Recently while updating my Oscar predictions it became clear that the Best Actress field is pretty deep (provided, of course, that a third of the upcoming films contain solid performances even if they don't totally deliver as films). Whenever the race is very competitive the category to watch is Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. That category always manages to keep some names afloat that would disappear if there were not split precursor awards.
So... let's look at the names. Immediately you can discount Paltrow, Hayek , Huffman, Theron, Richardson, Binoche, Zhang who will all be shooting for a spot in the dramatic lineup. There won't be any hesitation with those categorizations.
The obvious COMEDY/MUSICAL contenders? There's Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents... the women from Prime Meryl Streep & Uma Thurman, Diane Keaton in The Family Stone, and Rosario Dawson from Rent. And because the Comedy lineup usually has at least one (sometimes two) performers with zero shot at subsequent Oscar recognition there's always Diane Lane in Must Love Dogs, Jennifer Aniston in Rumor Has It, Jane Fonda as a Monster in Law or Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality 2 as celebrity seat fillers.
But the real important "what to watch" in the coming months is the women who could categorize themselves either way. Some campaign teams may wait to see what others do before they decide the best move for their woman. Having a Comedy Globe nomination to campaign with is a smarter Oscar move (in most cases) than being left out of the Drama field altogether... even if you really belong in the drama field. The wait and see contenders? Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger. She's very funny in the movie but it's a pretty serious comedy. Claire Danes as the Shopgirl will probably go the comedy route but you can't be sure. Reese Witherspoon as June Cash in Walk the Line for a pure Oscar win bid she'd probably be smart to attempt the drama category. Except that if you compete in a musical drama you almost always win in the comedy category. So does she want the maybe-Oscar or the sure-thingGlobe? The women of In Her Shoes Cameron Diaz & Toni Collette , Radha Mitchell in Melinda and Melinda (whose character can sorta compete in both categories ;) ) and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown.
Who goes where? And who benefits from their decicions? It looks like an exciting race.