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Best Supporting Grandma? Goodbye to Oscar Campaign

What would you do if everyone talked about a movie you haven't watched?

Let's say the movie was "Goodbye," an Indian hit from this summer for members of a Chinese family trying to keep their beloved grandmother from learning about her terminal cancer diagnosis.

And now, let's say you are an actress who used to play grandma.

Yes, Zhao Shuzhen may win an Oscar buzz for his job as matriarch Nye Nay in "Goodbye," but that doesn't mean she actually managed to watch the movie she starred in. "I didn't know it was such a phenomenon!" The 76-year-old Chinese actress told me one night in early November after she reunited with her director Lulu Wang and co-star Aquafina to present the film for the screening season in Beverly Hills.

This was Shuzhen's first trip to the United States, and she would have been caught by the screening people when she knew her. Many were on their second viewing of "Goodbye," which was twice as much as Shuzhen himself was able to see. "Attention, praise, that's unthinkable to me," she said through a translator. But at least Shuzhen has a good excuse for being late to the party: "It's not out in China yet," she told me, "and I was so busy shooting ." [Farewell] was American Shuzhen's debut, she is well known and often booked in China, where she appears in several television dramas a year. "Some dramas require the grandmother to have more, and other dramas do not use the grandmother as much," she said. But in her 70s, she was happy to be so productive. "To start at 16 and now be older and still play, I'm just grateful for that."

Tonight in Beverly Hills, Awkwafina saw Shuzhen for the first time since they finished shooting last year. As the older woman spoke, Aquafina looked at her in awe. "I'm getting a little emotional, I'm just sitting with her right now," Aquafina said. "After what happened with this movie, I want her to know that she is loved here."

This was a dynamic different from the one shared by their characters in Goodbye, where Aquafina plays Billy, a New Yorker who returns to Changchun after learning his grandmother's diagnosis. Billy's parents ask her to keep Naji Nai in the dark about her cancer – they believe that if she is told she has only months to live, she will lose all hope and give in – but Billy struggles to cheat the matriarch he adores so much. Regal in a coat coat and pearl necklace, Shuzhen beamed as Awkwafina and Wang caught up with her film success: After its release in July in the United States, "The Farewell" became one of the highest of the year rough indie. "Her presence here is a reminder that the movie has gotten bigger than we thought," Wang said. "I talk about it all over the world and it's been released in several languages," she added, saying she was tickled by Shuzhen's surprise. "She's like, 'I haven't watched the movie yet. I hope it's good! "

The women all laughed, but Wang was sincere. "Everything really is true," she said. "We know what it took to make this movie. It may seem effortless and natural, but when I watch the movie, I see every battle that goes into it. "

When Wang first tried to install" Goodbye, "financiers indulged in an Asian acting and sophisticated mix of tone and potential language barrier – 80 percent of the dialogue would be Mandarin – and recommended Van add more romance and However, Wang based the film on the true story of her own family and she was determined to hold fast to what really happened.

"It was something that moved me, something intangible," "But it can be really hard to listen to this one voice and trust yourself. "

Many of these conflicts will re-emerge when" Goodbye "is positioned to host a awards season. Should the film be categorized as a comedy or a drama? Should Mandarin and English be Credited as a Foreign Language Film or American Indie?

For "Golden Globes" "Goodbye" is considered a contender for a foreign language film and the mysterious rules of the competition limit such films to fight for the most the best comedies and more amateur trophies. The Oscars do not have such a requirement, but the Academy does not classify Wang's film as a contender for international play, since it was produced in the United States.

These rules may feel arbitrary and up to date with the realities of an increasingly global film landscape, and Wang noted that the Academy has recently come under fire for rejecting Nigeria's submission for an international film Oscar because it contains too much English. Saying these things sometimes makes Wang feel self-conscious: "You go, 'Oh no, I don't fit! ". However, she was happy to be part of a complicated conversation about what constitutes a foreign film and through whose eyes.

"Until you have a real movie that challenges the traditional categories and ways of looking at things, you don't conduct these conversations in a specific way," she said.

"Honestly, I don't want to leave," Shuzhen said. "The people here are so sweet, I'll miss everyone." A man holding a glass of champagne nearby, and the chihuahua discreetly took a picture of her.

What if the Oscars gave Shuzhen a reason to return to this crazy city in the form of a supporting actress nomination? I asked her if she would like to make some more space in her schedule and she blushed.

"I suppose I would say I hope so, we long for it," Shuzhen said. "And if it doesn't, I can just dream about it."

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