Yes, Linus gave Nvidia the middle finger, and from a certain perspective it was for a good reason, but from another perspective, it's just "ranting".
Nvidia has insisted on closed source proprietary drivers. Does this mean the drivers are crap? Nope, it just makes it very difficult for the open source community to troubleshoot/support them.
ATI/AMD is in the same boat. They have proprietary drivers. Arguably, Nvidia drivers are better. In my experience the ATI/AMD drivers tend to have more bugs. They also have a tendency to release support for a new xorg-server well after the server has been released, thus forcing those of us on the bleeding edge to wait. On the otherhand, they help support the open source drivers, which is great. But, the open source drivers lag behind, so if you're a gamer and dual boot to Windows and have a great ATI/AMD card, it may not work properly under the Linux open source drivers or with a bleeding edge distro with the latest and greatest xorg-server.
Otherwise, if you want "gamer-grade" graphics, you basically have a choice between Nvidia and ATI/AMD. Both have their tradeoffs.
If you don't care about gamer-grade graphics cards, Intel drivers are open source, well maintained, and the new sandy bridge and ivy bridge graphics are more than good enough for almost anything but gaming (they're okay for low to mid-low end gaming but that's about it).
My solution is a thinkpad w520 with optimus graphics. I use optimus graphics under windows when I want to game (quadro 2000m) and use the integrated intel graphics for linux with bbswitch to disable the nvidia gpu so my battery life doesn't suck. But it really does boil down to, do you want to game? If so, you have no choice but a proprietary driver or not-up-to-snuff open source driver. If not, stick with onboard Intel. Decent graphics performance and much better battery life than most discrete solutions.