‘Experimenter’ and ‘Heart of a Dog’ are among the overlooked films of 2015

“Experimenter”: Social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s notorious, eye-opening obedience experiments from 1961 — in which subjects were observed as they administered what they thought were harmful electric shocks to an unseen stranger — inspired a disarmingly playful, surprisingly poignant and regrettably overlooked biopic from writer-director Michael Almereyda. It’s heady and fun.

“Heart of a Dog”: A gently questing lullaby of grief, artist Laurie Anderson’s aural/visual collage charts the emotional stages she went through in saying goodbye to her beloved canine Lulabell but stays with you as a poetic ode to loss and change. The result is moving, musical and humorously offbeat, her steady stream of wise, witty, free-associating narration washing over the beautifully trance-like footage and imagery.

“White God”: A Hungarian fable of animal love and animalistic rebellion, Kornél Mundruczó's emotional, thrilling movie explores our attachment to domesticated creatures. Unclassifiable yet built like a jagged action saga, it shifts points of view between humans and canines until its shocking third act violence makes you realize it was a radicalization allegory for one side all along.


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“Man From Reno”: This Bay Area-set, cross-cultural neo-noir from filmmaker Dave Boyle deserves a bigger audience among fans of maze-like crime stories both cozy and hard-boiled. Boyle exhibits an elegant artistry with twisty sleuthing and themes of slippery identity; it’s full of eccentric charm and richly built suspense, a genuine indie gem.

“It Follows”: A ghoulish game of cinematic tag with a curdled undercurrent of intimacy hysteria, David Robert Mitchell’s offbeat horror film, briefly a buzzy spring indie phenomenon, remains one of the year’s most stylishly effective genre pieces. Mitchell gives movie lovers a sly, fun tutorial in patient wide-screen suspense not seen since John Carpenter’s heyday.

More, please: “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” put a premium on real sets and real actors doing real things in front of a camera, with CGI a tool, not an operating principle. “Mad Max” was also a pillar of action directing that was chaos-free, each composed shot contributing its own crucial part of the expertly choreographed forward motion.

No más: Brando may have mumbled his way to screen fame, but when will today’s film stars stop whisper-acting every line as if it were a secret? Believe it or not, myriad emotions can be suggested while fully enunciating and projecting each word.