The NMI Unit’s picks for best holiday movies and books

It’s that time of year: a chance to reflect on the last 12 months, and for many of us, quality time with family and/or friends, and lots of good food. (Unless you are Bronwyn, in which case you are in your office, reveling in having no one around…bah, humbug!) It is also an opportunity to escape – either figuratively or literally – into holiday-themed stories. Having trouble deciding which holiday movies and books to prioritize this year? Never fear! NMI Unit staff and colleagues have you covered. See our top picks below.

Re-imagined images courtesy of Megan McCuller and Andie Woodson.  

Janet’s Pick- “A Crustacean Story”

Screenshot of scene from “A Crustacean Story”

It’s Crustacean time and the only thing Ralphie the shrimp wants is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot, Range Model Sea-Squirting Rifle, but every adult shrimp tells him “You’ll shoot your compound eye out!” Raphie’s Old Man receives a major award (a lamp shaped like the legs of a centipede), and some before-school hijinks result in Ralphie’s friend getting his tongue-eating isopod frozen to a flagpole. Confrontations with schoolyard bully lobsters and a very crabby department store Santa follow. Ralphie gets his coveted Sea-Squirting rifle, but Crustacean dinner is ruined through a series of misadventures and the whole family goes out to eat sushi on Crustacean Day.

Trish’s Pick- “Rudolph the Red Swamp Crayfish”

Destined to be a holiday classic, “Rudolph the Red Swamp Crayfish” is a cautionary tale about adolescent alienation and the perils of xenophobia.

The story begins with a young, shall we say juvenile, Rudolph, being dropped irresponsibly into a new community. Alone and lonely, Rudolph attempts to make friends in his new environment (a crayfish farm run by, none other than Santa himself), but the native crayfish don’t let “poor” Rudolph to join in any crayfish games. I leave you to ponder what type of games these might be. Santa however, sees great potential in young Rudolph and quietly sets about finding ways to entice Clarice, a drab yet coquettish young female with a penchant for outsider bad boys, to spend time with Rudolph near a remote island at the back of the pond. As fortune would have it, on Christmas Eve a storm whips up and all the native xenophobic crayfish, including Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Blitzen – who had been keeping their distance from Rudolph and Clarice – are decimated,  leaving only poor Rudolph and Clarice. Try as Santa might (he doesn’t try all that hard), he never recovers his native population, because as Rudolph and Clarice molt into adults and their budding friendship turns to love, they end up repopulating Santa’s farm with hybrids.

Andie’s Pick- “Elf”

After growing up at the North Pole with all the elf shrimp, Buddy finds out that he is not actually a shrimp at all- he is a lobster! He goes on a journey across the ocean to find his birth father who turns out to be a grumpy old lobster with no Christmas spirit. With the help of his new found lobster friends and brother, Buddy begins to adjust to his new life as both an honorary shrimp elf and a lobster.

Trish’s Other Pick- “Amahl and the Night Crawlers”

If you see only one movie this holiday season about the spirit of giving, see this one!

Set in Judea, Amahl is a disabled boy who uses a crutch to walk. One night, there’s a knock at the door and his mother tells Amahl to go see who it is. Amahl is amazed to see three splendidly dressed worms wriggling on the doorstep. The mother tells Amahl, to just go ahead and step on them, but when Amahl disobeys her and invites them in, the mother faints. Amahl rushes to her side and revives her. Seeing how much Amahl cares for his mother, the three wise worms explain they are on their way to see a magical newborn baby, and that were planning to give the baby some of their self-secreted dirt. Grateful to Amahl for not squishing them after his mother told him to, the three Wise Worms use the magical dirt to heal Amahl’s leg. Amahl and his mother are so impressed with the healing properties of the Wise Worms’ “dirt,” they search their home for a replacement gift for the baby. Finding only his crutch Amahl offers to help the Wise Worms on their journey. Amahl ultimately gives the crutch to the baby, who upon seeing the stick and the nightcrawlers, decides to become a fisherman…or was that a fisher of men?

