With Venice and Toronto distant memories, tongues have been wagging non-stop on the subject of Oscar season hopefuls. There are the obvious choices - 'The King's Speech', 'The Social Network', '127 Hours' - and then there's... 'Alice in Wonderland'.

Deadline reports that Walt Disney are seriously campaigning for their billion-dollar grosser, and are tempting Oscar voters with special screenings of the film, in 3D, in select theatres. The film will run at the Arclight Hollywood and AMC Santa Monica from October 18th to the 21st and will be accompanied by an exhibition of Coleen Atwood's costumes for the flick ... because they don't want to make it too obvious as to which awards they're campaigning for.

Of course, that's where the nominations are likely to go for the film, if they're to go anywhere. Regardless of how 'Alice in Wonderland' turned out as a whole, there's no doubting its technical achievement is pretty impressive. As well as Atwood's costumes, it's in with a shot in both make-up and visual effects categories.

But Disney are reported to be campaigning it for Best Picture and Best Director for Tim Burton, too, which seems far less likely. The film, the 6th highest grossing movie of all time, certainly has the numbers on its side, but critics tore it apart when it first opened.

The push for 'Alice' is interesting, not least because it seems like such a hopeless film to push. It may even be a pretty useful yardstick for awards campaigning in 2010. Are the 'Shakespeare in Love' days gone, when it was entirely possible to summon undeserved awards with a clever campaign aimed at voters? Does box office, more than critical reception, provide a stronger awards hint at a time in which ten Best Picture candidates need to be sourced? Could the Academy be tempted to counter the criticism they faced after this year's ceremony when 'The Hurt Locker' became the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of all time?

Producer Richard Zanuck certainly thinks 'Alice' is in with a shot, and says grosses on that scale simply don't happen when audiences are unsatisfied. The campaign, he says, is about reminding voters and pundits about the March release. The reason most awards hopefuls unspool in the last couple of months of the year is that voters tend to have a pretty short memory.

History suggests the recency effect, coupled with the disappointing reaction 'Alice' got from critics, will be enough to stop any hope of a Best Picture nod in its tracks. If it does end up in the final ten, it'll surely be entirely as a result of the marketing campaign, though unless they're prepared to send Johnny Depp out in character to entertain voters' kids, they'll have to pray theirs just naturally rises above the hundreds of others being run for probably more deserving movies.

"I think it would be terribly disappointing not to make the top ten," Zanuck tells Deadline. He may want to brace for disappointment.