If you’re like us, movies have probably been major milestones in your life. You might remember your first trip to the theater, what movie you saw on a first date, or who you watched Avatar, Harry Potter or Avengers: Endgame with for the first time. Or you might recall right away which viewing experience awakened your love of movies, inspired you, got you through a hard time or maybe even made you want to pick up a camera yourself.
We imagined Academy members would have the same kinds of memories, so we started asking them—and turned their answers into a podcast. My Life in Movies features intimate, one-on-one conversations with filmmakers about the movies that shaped them. Each week a different filmmaker takes us on a journey using the movies and moviegoing experiences that made a significant impact on them at every stage of life.
First up is Karyn Kusama, the director of fierce and usually female-led films like Æon Flux, Jennifer’s Body and Destroyer. If you can’t make time for her 30-minute episode (but we really think you should), here are three things we learned about Kusama’s movie life from the chat:
'Fantasia' scared her, awed her and kickstarted her love for moviegoing.
“It might have been one of my first theatrical experiences, and I might have been 3 or 4 years old. It’s a kid’s movie, but it’s sort of not a kid’s movie. It has such vivid passages that are so frightening, along with the incredible use of music that was just so overwhelming. It shook me to my core. I remember being terrified watching that movie and yet feeling like, in my child brain, I could never go back to a life without movies in a theater. In some way, I think I got introduced to what cinema can be, which is this landscape of dreams. And that’s definitely something that [Fantasia] was trafficking in.”
'Se7en' ushered in her first existential crisis.
“I was so shaken by the movie, and I felt kind of tricked. I thought I was just going to see a detective story. I didn’t really think I was going to be confronted with the notion of good and evil—and which one is winning in the world. And yet that’s what that movie did. That film really spoke to the possibility of Hollywood filmmaking to me. It spoke to the potential of genre filmmaking as its own incredibly relevant, potentially political act.”
She got really obsessed with 'Valley Girl,' which awakened her to the reality that women make movies too.
“To see Martha Coolidge’s name … all of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh wait, I guess women can do this too.’ Because up until that, I had seen so many movies where the entire team around the storytelling was male. It helps to see other names up there.” Kusama can also recite almost every line of Valley Girl: “I become all of the characters. I can speak all of the slang for everyone in their particular voice. It definitely is a hidden skill of mine.”
My Life in Movies is live on major podcast platforms, with new episodes dropping every Monday morning. Episodes with director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), actor Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) and animation filmmaker Walt Dohrn (Trolls) are out now, with more from actors Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour), Shohreh Aghdashloo ( House of Sand and Fog) and director Julie Taymor (Frida) on the way.