t3.jpgEdward Jay Epstein is usually a particularly astute critic of Hollywood and its various disasters, but his latest Slate piece seems to take a turn for the hyperbolic absurb. In delving into the impact CGI is having on the filmmaking process, he allows a few drops of admittedly disquieting evidence to blow up into an alarmist souffle.

His prime concern seems to be the growing, budget-driven division between any given effects-heavy extravaganza's main-unit shoot, in which the above-the-title director works with flesh-and-blood actors, and its seperate but concurrent CGI production. He gives the example of Terminator 3, in which Jonathan Mostow directed one half of Arnold Schwarzeneggar's face in Los Angeles, whilst the other half, painted green for easy effects insertion, waited for CGI that wouldn't be ready until late in the post-production process. Mostow himself, on the film's DVD, admitted that "computer graphics turns the normal procedures of filmmaking upside downcalled. He called this process "the worst thing [a filmmaker] can imagine".

But Epstein seems to take the argument way too far, blaming wrinkles in filmmaking time for the very existence of bad movies.  It would seem logical that CGI is often used to distract attention away from poor concepts and shoddy scripts; Epstein maintains that in fact, the problem is the opposite, that potentially good movies are apparently being harmed because directors are working around effects that are not yet complete. "If this new economy of illusion allows the CGI side of a production to overwhelm the director's ability to tell a coherent story in his live-action side," he warns, "digital effects may prove to be the ruination of movies." So would Stealth, for instance, have been a better film even if its effects had been started after a print was locked? What do you think?