Thursday, December 22, 2011

DVD Review: Ozzy Osbourne "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne"

DVD Review: Ozzy Osbourne "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne"
Eagle Vision
All Access Review:  A+

In retrospect, that bubbly, tongue-in-cheek lounge version of “Crazy Train” – served with off-the-charts levels of irony – that became the theme of “The Osbournes” reality TV show wound up being more telling than its creator, Lewis Lamedica, perhaps intended. His speech largely unintelligible, except for the omnipresent swearing, Osbourne seemed to have difficulty mastering the simplest of everyday, domestic tasks, a fact borne out by the famous scenes of him befuddled by that dastardly TV remote. 

This was heavy metal’s crowned “prince of darkness”? This was the man regarded by God-fearing, Bible thumpers as evil incarnate? Surely, Satan had more capable henchmen to do his bidding. At home, everybody was laughing at the bumbling, semi-coherent mess train wreck they watched from their living rooms, making light of a family’s seemingly benign dysfunction. What they didn’t know was that, behind the scenes, Ozzy – as well as two of his children, Jack and Kelly – was a drunk and a drug addict seriously in need of help. Ozzy was going off the rails. 

In truth, Osbourne has always been more of a court jester than a powerful master of the dark arts. And like most clowns, underneath the greasepaint, there was sadness, crippling insecurity and a deeply flawed human being who needed to be the life of the party. His son, Jack, has seen Ozzy at his worst, and he produced the warts-and-all documentary “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne,” an unflinchingly honest portrayal of Ozzy’s wild life and times that pulls no punches in telling the whole unvarnished truth. And those who come to “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” with a mighty thirst for tales of rock and roll excess and debauchery shall be sated. Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler talks about the bags of cocaine the band had at its disposal after its early brush with success, while Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee relates the revoltingly funny stories of how Ozzy, in a game of one-upmanship, once licked up Nikki Sixx’s pee and snorted lines of ants before regaling us with another that has Ozzy smearing his own feces over a tour bus’s walls. 

But, Ozzy is, for the most part, the main storyteller here, and before launching into confessionals of his less-than-stellar parenting skills, the film details Ozzy’s failed teenage criminal enterprises, his troubled working-class upbringing, Sabbath’s rise and fall, his unexpected rebirth as a solo artist and the emotional torture he experienced after the death of his musical soul mate Randy Rhoads. All of this is well-traveled territory, of course, but it is skillfully and compelling traversed in “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne.” When Ozzy and Sharon, once again, are prompted to explain how, in a fit of drug-addled madness, he came to bite the head off a dove during a pow-wow with record label executives, they hold nothing back, and the filmmakers follow it up with a nicely edited montage of hilariously clueless TV news reports about Ozzy coming to their town to slaughter cats during a concert and, predictably, the bat-biting incident. Directors Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli, with Jack’s help, are no slouches when it comes to crafting a visual biography – the endless stream of black-and-white home-life stills, Ozzy party shots, vintage interview and Sabbath and Ozzy concert video pieced together so cleverly that it all just flows from the screen. The vast amount of interviews done with Sabbath cronies Tony Iommi and Bill Ward, plus sit-downs with Henry Rollins and others in Ozzy’s inner circle, flesh out the story, as does the footage culled from two years spent following Ozzy on the road. 

If that was all to “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” – there are plenty of extra scenes from the cutting room floor included in this DVD, plus an in-depth Q&A with Jack and Ozzy – it would fall just short of expectations, but this isn’t so much about Ozzy the rock star as it is about Ozzy the damaged addict, still reeling from the deaths of his beloved father and Rhoads and unable, or perhaps unwilling, to salvage his first marriage or establish much of a relationship with the two children it spawned. This is about repairing the devastation wrought by Ozzy’s almost inhuman substance abuse and how Jack’s sobriety became the model by which Ozzy would get clean himself. There’s a clip where Kelly, while admitting her own drug abuse, explains how she found her daddy’s stash of booze in the oven at the family home, and it illustrates just how far Ozzy had fallen and how chaotic the Osbournes’ family life really was. But, this is a story of redemption, and Ozzy’s moment of clarity does come. When the exasperated rock god relates how he asked Jack how he could be so angry when he and Kelly and Aimee, the one Osbourne with enough self-respect not to participate in the circus that was “The Osbournes,” wanted for nothing, Jack responded by saying that maybe he had lacked a father. That, Ozzy reveals, was the catalyst for his rehabilitation. In the end, there is a faraway shot of Ozzy in his dressing room bowing to his knees to pray. It’s a poignant moment, one that engenders a great deal of sympathy for this particular devil. 

-            Peter Lindblad

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