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Chris Hicks: What were 'classic' Oscar-winners 50 years ago?

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29 2012 7:31 p.m. MST

Marlon Brando in "Mutiny on the Bounty."

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Oscar nominees for 2012 movies won’t be announced until Jan. 15, so it seems a bit early to be prognosticating. But when has that ever stopped movie pundits?

Accordingly, you can find predictions all over the Web, and the frontrunners are these films currently in local theaters: “Argo,” “Flight,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “The Master,” “The Sessions” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” That's along with several that are coming soon to a theater near you: “The Impossible,” “Hitchcock,” “Les Miserables,” “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Actually, the only thing these films have in common is that they were, or will be, released during the final quarter of 2012. That’s when “serious” Oscar contenders are released every year. Some will be big hits, some will be minor hits and some will be financial flops, but that won’t stop them from being nominated for Academy Awards.

Well, maybe. “Cloud Atlas” was on everyone’s list a month ago. But now? Not so much.

So how many of the titles listed above have you seen? How many do you want to see? Will you enjoy them or be disappointed?

And how many will hold up as “classics” in, say, 50 years?

While you ponder that question, it might be entertaining, if not necessarily instructive, to take a look at the Oscars of 50 years ago. How do they stack up against today’s movies? And how many are still popular all these years later? How many are bona fide classics?

As the posters for “American Graffiti” once asked, where were you in ’62? If you were around at the time, perhaps you recall what you thought should win that year. So let’s take a look at the nominees and see if you can guess the winners … without calling up Wikipedia.

Before we get going, one caveat: Curiously, the biggest moneymaker of 1962, “How the West Was Won,” is a film that opened so late in the year that instead of being nominated for Oscars with its contemporaries, it fell in with the 1963 nominees. Notwithstanding its eight Academy Award nominations and three wins for 1963, the film is still officially a 1962 release.

No. 2 at the 1962 box office was “Lawrence of Arabia,” followed by “The Longest Day,” “In Search of the Castaways,” “The Music Man,” “That Touch of Mink,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Hatari!” and “Gypsy.”

You may already remember two of 1962’s best-picture Oscar nominees, since they were released on Blu-ray this year in 50th anniversary sets: “Lawrence of Arabia” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The other three were “The Longest Day,” “The Music Man” and “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

No question that “Lawrence of Arabia” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are beloved classics in 2012 — still enormously popular, still earning money on home video. But each of the other three also retains a fan base, each has remained in print from the VHS through the DVD eras, and each is currently enjoying a Blu-ray upgrade.

The 1962 best-director nominees mixed it up for three of those titles; only David Lean, for “Lawrence of Arabia,” and Robert Mulligan, for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” correspond with the best-picture nominees. The others were Pietro Germi, “Divorce, Italian Style”; Arthur Penn, “The Miracle Worker”; and Frank Perry, “David and Lisa.”

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