Long ago, I used XEmacs, and its buffer-local faces to highlight the active window and modeline. When I switched to Emacs, I was sad to see that it didn't have buffer-local and window-local faces. It does have a separate face for active and inactive modelines though.
Today I learned that Emacs 23 has a buffer-local face remapping feature. I'm using this to highlight the active buffer (not window):