johnsbury Academy, playing a little more than a quarter in falling 42-9 in a contest suspended by lightning earlier in the season. When that game was halted late in the third quarter, the Hilltoppers led 28-3.
BFA victories have been over Mount Mansfield Union (30-14), Hartford High (29-20) and South Burlington High (14-7). Other defeats were by unbeaten Middlebury Union and Essex High.
CVU head coach Jim Provost thinks a Redhawks win Friday could boost his team into a sixth seed in the eight-team playoffs opening the following weekend.
“A lot can happen,” he warned, noting that several teams are still scrambling to position themselves in the final Division 1 field.
The coach is looking for a tough, emotional contest Friday when the Redhawks enter “the lions’ den,” with BFA also hanging on to postseason hopes.
“They (BFA) always have big, physical kids and they are also fighting for a playoff,” Provost said.
He added that the Bobwhites also have a kicker who has been knocking balls through the uprights from as many as 50 yards out.
In Bennington, the Redhawks made a second-half change of quarterback, with similar results to the previous weekend’s 35-14 triumph over South Burlington High.
Where that game saw junior Andrew Bortnick take over the controls after intermission and lead CVU to three unanswered touchdowns, this time it was sophomore Jake Evans taking charge and leading the Hawks from a 20-7 deficit to 26 final reel points and the vital victory.
Evans scored three six-pointers with his feet and passed for another. The Redhawks, with time running out, crushed the Patriots, who had been eyeing a second 2014 win.
“We went from the depths to alive by 13 (points) in the blink of an eye,” said Provost.
A key play came after CVU got within 20-14 early in the fourth quarter. Brandon Young’s onside kick was recovered by teammate Jack Frost.
Evans soon found receiver Sam Mikell for an 18-yard scoring hookup and the Hawks were even with the Patriots.
The double threat signal caller then added touchdowns on a short plunge and a 26-yard scamper to complete the final reel seal of the deal.
“Evans was the spark,” the coach said.
He also praised the work of the CVU defense, saying it was its top performance of the season. The two Mount Anthony scores were set up by lost Redhawk fumbles deep in defensive territory, with the Patriots recovering one of the bobbles for a quick six and then marching for a short distance for a touchdown after falling on the other loose ball.
Linebacker Matt Goldsborough, along with linemen Graeme Whaples and Scott Edwards, were among those mentioned by Provost. Defensive back Jeremy Fuller had an interception and was a pain to the Pats in general.
Bortnick, according to Provost, will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis for his shoulder injury.
By Mal Boright
Last weekend, they took (so to speak) Manhattan. This weekend, the Champlain Valley Union High running Redhawks will be out to take the districts.
The cross country teams Saturday will compete in the Northern Vermont Athletic Council (NVAC) district meet at Missisquoi Valley Union High in Swanton.
Unlike the course in the Thetford hills where the state meet is scheduled in two weeks, the Missisquoi challenge is somewhat unusual.
“It is a completely different race because the course is so flat,” said CVU coach Scott Bliss via e-mail.
The CVU teams are coming off Saturday’s run in the Manhattan event in which the girls took seventh among elite teams while the boys won the varsity B competition.
“They ran great,” said Bliss of the boys while pointing out that merely one minute separated his top runner from his seventh.
The finishers for the winning Hawks included Tyler Marshall (third), Calvin McClellan (17th), Eliot Eastman (26th), Tyler Wong (36th), Baxter Bishop (39th), Justin McAuliffe (40th) and Burke Spillane (44th).
The CVU girls were led by Sophia Gorman with a 21st finish and Carly Neeld in 31st.
“It was a very talented field of runners,” said Bliss.