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Dream run, but no best picture nomination

Beverly Hills (California), Jan. 23 (AP): The crowd-pleasing musical Dreamgirls led Academy Awards contenders today with eight nominations, but surprisingly was shut out in the best picture category after being considered a potential front-runner.

The sweeping multi-cultural ensemble drama Babel was close behind with seven, including best picture and acting honours for two newcomers to US audiences, Mexicoís Adriana Barraza and Japanís Rinko Kikuchi.

Other best-picture nominees were the bloody crime saga The Departed, the World War II spectacle Letters From Iwo Jima, the road-trip comedy Little Miss Sunshine and the monarchy-in-crisis chronicle The Queen.

Going into nominations day, the best-picture competition looked unusually wide open, with no consensus on a favourite.

But front-runners in all four acting categories nabbed nominations and seem poised to come home with Oscars on February 25: Britainís Helen Mirren for best actress as British monarch Elizabeth II in The Queen; Forest Whitaker for best actor as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; and Eddie Murphy and former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson as soulful singers in Dreamgirls.

All four preceded the Oscar nominations with wins at the Golden Globes.

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