All this week I’ve been reviewing the Oscar nominees for best short animation, which open Friday at Landmark’s Century Centre. Check back this time tomorrow for the last installment.

Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s A Wild Life is one of two Oscar contenders that were funded by the National Film Board of Canada (the other is Patrick Doyon’s Dimanche), which only goes to show that, for all the supposed evils of European-style socialism, it certainly has better cartoons. This hand-painted western story is distinguished by its handsome brushwork, which gives a tactile sense of the paint and a fair amount of expression to the simply drawn characters. Like many young Brits at the turn of the 20th century, the hero takes off for Canada in search of adventure, and Forbis and Tilby often frame their period details in static images: clothing, personal items, commercial products. In voice-over the hero explains how the call of the wild keeps pulling him farther west across the continent; all the while, black-and-white titles explain what a comet is. I expected this to end with the cowboy getting hit by the comet, but as it turns out, he is the comet, destined to disintegrate. A clip from the film follows the jump.