Sunday, September 2, 2012

God Bless Ozzy Osbourne - 2011

"God Bless Ozzy Osbourne" - 2011
Dir. by Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli - 1 hr. 34 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There is a fine line between making a documentary about a musician and creating an episode of "Behind the Music."  Since BtM has really nailed down a particular documentary format about the rise and fall of musicians, it can be very difficult to break free from not just that format, but the same sort of approach (particularly when you're dealing with people who have not lead squeaky-clean lives).  So the bar really becomes whether or not something was achieved in this film that couldn't be done on BtM.

The very beginning of this film states that the film-makers were able to spend two years (not in full, I'd assume) with Ozzy Osbourne.  You might only know him from the hit MTV series, "The Osbournes," which would be really weird, but he's also known as the singer of Black Sabbath, one of the hugest and most influential metal bands ever.  He went on to have a successful solo career, as well, and still tours to huge crowds wherever he goes.  Also, if you hadn't heard, he had a bit of a wild side (and if you hadn't heard of that element before, you should probably clear an evening and do some research about Ozzy's past).  But he's sober now, and chugging along nicely.

So that's the outline of this film, which is just as it would be on that TV show that you're probably already sick of me mentioning.  What are the positive differences in this film?  For one, no studio interviews.  Also, despite nearly always playing clips of songs instead of full performances, there is a lot of archival footage shown.  Sometimes, these kinds of films will tap-dance around having to license old footage, which is why you often see slow zooms on still photographs playing over music.  Not here.  There's footage (and photos) of Ozzy from every point on the spectrum of his career.  There are interviews with members of both of his families, and no one's particularly shy about letting everyone know exactly what effect Ozzy's substance abuse had on his ability to be a good parent.

But more to the point, "God Bless..." covers pretty much everything you'd want to know about Ozzy; how Black Sabbath came together, how he ended up with Sharon, details about his substance abuse, interviews with fellow musicians (Tommy Lee and Paul McCartney are among the peers interviewed), Sabbath band members, and possibly estranged family members, dirt of the filthiest variety, what was really going on during "The Osbournes," his friendship with and mourning of Randy Rhoads, it's all there.  This is a really watchable film, pretty much all the way through.

What's missing, though?  It's difficult to put my finger on it, but at almost no point does "God Bless..." show that it needed to exist.  The film-makers may have spent two years with Ozzy, but it doesn't really show up in the final product.  There may be the opportunity to see pictures of Ozzy holding zip-lock bags of cocaine, what this film does not have is any special insight into Ozzy.  He did drugs because he felt inadequate?  Dr. Drew would have probably guessed as much in five seconds.  People love Ozzy?  No kidding; why else would you make a movie about him?  Speaking strictly for myself, I would have killed for any kind of examination or explanation of his creative process, particularly during the Sabbath years.  I knew Ozzy did drugs and drank, but where the hell did "Iron Man" come from?

Focusing on the freak-show aspect diminishes his actual accomplishments, of which there are many.  The closest that "God Bless..." comes to this sort of thing is a late segment where Ozzy watches some of his old videos from the 1980s.  He's dismissive of them, but that's about as deep as any of this gets.  I'm not even going to pretend that I didn't enjoy watching "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne;" I'm a fan of his music, and on that level, this film gives fans something to enjoy.  But there's not enough going on to make this a must-see documentary if you're not already on-board.

2.5 / 5 - TV

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