Oscar's 'Chicago' Obsession: Were Producers Zadan And Meron Working Out A Grudge?

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, center, performs during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles
Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, center, performs during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Music in film was the theme of last night's Oscars, but one musical in particular seemed more important than the rest. Didja notice all those "Chicago" references? From Catherine Zeta Jones' (likely lip-synched) "All That Jazz" performance to a lineup of Zeta Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah as co-presenters, we saw what felt like an unreasonable amount of attention devoted to the 2003 musical, which, as Time critic James Poniewozik points out, is "not exactly a landmark in cinema history."

The prevailing explanation for what we're calling Chicagoscargate 2013, passed around on Twitter, is that the producers the 2013 Oscars, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, also produced..."Chicago." Which certainly seems like an embarrassing link for everyone to be talking about!

But Zadan and Meron may well be happy about getting credit for their previous work. When "Chicago" won Best Picture ten years ago, the two were passed over for the award in favor of the veteran producer Martin Richards, who went home with the statue.

Tom O'Neil, at the Oscars tracking site Gold Derby, wrote an email to the Huffington Post in praise of what he saw as the Academy's righting of an old slight.

"Marty Richards got all of the credit -- unfairly, many Oscar nuts believe. [Zadan and Meron] were holding a giant I.O.U. from the academy and they chose to cash it in – with the obvious approval of the academy, which approved the rundown of the show. They did so tastefully, framing its resurrection within the context of recent notable musicals, and the message it conveyed could not have been more obvious: “’Chicago’ was OURS, damn it – we owned it – and now we’re reviving it here on our Oscars stage tonight to remind you of that.”

While "tasteful" isn't exactly how we'd characterize what sounds in effect to have been a Hollywood pissing contest (with a ghost -- Richards died last November), the opaque but annotatable self love on display last night certainly made for more to gripe about today. It also adds to a decade-old narrative of bad blood between the "Chicago" team. Insidery, self-congratulatory and ripe for criticism: sounds like a pretty on-point Oscars night, no?

Click through for Twitter reactions to the overabundance of "Chicago" during last night's Academy Awards: