It's heaven when new radiant screen talents emerge to cast their spells. But, in a way, it's even more divine to come face to face with cinema's ghosts. One of my favorite things about film fanaticism is the the endless supply of history there is to be discovered. No matter when your fandom begins, you have a whole lot of backstory to catch up on. Since cinema is now over a century-old nearly everyone has huge swaths of undiscovered celluloid to investigate should they choose to dig deeper than this week's multiplex releases.
Between my Netflix and ClassicFlix queues I have over 40 silent films to choose from in the near and distant future. Many of my friends groan when they see the DVDs atop my TV "another silent movie?" But I have no shame. There's something mad, glorious, and rewarding about watching this dead portion of my living obsession. This year, long before the Discoveries Project [your e-mails are due next Monday. don't forget], I decided I needed to see all the Best Actress nominees and winners ever at some point. So I began at the beginning with Janet Gaynor.. She was the first actress to win the Best Actress prize and she did so for three films (before they outlawed multiple nominations / citations in the acting categories). I have just finished watching my second of the three. I had seen the stunning Sunrise several months ago and, well... wow. So this time I popped in Seventh Heaven which was surprisingly gripping despite its overly familiar melodramatic plot points. You can read an excellent review of Seventh Heaven and Janet Gaynor's expressive gifts at Nick's site. But do yourself a favor and watch her triple Oscar-feat yourself. See where the 'Best Actress' hoopla began. And marvel that, despite decades of history aiming to prove otherwise, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sometimes makes marvelous decisions when they hand out those golden statues.