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BMZ Review: Ocean Oasis
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Ocean Oasis
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: Dec 2000


Category: Reviews

Ocean Oasis is deliberate in setting out its primary aim: to explain the how and why behind the wide variety of life in and around the Sea of Cortez.  It is less successful in delivering a fluid and engaging portrait of this extraordinary place. The camera takes in a number of beautiful images as it swims, soars and hovers over sea and land.  Gliding sharks, colorful coral, majestic whales, silly birds, amazing rockfish - the filmmakers capture them all. Throughout the film directed by Soames Summerhays, comely naturalist Iliana Ortega Bacmeister swims, floats and mugs for the camera. But her contribution tends toward attractive, chatty tour guide more than it does scientist.

Watching Ocean Oasis is in many ways like sitting through your neighbor's vacation video - there are lot of pretty pictures, it looks like Iliana is having a great time and the Sea of Cortez is certainly an incredible place to visit. . . but  better nature documentaries leave you feeling richer than this, they make you feel like you have experienced the place and learned something substantial in the process.

Midway through Ocean Oasis the narrator informs the audience that the metabolism of a hummingbird is ten thousand times faster than that of a cactus. A strange fact and an even stranger comparison, but one that fits the film's odd and rambling sensibility. We learn that the Sea of Cortez owes its unique habitats to the fast growing coral and sponge that thrive because of cold-water currents. Where the cold water creates teeming sea life, it also prevents evaporation and makes for a desert climate around the Sea of Cortez.  This bit of factual science is served up dry and quick so that the film can move on to elephant seal fights, tern versus gull fights, and rattle snake versus rat fights. Again, these images are visually engaging but don't seem to be following any sort of thoughtful structure.

Ocean Oasis ends on an admirable note emphasizing the importance of preservation and conservation of the Sea of Cortez. This sentiment is followed up with an overblown orchestral score and more images of Iliana swimming Blue Lagoon style off and away. The filmmakers know how to please the eye, but it is not always the prettiest pictures that tell the best story.

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