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Best Actress — Comedy/Musical: Streep seems to be leader in the race

Golden Globes Countdown

The mirror image of the actress drama category this year seems to be the distaff comedy/musical race. With Mirren way out ahead in drama, Meryl Streep seems to have “shoo-in” written all over her Manolo Blahniks for her role as the imperious fashionista Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has been carrying on a love affair with Streep for almost three decades. She has 20 prior nominations, 18 of those as actress or supporting actress in a motion picture. They have also handed her the prize five times, once as actress in the HBO miniseries “Angels in America,” twice as actress (drama) for “Sophie’s Choice” and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” and twice as supporting actress for “Adaptation” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.”

But though she has been nommed for actress, comedy/musical, three times previously, she has never taken home that honor.

The only thing that could work against her is that, like the Academy (which constantly nominates Streep but hasn’t given her an Oscar since 1982), the HFPA members might be thinking, “We like Meryl, we really, really like her, but other actresses have to make a living, too.”

If that’s the case, they can turn to another favorite, maybe Annette Bening, to whom they gave this award recently for “Being Julia,” as well as three other nominations. Her unhinged mother was the most-consistently lauded component of “Running With Scissors,” so she has a shot. Bening has another nomination this year for her performance in HBO’s “Mrs. Harris.”

If there’s a flashy upset in the offing, and one that will garner headlines aplenty, how about Beyonce Knowles for “Dreamgirls”? As a recording artist, Knowles sells even more albums abroad than at home, making her a worldwide powerhouse. This is her first big acting-singing role, in what could easily be the best picture (comedy/musical).

Toni Collette, who is a surprise nominee in this category (the smart money had been on her tyro co-star Abigail Breslin), was a bridesmaid before in this same category for “Muriel’s Wedding,” but doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance against Streep. Her fallback could be a supporting actress win for HBO’s “Tsunami, the Aftermath.”

The final nominee in this category is Renee Zellweger for “Miss Potter,” which could just as easily have shown up in the drama category. Zellweger has thus far clocked four previous nominations in this same category with two wins, as well as a supporting actress prize for “Cold Mountain.”

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