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If the nation’s film critics are any indication, the category for actress in a drama at the Golden Globes may be all sewn up. Helen Mirren has been the unanimous winner so far. While there is dramatic tension in other top Globe categories with several upset possibilities, it’s hard to conceive of Mirren not winning the award for her work as Elizabeth II in “The Queen.”

First and foremost, playing real-life characters has become almost a shortcut to acting trophies (particularly when you do it as well as Mirren).

Add to that the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has chosen to nominate her three times: She also was cited for her Emmy-winning turn as another English monarch in HBO’s “Elizabeth” (the other one, the one who didn’t have any kids, much less a maddeningly popular daughter-in-law), as well as for her performance in “Prime Suspect: The Final Act,” her (purportedly) last appearance as Det. Supt. Jane Tennison.

This is not to dismiss all the other women as instant also-rans. The HFPA may regard Mirren’s unblemished win streak this year as overkill and opt for an underdog. That could be good news for Mirren’s British compatriots Judi Dench (“Notes on a Scandal”) and Kate Winslet (“Little Children”).

Dame Judi has already pocketed six previous nominations for various film and TV performances and won two. Winslet has amassed four earlier nominations for her film work, with no wins. (Dench and Winslet were both nominated by the HFPA in the same year for playing the same person — at different ages — in the same movie, Richard Eyre’s “Iris”).

This year, however, if the HFPA decides not to give it up for Mirren, Dench would seem to have the edge over Winslet in what is a much showier role as a sexually frustrated and vindictive schoolteacher.

But, were there to be an upset, it would likely be Penelope Cruz for her career-altering role in Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver.” The HFPA, a truly international organization, might decide to “just say no” to Anglophilia and, for a change, honor a non-English-speaking actress. Along with Mirren, Cruz has enjoyed the most consistently favorable critical reaction for her performance. If the Brits split the vote, Cruz looks to be the beneficiary.

As for surprise nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays the struggling young mom in the touching “Sherrybaby,” she is up against seemingly insurmountable odds in the little-seen film. But she will undoubtedly have more chances in the future.