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Canadian directors shine as Reitman, Cameron rack up Golden Globe nods

Films from Canadian directors Jason Reitman and James Cameron were among those leading the Golden Globe contenders Tuesday

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Films from Canadian directors Jason Reitman and James Cameron were among those leading the Golden Globe contenders Tuesday, with Reitman's recession-era tale "Up in the Air" and Cameron's sci-fi epic "Avatar" both racking up nods in key categories.

"Up In The Air" leads the pack overall with six nominations, among them best drama and acting honours for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, and nods for directing and writing for the Montreal-born 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."

"Avatar" scored four nominations, including best drama and director for the blockbuster filmmaker Cameron, originally from the mining town of Kapuskasing, Ont.

The directing category pits him against ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for the Iraq War tale "The Hurt Locker," also up for best drama. Other directing nominees were Clint Eastwood for the South African rugby drama "Invictus" and Quentin Tarantino for his Second World War rewrite "Inglourious Basterds."

"Inglourious Basterds" also landed a best drama nod, as did 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.

Up against it for best 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."

"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 favourite for the Academy Awards, where dramatic films tend to dominate.

It's a third-time triumph for Reitman, the 32-year-old son of legendary Canadian director Ivan Reitman ("Stripes," "Ghostbusters").

His previous two films both scored nominations at the Golden Globes as well, with the 2007 teen pregnancy comedy "Juno," earning a best comedy nod before going on to nab additional nominations at the Oscars.

Reitman's first film was the acclaimed "Thank You for Smoking" in 2005, which racked up two Golden Globe nominations.

"Up in the Air" is based on the novel by Walter Kirn, published in 2001, months before the loose and easy air travel the book depicts was changed forever by security clampdowns after the Sept. 11 attacks. The novel also came years before the recession. Reitman started working on his big-screen adaptation six years ago, giving it a lighter touch for the flush times back then.

Ivan Reitman said the film version of "Up in the Air" reflects not only the impact of the financial crisis, but also the way modern times alienate people from personal interaction.

Clooney's Ryan Bingham revels in his solitary travelling life, a master of the angles to build his flyer account toward a lofty but ultimately meaningless goal of 10 million miles. Yet he's a man who has left his human connections on the ground.

"It seems sort of very apt," Ivan Reitman said. "The way we keep isolating ourselves more behind technology, behind getting trapped in a kind of loneliness that seems unique for our times."

Clooney competes for best dramatic actor 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."

Cameron's triumph comes as the visionary releases his most ambitious outing yet, a 3D technological feat billed as the most expensive film ever made. His long-awaited return to the feature film spotlight comes 12 years after his Oscar-winning historical epic, "Titanic."

Sandra Bullock 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. "Just to be included in the company of these amazing women I have so admired through the years has left me slack-jawed with awe."

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 Quebec Jean-Marc Lavallee's "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."

Sidibe was nominated for a powerhouse performance in her screen debut after she won the role at an open casting call. One of her big thrills was over the star who announced her nomination.

"I'm watching it with my roommates, with my manager and all these people, and we're watching at the same time, and we all jumped. Well, I jumped, certainly, because Justin Timberlake said my name," Sidibe said.

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" co-stars Farmiga, playing Clooney's frequent-flyer soul mate, and 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 a grief-stricken professor's best pal in "A Single Man."

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

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 miniseries or movie category went to Lifetime Television's "Georgia O'Keeffe," PBS' "Little Dorrit," and three HBO offerings, "Grey Gardens," "Into the Storm" and "Taking Chance."

Hollywood's second biggest film honours after the Academy Awards, the Globes are a key ceremony that sort out the prospects leading up to the Oscar nominations Feb. 2.

The 67th annual Globes will be handed out Jan. 17, six days before nomination voting closes for the Oscars. Globe winners can get a last-minute bump for an Oscar nomination, particularly on smaller films such as 1999's "Boys Don't Cry," whose Globe triumph for Hilary Swank helped put her on the map for a best-actress win at the Oscars.

Last year's best drama winner at the Globes, "Slumdog Millionaire," went on to win best picture and dominate at the Oscars. Other Globe recipients who followed with Oscar wins included Heath Ledger as supporting actor for "The Dark Knight" and Kate Winslet, who won supporting actress at the Globes for "The Reader" and best actress for that film at the Oscars.

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

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