BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The recession-era tale "Up in the Air" led Golden Globe film contenders yesterday with six nominations, among them best drama and acting honors for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

Other drama picks were the space fantasy "Avatar," the Iraq War tale "The Hurt Locker," the World War II saga "Inglourious Basterds" and the Harlem, N.Y., drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

The musical "Nine" ran second with five nominations, including best musical or comedy and acting slots for Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.

Also competing for musical or comedy are the romance "(500) Days of Summer," the bachelor-party bash "The Hangover" and two Meryl Streep films, "It's Complicated" and "Julie & Julia." Streep is competing against herself as best actress in the musical or comedy, as chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" and a woman in an affair with her ex-husband in "It's Complicated."

"Up in the Air" generally has been considered a comedy, but its inclusion in the drama category could give it more weight as a potential favorite for the Academy Awards, where dramatic films tend to dominate. The film also earned best-director and screenplay nominations for Jason Reitman.

"I can't put into words how exciting it is to feel and to know that I'll be going to the Golden Globes with everyone I worked with on this film," Reitman said. "This was one of those ensembles that we really enjoyed working together. We're a tight-knit family. The idea that we're going together is just wonderful."

The directing category pits "Avatar" filmmaker James Cameron against ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker." Other directing nominees were Clint Eastwood for the South African rugby drama "Invictus" and Quentin Tarantino for his World War II rewrite "Inglourious Basterds."

Playing a frequent-flier junkie in "Up in the Air," Clooney had a nomination for best dramatic actor, along with Jeff Bridges as a boozy country singer in "Crazy Heart," Colin Firth as a grieving gay academic in "A Single Man," Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus" and Tobey Maguire as a prisoner of war in "Brothers."

"I suspect we will do a little bit of celebration, not a whole lot, you know. But it's wonderful news," said Freeman, who got the nomination news in South Africa, where he is appearing for premieres of "Invictus."

With four nominations, Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" had a surprisingly strong showing. The film was a hit with audiences and critics, but it was considered a bit of an awards long-shot beyond a performance by Christoph Waltz, a supporting-actor nominee as a gleefully savage Nazi. Tarantino also was nominated for the screenplay, in which he changes the war's ending with a ferocious bloodbath at a Paris cinema.

"I'm extremely excited and overwhelmed," said "Inglourious Basterds" co-star Diane Kruger, who helped announce