"French Roast" is a 2008 animated short film. It was written and directed by French animator Fabrice O Joubert. It was nominated for, but didn't win, the 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Although nominally a French language film, there is only a few lines of dialog.
The movie takes place in a cafe in Paris, of the kind that anyone can imagine. A middle-aged business man sits in the cafe, smoking a cigar and drinking coffee. But when it comes time to pay, he finds his wallet missing, and to avoid the embarrassment of being without money, he drinks cup after cup of coffee, running up his bill while a cast of characters float around him: a nun, a beggar, a police officer and the cafe's waiter.
It is interesting that I saw this film after watching Oktapodi, another short film nominated for an Academy Award. Oktapodi distills storytelling down to its essence: conflict, with the mammalian themes of predation and courtship. "French Roast" is a much less kinetically pleasing film, full of the muted browns of a Paris cafe and with very little movement. Instead, the action takes a much more human form: this is a movie about embarrassment, subterfuge and masks. The film is about the embarrassment that our business man feels when being without money, and of the lengths he goes to overcome this shortcoming. And in a carefully choreographed manner, everyone around him (except, perhaps, for the waiter) is also hiding who they are. The animation, which is understated, shows the subtle way the characters interact with each other to hide their true motivations.
This film is around eight minutes long: and in that time, it manages to go one step beyond capturing the first essence of fiction, that of conflict, to the second essence: self-awareness and subterfuge. And its quality in displaying this in such a succinct way is why this film did indeed deserve its nomination.