When he was first appointed movie critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, back in the late 1960s, the rumor was that he really wanted to be a sports writer, but this was the next open post based on the seniority system. At that point, he clearly knew nothing about movies.
In those early years, I could rely on him absolutely: if he liked something, I knew that I wouldn’t. Wasn’t always OK in reverse, occasionally he disliked stuff that I also disliked. He would almost always praise pretentious, overblown, self-conscious, borrrrrrrring films because he thought they were Art (capital A.)
And he’d make factual errors, too, usually in trying to show how educated he was. I don’t remember any specifically, but it would be like saying that Belmondo’s performance in the movie he was reviewing wasn’t up to the standard as his performance in JULES ET JIM, when Belmondo wasn’t even IN J&J. He’d get dates wrong, confuse actors’ and directors’ names, etc. All trying to sound erudite and knowledgable.
And he’d name-drop to the point of annoyance…“When I was having coffee with Sam Goldwyn, I said to him…”
I echo what Evil Captor said, when a reviewer sees so many movies in a week – and most of them must be pretty awful, on the rule that 90% of everything is crap – it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective. You see something mediocre and it looks great by comparison.
l stopped reading him quite some time ago. I did find his commentary on the CITIZEN KANE DVD to be entertaining and interesting. He’s probably learned something about movies in the last thirty-plus years.