Saturday, August 27, 2011

Movie Review: God Bless Ozzy Osbourne

Last night we attended the first of two screenings of the long awaited Jack Osbourne directed, ‘God Bless Ozzy Osbourne.’  I’m not sure what I went in expecting from it, I’d only just recently watched the trailer to the film and I thought it looked very promising.  I have to say, at the end of the two hour film I felt nothing.  I’ve seen many, many music films and documentaries and after the special ones they make you want to root for the subject.  Anvil, Lemmy, Iron Maiden, Metallica etc. etc.  In those films the story outweighs the music in connecting the artist to the fans.  The film makers do this through emotion and a storyline extremely well put together and the connection is almost impossible to ignore. 

In ‘God Bless Ozzy Osbourne’ there’s definitely a conscious effort to remove all the glitz and glamor and a sincere hope people view his father in a different light, that’s something I can understand.  However this isn’t 1978, 88, or even 2008 and the public opinion of Ozzy isn’t what it used to be.  I mean are there really people who still think Ozzy is a “devil worshipper,” “chicken-killer,” “bat-biter,” and “Alamo-pisser?”  Really?  I didn’t think so.  In my opinion, where Jack Osbourne ultimately fails as not only a film maker but as a story teller, he fails in his choice of stories!  
If you’ve seen the early 90’s VHS release ‘Don’t Blame Me,’ or VH1’s “Ozzy Osbourne :Behind The Music” or any of the A&E/Biography/E! channel specials on Ozzy, sorry to say you’ve basically seen ‘God Bless…’ I’m not saying they’re identical, but how many more times do we need to hear about Ozzy lapping up Nikki Sixx’ piss from 1984?  You see it’s not just the Nikki piss story, it’s all the other folk lore Ozzy stories I alluded to earlier, “Alamo,” “Bat,” “Dove.”  They’re here, again, told the same way.  Like the crazy uncle telling stories from his hippie days at Christmas, they’re good the first ten or so times.  You laugh, good stuff, right?  However you want to suffocate the motherfucker with a pillow after the twentieth time!  Even the Sabbath stuff, we know how the name came about, we know so much of this stuff, why not make good on the film’s trailer and give the audience something new?  

The “new” I am referring to is the interview footage shot with the Osbourne children.  Not only the ones Sharon gave birth to, but more importantly, Jessica and Louis, the children from his first marriage.   I’ve said many times, here and in person, Ozzy Osbourne is not capable of telling his life story.  The key to putting all the pieces together is his supporting cast.  When it comes to Ozzy the musician, there are several key characters you MUST speak to/with.  When it comes to John Michael, the human being it’s all about the children.  I thought that’s what this film was supposed to be about.  Its unfortunate there’s not more in the film with each of them.

But thinking about it, really how much more “he wasn’t there for us” could both Ozzy as well as the audience listen to?  Each child had their own stories of the hell and horror of having to live with the super addict Ozzy Osbourne is/was and how substance abuse can take a toll on being a parent.  One of the children, maybe Aimee, told the story of not knowing whether Ozzy was on “uppers” or “downers” and how much alcohol he’d consumed and what that would do to his mood that day.   Now, this is the tough part, one of them at least, about getting older and seeing this film as a father myself.   The young Tom wouldn’t think twice about what a shitty father Ozzy was to his family.  40 year old Tom finds it sad and disgusting.  When one of the interviewers asked Ozzy the birth date of his first daughter…and I don’t fucking care what marriage she was from or any of that shit…but he had no idea.  

The film is not terrible, I don’t want my criticism to sound like the film is worthless, it definitely has some historic and entertainment value. Some excellent Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads archival footage as well as multiple TV pieces throughout the years help tell the amazing rags to riches story. Ozzy visiting his childhood home in Aston, Birmingham is one of the best scenes in the film.  Actually all of the footage filmed in Birmingham is excellent.  We see the prison where Ozzy spent time in after getting busted for breaking into a store.  There’s also a shot of Ozzy standing outside his grade school [which if I can dork out for a second, the school they show? that playground?  If we presume that’s the school where Tony Iommi used to beat on Ozzy as kids during their school years, that’s amazing to see]  and the absolute honesty in both his voice and eyes tell more of a story than what you see on screen. 

There’s some almost shocking stuff based around ‘The Osbournes’ series and hearing about Ozzy’s state during the filming and re-watching some of that footage several years down the line is frighteningly real…put it this way, Sharon is an evil cunt of a woman, but I can’t believe she allowed her family to be filmed at such a time in their lives.  From her Cancer to the others being completely fucked up, the power of the dollar rules all!

Cameos in the film are similar to any other music doc, some are essential and add color and spice to a story and some just waste oxygen.  Henry Rollins, Rudy Sarzo, Robert Trujillo, the three members of Black Sabbath and Ozzy’s PA, Tony Dennis are all pleasures to watch reminisce on screen.   While it would NEVER happen, a book by Tony Dennis would be one of the greatest stories ever told!  However, one doesn’t keep a job like his for 30+ years by spilling the beans, shame though!   The end of the film basically focuses on the sobriety aspect of the Osbournes.  There’s an interview at the end of the film with Ozzy and Jack and some great stuff is spoken about, and believe me, I salute them and anyone facing the throes of addiction.  It’s amazing what sobriety has done for Ozzy as his health, speech and demeanor are light years ahead of what we’re used to seeing. 

In closing, maybe it’s the ol “feel sorry for the fanatic” syndrome.  Perhaps if I didn’t know so much about the man, then maybe the film would have been exactly what I was hoping for.  However to debunk this myth, Mrs. Vader accompanied me to the theater and while she’s no “encyclopedia metallica” she’s seen some of the above mentioned television programs/videos and felt ‘God Bless…’ could have come up with something more than a bunch of rehash.   

Maybe this was and my problem…I suppose when you go to see something that holds so much promise you want to love it, you want to cheer for it, you want to tell your friends about what you just experienced and how it’s moved you. I didn’t get any of that tonight.  I feel this film is made for the casual fan, the outsider, the person who does not buy or listen to Ozzy or Sabbath music.  Why???  Why pander to them? To those people Ozzy Osbourne will always be the “bat-biting,” “Alamo-pissing,” “Suicide Solution,” “Dove-chomping,” “piss-licking,” sonofabitch. You know what, that makes me happy.