Fantastic Fungi is the Netflix movie that says “Look Down”

Let’s face it: the world is a noisy, stressful place full of bad news, and a lot of streaming entertainment reflects that. Nature documentaries like “Our Planet” offer a sort of escape from our daily lives, as fearless film crews venture deep into wasteland to capture breathtaking footage of birds of paradise do silly but awesome mating dances. It’s a soothing reminder that in hidden pockets of the planet, far from human nonsense, other lifeforms indulge in their own daily nonsense.

As “Fantastic Fungi” points out, fungi are very different from most plants and animals in that they are evolutionarily designed not be noticed. The bulk of these organisms are hidden underground, quietly communicating underground in their own version of the World Wide Web. The only time we really notice them is when they’re an unwanted topping on a pizza, or an ominous gray fuzz growing on fruit that’s been in the fruit bowl too long. As nature’s active recycling machines, they are associated with death and decay. And because we don’t usually think of mushrooms as a particularly interesting subject, the 80-minute documentary is uniquely placed to broaden your mind.

Gently paced through different areas of fungal concentration and peppered with wonderful little revelations (did you know that a mother tree can come into contact with its offspring via the mycelial network, and even share water and nutrients? Or that the mushroom spores can be used to clean up oil spills by converting the oil into mushroom food?), “Fantastic Fungi” is oddly comforting with the emphasis on “strange.” Mushrooms, we are told, were there at the very beginning of life on our planet, and they will be there to greet you when you die. When impact events wiped out the dinosaurs, fungi inherited the earth. Doubtless their reign never ended; humans simply came to think of themselves as the apex species because we weren’t paying attention to the world below our feet.

With incredible time-lapse photographs of all kinds of weird and wonderful mushrooms, not to mention stunning animation of early hominids getting high on psilocybin mushrooms picked from animal feces, “Fantastic Fungi” is a treat your brain deserves. .

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