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Oscars talk is about who won't be there

The stage was set, the red carpet was down and fans were camped out Sunday ready for Hollywood's big night out: the Academy Awards.

"I feel like a child, I am so excited," singer Celine Dion said as she rehearsed at the Shrine Auditorium, where tonight she will sing one of the Oscar-nominated songs: Because You Loved Me, from the film Up Close and Personal.

Comedian Billy Crystal, who will be back as host of the show after a three-year absence, said the Academy Awards show will be a three-hour test of his willpower not to say "Show me the money!" _ the overworked catch-phrase from Tom Cruise's nominated movie Jerry Maguire.

"I'm trying to get through the show so I don't say it," Crystal told the Los Angeles Times.

As hairdressers and tuxedo rental stores were doing brisk business, today's Oscars show was embroiled in controversy. The focus was not on who would be at the ceremony, but, rather, who would not.

In an apparent snub to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Barbra Streisand will not sing the Oscar-nominated song from The Mirror Has Two Faces.

A spokeswoman for the academy told Reuters that Streisand pulled out and was not expected to attend. Natalie Cole will sing I Finally Found Someone instead.

Some news reports said Streisand was upset that the film she directed and co-produced did not get a best picture nod.

Another no-show will be Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, whose life was portrayed in the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. He said Sony, the parent company of Columbia Pictures, did not invite him.

However, Flynt was at the Golden Globes award ceremony in January with actors Woody Harrelson, who played him in the film, and Courtney Love, who played his late wife, Althea.

But for the Academy Awards, where Harrelson has been nominated for best actor and Milos Forman for best director, Columbia said it had no ticket for Flynt.

"The ironic thing about all this is that this film is about censorship," Flynt told the Los Angeles Times.