This year's lineup of Oscar nominees demonstrates more clearly than usual the essential irrelevance of all film-ranking competitions. Not that living-room Oscar parties and pre-ceremony winner-guessing aren't fun. But in a year as packed with good movies as 2014 was, the idea of comparing them in any meaningful way is clearly daft. Is Birdman, a unique exercise in magical realism, a better movie than American Sniper, a complex consideration of war and valor to which it bears no resemblance? Is either of those films somehow superior to Richard Linklater's Boyhood, which bears little resemblance to any other movie? No. But all three of these are among this year's nominees for Best Picture. One of them will probably win. Which will mean that the two that don't are, what, in some way inferior?
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