Judge Victor Valdivia bites the heads off bats and urinates on the Alamo—but that's just another Saturday night to him.
Our review of God Bless Ozzy Osbourne (Blu-ray), published December 7th, 2011, is also available.
The first rock documentary to take viewers inside the mind and psyche of a legendary and timeless cultural figure.
In many ways, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is somewhat redundant. By this point, Ozzy Osbourne has demystified his formerly Satanic image in so many places, most notably with his infamous 2002 reality series The Osbournes, that there's little your average pop-culture enthusiast doesn't already know about him. How Osbourne began as the lead singer of Black Sabbath in the late '60s; how he was fired in 1979 and began a solo career; how he resurrected his career with the help of his wife and manager Sharon (who's now a celebrity in her own right); how his children, with Sharon have watched the often volatile relationship between them; and how he has been struggling with sobriety almost since the beginning of his musical career.
In light of just how public Osbourne's foibles have been, you might wonder what the point of God Bless Ozzy Osbourne could be. Is there anything here that even viewers only vaguely familiar with Osbourne wouldn't already know? The answer is that there aren't any shocking revelations or new stories, but it does hit some emotional truths even Osbourne's most devoted fans might have never considered. By doing so, it ends up being much more valuable than your average music documentary and makes it worth seeing even for non-fans.
Interestingly, the documentary is at its most disappointing in examining Osbourne's music. There is an extended section detailing Osbourne's career in Black Sabbath, complete with interviews with the other members of the band and other musicians (such as Henry Rollins) who explain Sabbath's influence, but this section is easily the dullest on the DVD. There isn't anything here that even the most casual rock fan doesn't already know or understand about Sabbath's music and importance. Even more disappointing is how God Bless Ozzy Osbourne handles Osbourne's solo career. The standard line on Osbourne's post-Sabbath work has always been that only his first two solo albums, Blizzard of Ozz (1980) and Diary of a Madman (1981), are worth caring about, mainly because of guitarist Randy Rhoads (who died in a plane crash in 1982). It would have been interesting to hear Osbourne address his subsequent solo work, perhaps to address how he handled Rhoads' absence or to even explain if he feels that the post-Rhoads albums are underappreciated. Instead, the documentary devotes much time to those first two albums and completely ignores the rest, even showing Ozzy watching his mid-'80s videos and muttering that he doesn't remember anything about them.
What God Bless Ozzy Osbourne does right is address just how high a price Osbourne has paid to live up to his scabrous image. The real shocking moments in this documentary are not the recitations of Osbourne's more outrageous stunts (after a certain point, those just become numbing), but the scenes involving his family. When his children, both the ones from his first marriage in the '70s and the ones with Sharon in the '80s, are all asked independently if they think of him as a good father and they all respond, without any prompting, that they do not, even the most jaded viewer will be taken aback. Sure, it's easy to imagine that Osbourne's antics would take a toll on his family, but to see just how bluntly they address it, without sparing his feelings (though he's not in the room, they surely knew that he would hear what they would say) clearly shows the depth of their resentment and pain. That's why Osbourne's line that he had to learn to separate Ozzy Osbourne from John Michael Osbourne (his given name) is a crucial point. It's why God Bless Ozzy Osbourne isn't so much about the wild life and times of a rock star, but about how he comes to terms with the wreckage his behavior left behind. In these moments, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is so emotionally affecting that you'll forgive its flaws as a music documentary.
Technically, the disc is, like other Eagle Rock music DVDs, typically first-rate. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is crisp and clear, although some of the archival footage shows its age. The surround mixes show off the music to advantage, but are rather superfluous on the interview segments. The special features are good. "Q&A with Jack and Ozzy" (19:17) consists of a blunt interview with Osbourne and his son Jack, who served as executive producer of the film. There are "Deleted Scenes" (14:17) that add some interesting stories here and there. Finally, the disc is rounded out with "Tribeca Film Festival" (4:07), some footage and interviews from the film's premiere.
Ultimately, God Bless Ozzy Osbourne isn't really important as a musical biography; there's little here you couldn't learn in an average episode of Behind the Music or by reading Wikipedia. It is, however, much more interesting in its emotional revelations. When Osbourne mentions in the interview with Jack that the film made him weep when he saw it, you'll understand why. It's only OK as a music documentary, but as a portrait of how a man (regardless of profession) grapples with his demons, it's actually remarkably incisive. Watch it with those expectations and you'll be surprised at how effective it can be.
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