Actor: Kevin Kline
Supporting actor: Emile Hirsch
Cinematography: Lajos Koltai
Adapted screenplay: Neil Tolkin
Awards voters love teachers. And maybe because most teachers earn a ridiculously low salary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences figures the least it can do is reward them with Oscar noms.
Recent examples include Robin Williams (“Dead Poets Society”), Richard Dreyfuss (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”) and Meryl Streep (“Music of the Heart”). Going back to 1939, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” picked up seven noms, including a win for lead Robert Donat. Even the 1969 version garnered an acting nom for Peter O’Toole.
Enter Kevin Kline as a high school Western civilization teacher in Universal’s “The Emperor’s Club.” Kline is handed a classroom of upper-crust adolescents from wealthy families whom he must mold into enterprising young men.
Like Dreyfuss in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Kline’s entire teaching legacy is played out, from his first class to the winding down of a career. Kline’s character’s longevity — not to mention the actor’s range — may capture the attention of voters, who seem to like him. Kline won in his only nomination — supporting actor for 1989’s “A Fish Called Wanda.”
As the troubled U.S. senator’s son to whom Kline attempts to give a little life direction, 17-year-old Emile Hirsch (who also appeared last year in Peter Care’s “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) may get some notice in the supporting category.
Veteran Hungarian-born cinematographer Lajos Koltai, who was nominated for his work on “Malena” two years ago, brings a visual richness to the campus setting. (The pic was shot in upstate New York at the Emma Willard School.)
Scribe Neil Tolkin wrote the adapted screenplay from the original short story “The Palace Thief,” by Ethan Canin.