Charlie Chaplin

17 Great Silent Movie GIFs from @SilentMovieGIFs

You might be following Puppy Twitter, Weird Twitter, or Cupcake Twitter, but are you following Silent Movie Twitter?

If not, you might be missing one of its best accounts, @silentmoviegifs. Created in January 2016 by Don McHoull (@dmchoull), @silentmoviegifs is literally what it says it is: GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) of visually compelling or hilarious moments from the earliest days of film. These GIFs include everything from stop-motion animation, to the earliest camera tricks of Hollywood’s first cinematographers, to epic stunts by Buster Keaton and sleights-of-hand by Charlie Chaplin.

McHoull first got the idea of making these GIFs available to the wider internet after seeing a trending GIF on Reddit from The Bellboy, featuring Buster Keaton cleaning a nonexistent window. McHoull, a film buff, was excited to see a century-old comedy still attracting millions of views, but was dismayed at the poor image quality of the GIF.

Since he possessed a Blu-ray set of high-quality Buster Keaton short films, and Photoshop, McHoull took it upon himself to provide the internet with better-looking GIFs from the Silent Era. After all, the two types of media are a match made in heaven: “Silent movies translate really easily into GIFs,” McHoull told NYFA, “because the jokes and the ideas being expressed are all being done a purely visual way.” He made sure to add, “Not to discount the role of music in the silent cinema experience.”

McHoull quickly found an online audience eager to see highlights from the Silent Era they may have otherwise never thought to seek out. As of June 2018, @silentmoviegifs has nearly 60,000 followers, including Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson, Natasha Lyonne, Taika Waititi, Edgar Wright, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen, and Neil Patrick Harris.

He continues to source his GIFs from Blu-rays and DVDs, proving that the preservation and restoration of older film is essential to remembering the art form in its very beginnings. He uses YouTube and other lower-res sources if he must, but adds that Toronto’s video stores are a “secret weapon” of his.

“In particular one, Bay Street Video, has a very good selection of silent films for rent,” McHoull revealed. “Video stores and silent films are both things that a lot of people would regard as obsolete, but for me at least they still offer something that their supposed replacements don’t.”

Not all of his GIFs are straight clips from silent films. McHoull will also take the time to painstakingly create supercuts of particular actors or genres. One of his latest projects includes a supercut of elaborate train stunts from the Silent Era, before CGI and other special effects could really be used to simulate such sequences. When asked if he had a favorite GIF, McHoull told us it was difficult to say, but named one of his most time-consuming supercuts — an evolution of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character.

Starting with McHoull’s Evolution of the Tramp then, here is just a small sample of some of our favorite GIFs from @silentmoviegifs:

Charlie Chaplin

Buster Keaton

Clara Bow

Louise Brooks

Willis O’Brien

Charlie Chase

Laurel & Hardy

Gloria Swanson

Mary Pickford

Charley Bowers

Fritz Lang

Dorothy & Lillian Gish

Auguste Lumière

 

Lois Weber

Sessue Hayakawa

Greta Garbo

Harold Lloyd

These are just a few gems from @silentmoviegifs. NYFA encourages everyone to check out the account for the rest. McHoull is the first to tell you he isn’t in this for fame and fortune, and recommends other Twitter accounts to silent movie buffs as well, including @MoviesSilently and @silentlondon.

He’d also tell you not to limit yourself to Twitter, recommending YouTube as a great source for silent movies, as well as Imgur and Reddit (including his own subreddit), telling NYFA that when it comes to GIFs, they have several technical advantages over Twitter.

Watching the earliest movies put to film is a great way to study and learn the art of cinema, and any serious film student should consume as many silent films as they can, however they can. And the next time you’re in Toronto, maybe rent a few from Bay Street Video.

 

5 Times the Oscars Made History

The Oscars are the most important and coveted awards in cinematic history and eagerly watched by millions all over the world. But as you wait for this year’s nominees to be announced and wonder if your favorite actors have made the cut, we bring you a list of five pivotal moments when the Academy Awards indeed made history — by honouring those marginalized or neglected, alerting the audience to social inequality and recognizing genuine talent that had been shunned erstwhile.

1.  When Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director Award at the Oscars in 2010.  

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Despite it being the 21st century, gender inequality is still rampant in Hollywood, especially when it comes to women filmmakers. Which is why Kathryn Bigelow literally made history by being the first-ever woman to win the much-coveted Best Director Award for her low-budget war thriller “The Hurt Locker,” about a bomb disposal team — winning over her former husband and industry favorite James Cameron’s 3D extravaganza “Avatar.”  She dedicated her win to the servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and added, “May they come home safe.”

2. When Marlon Brando refused the Best Actor Award at the Oscars in 1973. 

Marlon Brando created a huge controversy when he refused the Award for the Best Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in the mafia film “The Godfather.” Not only did he boycott the ceremony, he sent actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. She waved away the Oscar and read out a letter saying that Brando  “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry –” Given the way America has maltreated and ostracized and even culturally appropriated the Native American community, Brando’s refusal was a powerful and ground-breaking move to raise awareness.

3. When Charlie Chaplin Received His 12 Minute Standing Ovation at the Oscars in 1972.

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Chaplin is a worldwide icon and a pioneer in the field of silent comedy, but after he was labelled a communist he was not allowed to return to the United States for 20 years. Thus his Honorary Oscar Win was important not only because Hollywood finally realized his great contribution to the industry, but also because his presence at the award ceremony marked his first return to the United States. He received a 12-minute standing ovation from the audience, which is still the longest standing ovation in Oscar history.

4. When Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress Award at the Oscars in 2002.

Halle Berry created history by becoming the first black woman to win the prestigious Best Actress Award for her role in “Monster’s Ball.”  She was so full of tears that she was unable to speak for a minute and when she finally did, she acknowledged the importance of the moment and said, “This moment is for all the nameless, faceless women of color who now have a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” The night was made even more special when fellow African-American actor Denzel Washington also took home the Best Actor Award for the film “Training Day.”

5. When Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Oscars in 2015.

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When Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in the Richard Linklater film “Boyhood,” she used the opportunity to champion women’s rights across the country. In her acceptance speech, she said, To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

So which are your favorite Oscar history-making moments from the list? Did we miss anything? And what are your expectations for this year’s Academy Awards? Let us know in the comments below!