Critics, like a lot of other people, have very short memories, although most of them would avidly debate that notion.
Case in point: When Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist" was released with much (aggressive) fanfare last fall, critics greeted this novelty - a silent film photographed in black & white - as a refreshing revelation.
Of course, Gene Kelly and Jackie Gleason attempted a similar conceit way back in 1962 with "Gigot" - although Kelly's film was shot in color.
More recently (well, 1989), there was a tiny film by African American filmmaker Charles Lane - the silent "Sidewalk Stories," a disarming Chaplinesque tale (read: "The Kid") of an artist (played by Lane) who decides to raise a toddler after her father is murdered.
Released by Palm Pictures, "Sidewalk Stories" was championed by critics for its commingling of modest virtures and cinematic daring, but has since fallen into oblivion, becoming a forgotten film. The very critics who praised it in '89 had no idea it was even made by the time they were being seduced by "The Artist" and its ironically loud marketing campaign. Lane's film was televised by PBS and on cable television in the 1990s and saw limited exposure on VHS, but is currently ... unavailable.
Edie Falco, Tom Hoover and Darnell Williams are seen in early roles in a cast that was as unknown as them at the time.