Last night, The Patient Mrs. and I went to see the new documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne at its New Jersey “special premiere event.” I had posted the press release on the news forum last week, but the short version is the movie was produced by Jack Osbourne, directed by Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli, and promised “the most honest portrait” of his father (Ozzy, duh) through his years with Black Sabbath and as a mind-blowingly successful solo artist.
Now obviously, to tell the whole story would require a 17-hour Ken Burns special and then some — as Ozzy has simply led that much life — but though God Bless Ozzy Osbourne started out promising by charting his childhood and Black Sabbath‘s formation and first several records, the movie soon took a turn and abandoned that method of storytelling, jumping directly from a scene of current Ozzy watching and being disgusted by the video for “The Ultimate Sin” to the first season of the MTV reality show The Osbournes, which came some 16 years later, and shifting the focus from his sundry triumphs and inebriated antics to his getting clean and, as Sharon Osbourne put it in one of her many dime-store-therapist-lingo interview segments, “growing up.”
That’s fine. I went into God Bless Ozzy Osbourne thinking it was probably going to be a one-sided take on the man’s life, perhaps some effort to restore the dignity that the last decade has stripped him of (The Osbournes playing no small part in that, but by no means being the only misstep), and that’s precisely what it was. The fact is that he’s an entertaining interview — I’ve never been so fortunate myself — and that alone is worth watching. Tony Iommi appeared three or four times, and since the movie-current live footage sprinkled throughout had Zakk Wylde on guitar, I’m guessing it was from 2008-2009, right around the time Iommi and Osbourne were embroiled in that lawsuit over the rights to the name Black Sabbath. I guess they were lucky to get him at all, if that’s the case.
But even so, the “most honest portrait” it wasn’t. Scenes of Ozzy‘s kids from his first and second marriage saying he was a shitty father popped up and were gone with little examination or criticism, flashing back and forth to a current interview thread of Ozzy talking about it, and he still couldn’t remember what year his first daughter was born. In addition, in talking about his relationship with Sharon, they laid out the timing that it began roughly two years before he divorced his first wife, but never mentioned it as an affair, the two of them laughing instead that they were either in bed, on the bus, or on stage at that point in their lives. Har har. And when talking about their marriage, Ozzy says he wanted to start a family and that’s why he married Sharon, completely neglecting to mention his two prior children, who just a few minutes ago, were remembered as begging him not to leave them.
So really, it’s got its issues. Leaving the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder about the footage they left out. They didn’t even interview Zakk Wylde! Robert Trujillo, who played bass with Ozzy‘s band for a while, is never mentioned as having done so, instead showing up as a representative of Metallica — which is laughable — and since you apparently can’t say anything about Black Sabbath these days without Henry Rollins showing up, he was there. Tommy Lee told a few choice stories of touring with Ozzy in 1985, and Rudy Sarzo gave a heartfelt reminisce of the day Randy Rhoads died, but there was a lot they left out, both positive and negative. Here are the five things that most stuck out to me:
1. Master of Reality
After recounting the first two Sabbath albums, they mentioned 1971′s Master of Reality, showed the cover, and then brushed it aside to talk about Vol. 4. Not for nothing, but Master of Reality has been scientifically proven to be the greatest album of all time. They’ve done tests. In labs. Nothing is better. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, because Technical Ecstasy didn’t get mentioned at all. Seriously. Like it didn’t exist. No love for “Rock & Roll Doctor.”
This was a real surprise, especially with the time spent giving the highlights of Ozzy‘s career. The festival of which he was the namesake? Nothing about it ever appeared in the movie.
3. Jake E. Lee
Nope. The guy basically saved Ozzy‘s post-Randy Rhoads career. And nothing.
4. The second, third and fourth seasons of The Osbournes
You’d imagine in watching God Bless Ozzy Osbourne that someone tricked the family into filming their lives for MTV. I think it’s Kelly at one point (might be Jack) who says something about people thinking it was funny, but it was really watching their family fall apart because of her father’s drinking and drug use. Meanwhile, they raked in shitloads of cash on that and kept it going for three years! If it’s that awful, even if you’re contractually obligated, pull out and take the lawsuit. Aimee Osbourne continues to look like a young woman who has her shit together.
5. Any music after 1986.
No No More Tears, no Ozzmosis. In the live footage, Ozzy sings some of “No More Tears,” but no studio album after Bark at the Moon is discussed in detail, and neither is the reunion with Black Sabbath in 1997, the retirement tour, or even the names of the people in the current (as of the movie) band. Mike Bordin is shown playing drums a few times, and Wylde makes regular appearances on stage, but it looks like the camera is actively trying to avoid Rob “Blasko” Nicholson.
I’m glad Ozzy Osbourne is sober. In God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, toward the end of the film, he is shown driving, talking about getting his driver’s license and wanting to have his shit together, feeling like he loves himself for the first time in his life. He speaks clearly and stands up straight and looks nothing like the bumbling man in the garden yelling, “Sharon!” This is all wonderful. I mean it. I also think that part of having that ability to truly be comfortable with who you are means accepting your failures as well as your successes. You could easily say he didn’t make the film, and he didn’t — Sharon is listed as executive producer and Jack is given the aforementioned producer credit — but there’s no question it’s a favorable take rather than a genuine examination of his career and life.
It’s one side of a story to which there are probably 50 other sides, and I’m sure you could make a 90-minute documentary about the first Sabbath album and it would seem too short, but if the project is too much to chew, then what’s accomplished by putting it out there anyway is a few entertaining stories, choice interviews, some live footage (the 1974 California Jam is always welcome), and nothing approaching the raw analysis promised. So it was.
Tags: Birmingham, Black Sabbath, Gods, Ozzy Osbourne, UK