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Mitt Romney Likes 'Transformers,' And Other Vague Insults

"Oh yeah? Well . . . well . . . you liked 'Transformers'!"

It's entirely possible that by the time America decides this November whether Barack Obama gets another four years or the Republican Party has earned another at-bat, that - erm - "insult" will actually become a thing.

Film legend Robert Redford on Friday opened the 2012 rendition of the Sundance Film Festival he co-founded, and Entertainment Weekly reports that the admittedly left-leaning actor and filmmaker let things get strange quickly. Oh, you're already asking "C'mon, it's Robert Redford. How strange could it get?"

His stream of consciousness managed to slam GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney, Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies and the American economy awkwardly onto the same rocks.

Before Redford dragged Bay's bombastic, multi-billion grossing action trilogy about warring robots in disguise into his social commentary, would you believe that he actually declared that he would never personally enter America's political fray because he found recent Republican debates and the "mushroom cloud of ego hovering over everybody" entirely too absurd? He was in the process of answering a question about whether or not the importance of commercial success had rendered film useless as expressive art form.

"Mitt Romney can go see what he wants to see," Redford said. "If he wants 'Transformers,' great. It's there for him. But that's not what we are . . . The people that wanna see 'Transformers' or want to be entertained by action films, particularly the kind that are driven by new technology that create special effects and so forth . . . That will always be there."

There must be some follow-up on that quote by people in much better position to get Mr. "Horse Whisperer" to explain the what-the-f***ery of that "the people that wanna see 'Transformers'" bit. Unless I miss my guess, Redford is taking a cause-convenient timeout from acknowledging nationwide economic uncertainty, in order to actually complain - while opening a celebrity-infested celebration of pretentious film in the trendy, vanilla, "Wonder what the poor people that are someplace we're not are doing today?" exclusive resort-town of Aspen, CO - about a franchise that has pumped $2.67 billion worth of consumer income into theaters.

"The people that wanna see 'Transformers'" . . . so, apparently billions of movie-goers? Those "people?"

Oh, I get it. The "people" who go to movies to escape their troubles, know what they like and gravitate toward it - many of whom, coincidentally, haven't the means to trek to Aspen once a year to watch movies made on budgets approximately equal to a seasonal cabin in the Rockies.

He must mean those "people." Though I'm no "Transformers" fan, he means my "people."

"When you think about the fact that other countries are far more supportive of their artists than we are, to me that's unforgivable," he continued, before someone could mention that whole negligible "deficit" thing. He then declared the "narrow-minded" people of Congress art's enemies because they fear change and things that promote it. He hopes "they will eventually just go away."

"People who keep trying to put art into a trivial pursuit, or [say] it's not important or it's a waste of time, I'd like to think that is shrinking," he added. "It still exists, as you can see. Try to get money for the National Endowment for the Arts - it's still hard. It's still hard because there are those people out there who say, 'Why give money to art? It means nothing.' I think it means a lot and we're here [at Sundance] to try to prove how much it does mean. We can only do what we can do, but we're going to keep doing it."

Hey, Robert? Here's a tidbit or two for you.

Kevin Smith made his very first full-length film, 1994's "Clerks," for $27,575 raised between himself and his partners, shooting the black-and-white flick about Gen-X disenfranchisement between New Jersey convenience store and video store clerks at the store where he worked. It grossed over $3 million, tied for the Filmmakers' Trophy at Sundance with the film "Fresh," and led to studios hurling millions at Smith over the next decade plus to make "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," "Dogma," "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Clerks 2."

NEA contribution? Zero.

Ever seen a little flick made by Wes Craven called "A Nightmare on Elm Street?" Director Wes Craven made it in 1984 on a $1.8 million budget. New Line Cinema's distribution deal fell through during filming, and for two weeks, cast and crew couldn't be paid. They found a way. They often paid people out of their own pockets. It made its budget back in its first week in release.

NEA contribution? Zero.

"Paranormal Activity?" Creator Oren Peli made it on a self-financed $15,000 budget and shot the film in his own home. He paid his two leads $500 each for their work initially. Sundance rejected it.

It grossed $193.4 million after being picked up by Paramount, spawned two hit sequels, and has a third set for release October 2012.

Ever hear of a director named Robert Rodriguez? He made a 1992 $7,000 action flick called "El Mariachi" in which he cast friends and friends of friends, many of whom helped finance, shoot and produce the picture. It was to be a direct-to-video release for the Mexican market. Columbia Pictures loved it, picked it up and it grossed $2.04 million. Based on that, Columbia Pictures in 1995 gave him $7 million to make a follow-up called "Desperado" that starred Antonio Banderas and a then-unknown Salma Hayek.

As for "El Mariachi?" In 2011, the Library of Congress inducted it into its National Film Registry.

Let this really bake your ziti: throughout the history of great art, it hasn't necessarily always been government that's financed it. In fact, it's often been independent, wealthy noblemen and women who became patrons of artists they fancied, and commissioned works.

Think of it as kind of an early Kickstarter. Hm, that smell like a segue to me . . .

Ever heard of Julia Nunes? She's a New York-based musician who made a name for herself first making YouTube music videos. She parlayed that into not only two successful full-length albums and an EP that she admittedly sank herself into debut to make while still attending college, but also gigs touring with Ben Folds and Ben Kweller. To make her latest one, she started a Kickstarter project in which she solicited donations from fans, in exchange for donation level-appropriate goodies ranging from autographed copies of the CD and grateful mentions in the liner notes, to a personal living-room concert.

She told fans she needed $10,000. In less than 24 hours, she'd received $19,000. By the project's end, she'd raised $77,888.

She'll also be performing live on "Conan" Jan. 24.

NEA contribution? Zero.

Here's a thought, Redford: be as one of those early patrons. Commission something yourself! Step down from atop your lofty, snow-capped Aspen perch and practice what you preach. Fund movies you like on your own. Studios aren't charities. They're in the business of making money, and it's rare they've ever put up a convincing front that their motivations have ever been anything but that. It's no secret.

Quite frankly, if Congress were doling out millions to artists and then taking to the press to feed America the "Woe is us, financial collapse is imminent!" line, the outcry would deservedly make the recent protests concerning the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Acts look like a slap fight between pissy pre-schoolers at snack time over who slobbered on whose animal crackers.

My philosophy toward entertainment is pretty damn simple: if I want to see a movie, read a book, listen to an album or play a video game, I reward the maker for making something that appeals to my taste and brings me joy by paying for it myself. The Kickstarter model is brilliant: the best way for fans to keep enjoying the works of artists they appreciate? Basically, help commission the work with the artist's grateful thanks - and a few gratefully given perks.

Therefore, it would bother me immensely to know that my tax dollars were going toward independent movies that probably won't get enough distribution for me to get to see them in any convenient fashion.

If I want entertainment, I'll support what I like and pay for it myself. Our society already expects far too much propping-up by our governments. The least I can do is amuse myself without expecting others to be subsidized to do it for me.

Watch Redford's full opening remarks below.

Watch live streaming video from sundancefest at livestream.com