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For those living under a rock CGI = Computer-generated imagery.

Now I freely admit that CGI can be a boon, but more often than not it is overused. I'm looking at you, George Lucas, though he's certainly not the ONLY offender.

Admittedly puppets and guys in costumes can look silly, but at least they are there and taking up space.

That's right, I finally figured out why most CGI fails for me. A CGI is nothing more than an image and while some CGI is awesome and totally believable, more often than not it falls flat because the CGI looks exactly like what it is - an image insert.

Therefore, a puppet or costume might look silly, but at least it is real. There's something to act against, which actually (I think) leads to better actor performances. However, even those not using CGI will sometimes separate the actors and shoot separately, which makes no damn sense to me. The best and most powerful scene's tend to be when the actors are together and actually acting the scene together. But lets go back to CGI...

When you have an actor dressed up or a puppet made up - there's something to take up space, so it is easier (generally) to suspend disbelief because there is actually something there. Sounds simple, but I've found so many times that CGI characters might as well not even be there, sometimes the actors just can't get it quite right, or even if the actor does the actual CGI character is just thin and flat.

However, CGI is awesome for background images and smaller characters. To be honest, I firmly believe the best CGI is where they merge an actor and an image. For example, I'm thinking about Tink from Peter Pan. The actress here really made the faces and even some of the body moves and the CGI was blended to that making an awesome character - if it hadn't been for Ludivine Sagnier, I think Tink would have felt unreal.

So even with all the evidence in favor of real over image, some "people" still seem hellbent to shortcut that and just delete the actor entirely with a plain ol' CGI character. WHY?
Which is more expensive? The actor or the CGI?
Well, before reading shadowwolf210's comments (below), I was about to say that actors were probably more expensive. My reasoning was that if actors and costumes were cheaper then they'd probably be used more than CGI, apparently not.
CGI is infinitely more expensive.

As strange as it might be coming from someone who is going to school for graphic arts, and is planning on specializing in CGI effects, I completely agree with you. Most CGI should be about marrying an actor/object to the special effects of CGI to get an utterly believable character. Animation/cartoons even do that by videotaping the actors voicing them and incorporating their facial expressions and motions to their character.

Of course, there are those exceptions where you can use anything but CGI and it has been done rather well, but I do generally believe that actors should be doing the part, even if they are completely unrecognizable through CGI (Gollum comes to mind--that was a brilliant bit of merging actor and CGI to create an inhuman character.)

(I really loved your Peter Pan example--that actress was amazing! I really adored her portrayal of Tink.)
Gollum was awesomely done, and there have been others awesomely done.

But what really inspired this rant was that I was watching Farscape (you know the awesomely done show with the puppets) and right after that ended up watching a movie (which I'll be nice and not name) that was CGI-heavy, admittedly not all was bad, but most of it was horrible...

That was when it hit me - puppet characters and folks in make-up might not always look as good as the CGI (can sometimes look down-right unintentionally funny), but... well, you've read the original rant, no sense in me repeating it, right. ;)