Bonus Pick- “Frosty the Snow Crab”

A classic, but little-known, book geared towards all those larval crabs. Makes a great gift! What more can we say?  

Arshi’s Pick- “The Invertebrate Express”

One night, a young lobster decides to hop onto a mysterious ocean current named The Invertebrate Express along with hundreds of other invertebrates. He soon learns that it is headed to the Arctic Ocean to meet the legendary Mr. Claws, a crayfish, who many doubt is even real, including the young lobster. Eventually, he meets Mr. Claws and gets picked to be given the first gift of Decapodmas, and learns what it is like to truly have Decapod Spirit.

Alli’s Pick- “Santa Stars is Coming to Town”

This recounts the story of a baby sea star named Stris who was left on the doorstep of the toy-making Echinos. When Stris grew up, he wanted to deliver toys to the children of Starrytown, but the evil Urchinmeister is too mean to let that happen. To make things worse, there’s an evil wizard named Winter who lives between the Echinos and Starrytown. With the help of some friends, Stris manages to melt Winter’s heart, and deliver the toys, earning him the nickname “Santa Stars”.

Laura’s Pick- “Jack Frost”

Jack (Mantis Shrimp) Frost, leader of the band Smash and Spear, struggles to connect with family. On a cold winter’s day, Jack and his son decide to build an anemone from marine snow. After their special day, Jack decides to give his son a very expensive acoustic dampener for his raptorial claws. On Christmas Day an evil barracuda swallows Jack Frost without warning. In morning Jack’s son uses his dampener to crack a tune. Jack comes to life as a real anemone and becomes an important role model in his son’s life; which he never bothered to do as a mantis shrimp.

Trish’s Other Other Pick- “Millipede on 34th Street”

This Christmas you will believe! “Millipede on 34th Street” tells the story of Kris Kringle, an older mild-mannered millipede who on Thanksgiving Day, crawls aboard Santa’s sleigh during the annual Macy’s parade. Children everywhere, including Doris’s (a beleaguered Macy’s employee) daughter Susan, begin to question did they really see a millipede on television?  Though Susan, a budding young entomologist, and her neighbor Fred, a wildlife conservation lawyer, want to believe that millipedes can survive the holiday throng in New York City, Doris is somewhat skeptical. Meanwhile back at Macy’s, Dr. Sawyer, an evil man who suffers from Myriapodophobia, discovers Kris curled up in Santa’s hat and threatens to call an exterminator. Will Doris discover the truth about Kris in time? Will Fred file a lawsuit against Dr. Sawyer? Will Susan grow up to be an entomologist? Get to the cinema as fast as your many legs can carry you to find out.

Bronwyn’s Pick- “The Night Before Leechmas”

“‘Twas the night before Leechmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a sea mouse.”

So reads the first lines of this timeless classic, a poem that can’t help but warm the hearts of the deepest of deep sea creatures. A bout of insomnia results in an experience that the narrator will never forget, short of a neuralyzer (sensu MIB). St. Nick, the jolly skeleton shrimp, pilots his miniature sleigh, pulled by eight tiny Cythere*, onto a marine snow covered outcropping deep in the ocean. With a bound, St. Nick is out of the sleigh and down a hole, emerging into the resting chamber of the narrator’s burrow. As odd as this all seemed, the narrator was not afraid; it was the wink of St. Nick’s eye or the herky-jerky twist of his head, or maybe just the adorable Tim Burton-esque visage of a skeleton shrimp in a red and white cap. Regardless, St. Nick brought gifts for the wee larvae, including pet fish leeches (it is Leechmas, after all). Who can argue with that? As quickly as he arrived, he departed, St. Nick and his tiny sleigh, with a shout: “Happy Leechmas to all, and to all a good night.” 

*Cythere is the scientific name for a group (i.e., genus) of ostracods.  

Well… I think that is everyone! Thanks so much for reading our holiday picks! We realize it is quite different from our regular material; however, we enjoyed working as a team to put this together, and we hope you enjoyed reading it. Be sure to comment below what your favorite holiday blockbusters are. From all of us here at the NMI Unit, have yourself safe and happy holidays. We’ll see you in 2019!!

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