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 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 a musical or comedy, as chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia and a woman in an affair with her ex-husband in It's Complicated.

In TV categories, nominations for drama series went to HBO's Big Love, Showtime's Dexter, Fox's House, AMC's Mad Men, and HBO's True Blood. Musical or comedy series bids went to NBC's 30 Rock, HBO's Entourage, Fox's Glee, ABC's Modern Family, and NBC's The Office.

Nominees in the mini-series or movie category went to Lifetime Television's Georgia O'Keeffe, PBS's Little Dorrit, and three HBO offerings: Grey Gardens, Into the Storm, and Taking Chance.

Up in the Air earned best-director and screenplay nominations for Jason Reitman. The directing category also 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 downsizing expert 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 longshot 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.

Along with Streep, Sandra Bullock also had two nominations, as dramatic actress in the football story The Blind Side and as a dragon-lady boss forcing her assistant to pose as her fiance in The Proposal.

"I am beyond stunned," Bullock said.

Matt Damon picked up two nominations as well, as musical or comedy actor playing a whistleblower spinning wild fabrications in The Informant! and as supporting actor playing a South African rugby star in Invictus.

Other dramatic-actress nominees were Emily Blunt as Britain's monarch in her early reign in The Young Victoria, Helen Mirren as the imperious wife of Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, Carey Mulligan as a 1960s British teen in an affair with an older man in An Education, and Gabourey Sidibe as an illiterate, abused teen turning her life around in Precious.

Julia Roberts was a surprise nominee for musical or comedy actress as a corporate spy in Duplicity, a box-office underachiever that generally was not on the awards radar. Along with Roberts, Streep, and Bullock, Cotillard rounded out the category as the wife of an unfaithful filmmaker in Nine.

Day-Lewis as the Nine filmmaker scored a nomination for musical or comedy actor. Besides Damon, the category also includes Robert Downey Jr. as the London detective in Sherlock Holmes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a lovesick man in (500) Days of Summer, and Michael Stuhlbarg as a 1960s Jewish academic besieged by crises in A Serious Man.

Up in the Air costars Farmiga, playing Clooney's frequent-flier soul mate, and Anna Kendrick, playing a smart but inexperienced efficiency expert, are competing against each other for supporting actress. Also nominated are Cruz as the filmmaker's insecure mistress in Nine, Mo'Nique as a hateful welfare mother in Precious, and Julianne Moore as the grief-stricken professor's best pal in A Single Man.

Damon and Waltz are joined in the supporting-actor category by Woody Harrelson as a military man delivering bad news to next of kin in The Messenger, Christopher Plummer as aging author Tolstoy in The Last Station, and Stanley Tucci as a serial killer in The Lovely Bones.

Hollywood's second-biggest film honors after the Academy Awards, the 67th annual Globes will be handed out Jan. 17, six days before nomination voting closes for the Oscars.

The Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 critics and reporters for overseas outlets.