Beast Picks

The Daily Beast Picks the Best of the Summer (PHOTOS)

The Daily Beast rounds up the best of the past three months in its end-of-summer wrap up.

The dog days are over. After a summer of listening to the same batch of songs play incessantly on the radio, shoveling countless buckets of popcorn into our mouths at the movies, and watching mouths agape as one scandal unfolded after another, Labor Day marks the unofficial start to fall. On the off chance that you missed some of the highlights of what this summer had to offer, The Daily Beast rounded up our picks for the best song, movie, scandal, and more in our end-of-summer wrap-up.

Vevo

Song of the Summer

'Blurred Lines' by Robin Thicke f/ Pharrell Williams and T.I.
Some songs were groovier (we’re still up all night for good fun, Daft Punk). Some songs were wilder (she’s just being Miley). Some songs were just plain better (go listen to “Royals” by Lorde right now). But no song stalked your every movement this summer like Robin Thicke’s funky, bouncy call to the dance floor “Blurred Lines.” A debate over the track’s in-questionable-taste lyrics only furthered its omnipresence, making it the rare song to make the jump from the dance floor at night to the office water cooler in the morning. Plus, there’s no arguing that a track that has spent 12 straight weeks perched on top of the Billboard Hot 100 more than deserves the title of Song of the Summer.

Photo Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Movie of the Summer

'Fruitvale Station'
There’s a misconception that summer moviegoers are satisfied with slogging through bloated blockbusters that substitute CGI bombast for filmmaking that actually moves you. Hogwash. For all the men in capes, warring robots, and grown men behaving badly in Vegas that played in cineplexes, it’s the small, gritty, absolutely gutting indie Fruitvale Station that was the must-see film of the summer. The Sundance darling chronicles the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, the Bay Area man who was shot by police on New Year’s Day in plain sight of BART train passengers, who filmed the ordeal on their cell phones. Buoyed by the kind of stirring performances from Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer that make you want to scream like a banshee at the injustice that befell Grant, it’s a film that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.

Netflix

TV Show of the Summer

'Orange Is the New Black'
Admitting to the hours spent binge-watching a television series used to carry with it the same shame one might have for devouring an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s or finishing all the Doritos. Thanks to the darkly comic hijinx of Piper Chapman, Taystee Jefferson, Poussey Washington, and the rest of the Litchfield inmates in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, binge-watching shame has morphed into something to brag about. Black is based on the real-life story of Piper Kerman, an engaged Manhattan career woman who is sent to prison for a decade-old drug offense, and her struggle not just to adapt to, but eventually embrace life among the incarcerated. The series is poignant. It’s hilarious. And all 13 episodes are sitting on Netflix right now, just waiting for you to eat them all up in one sitting.


Sony Pictures

Performance of the Summer

Cate Blanchett in ‘Blue Jasmine’
When Cate Blanchett is in a movie, you expect her to be good. You expect her to be brilliant. It’s an almost unfathomable feat, then, for Blanchett to star in a film and still somehow defy those already-lofty expectations. As the widowed and broken wife of a Bernie Madoff-type Ponzi schemer who killed himself in jail, Blanchett plays a woman careening down a rabbit hole of mental instability with such reckless abandon you reach for a seat belt while watching. Woody Allen, who wrote and the directed the film, is renowned for extracting career-best performances from his female stars. But even that reputation can’t brace you for the power Blanchett’s final scene, which leaves you gasping for air.

Henry Holt and Co.

Book of the Summer

‘The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.’ by Adelle Waldman
A summer read so witty and of the moment that even Lena Dunham endorsed it via Twitter. No surprise then that Dunham and Waldman are telling similar stories about the trials and tribulations of being young and bright in certain hipper precincts of Brooklyn. It’s the equivalent of a Campari and soda—sharp, fizzy, and just a bit bitter as we learn that brains are no rescue from the heart.

Bill Wechter/Getty

Scandal of the Summer

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner
“Stay classy, San Diego” used to just be a funny quip from a Will Ferrell movie. Now it’s a desperate plea. The city’s mayor, Bob Filner, stepped down in late August, obliging the cries of a metropolis-turned-lynch mob furious over allegations of sexual harassment made against Filner. Over the course of a head-spinning seven weeks, 19 women stepped forward to accuse Filner of sexual misconduct, including at least eight military veterans, some of them victims of previous sexual assault. Filner faced stiff competition for the title of summer’s biggest scandal from deluded New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, who thrust on with a campaign for office despite a resounding “no means no” attitude among New Yorkers—and the revelation of more, and recent, recipients of his sexting. But Filner’s unapologetic resignation puts him over the edge.

Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises

Biggest Disappointment of the Summer

‘The Lone Ranger’
Disney’s big-screen update of the classic Lone Ranger series was a spoiled stew in which every unsavory ingredient represented the most depressing realities of filmmaking today. There was the tone deaf, borderline racism of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto. Its box-office failure was the case-in-point for the misguidedness of studios’ franchise obsession. Its two-and-a-half hour runtime is the most exemplary case yet of the offensive insistence on trapping moviegoers into sitting through pointlessly and arrogantly long blockbusters. Most egregious, the story was just plain lazy, with “hey it’s Johnny Depp and you loved the old TV show, so you’ll come anyway” as its seeming justification. Other movies were worse, or failed harder at living up to expectations. But this movie’s mere existence trumps all that disappointment.

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Summer

‘World War Z’
The first half of the summer dropped a war zone worth of big-budget bombs. Not all of them did poorly at the box office, per se, but Man of Steel, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover 3, and After Earth all arrived with the highest of audience expectations and potential, then ultimately failed to live up to them. World War Z, on the other hand, hit theaters with a spate of negative coverage already preceding it. Stories of production issues, creative disagreements, and red-flag reshoots were reported in Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, and industry publications, leading pundits to write off the $190 million zombie apocalypse film as a surefire disaster. But then, it was good. It was actually really good. It was complex and provocative and featured a stellar lead performance from Brad Pitt. More than that, it was refreshingly original, hinting that there may hope yet that, five years from now, cineplexes won’t only be showing movies with titles that have numbers at the end of them.

Carlo Ferraro/Corbis

Animal of the Summer

Zonkey
An illicit affair between donkey and a fence-hopping zebra in Florence this summer is to thank for the birth of a baby zonkey in July. Zonkeys are rare, but have been bred since the 1800s and are sometimes referred to as zebroids or zedonks. As you can see, they are also almost impossibly adorable.

John Stillwell/AP

Celebrity Baby of the Summer

Prince George Alexander Louis
As if it was a contest. Prince William and Kate Middleton continued their streak of being perfect in every way when the duchess gave birth to the newest royal in July. While the arrival of Prince George Alexander Louis was already enough to make the world cheer, the grace and normalcy with which Their Highnesses introduced the little one to the press incited a global swoon.

Steven Hirsch/ Splash News

Biggest Trainwreck of the Summer

Amanda Bynes
The second half of the summer has been mercifully quiet in terms of news about former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes, who was placed under an involuntary 5150 hold at the end of July and has remained in the hospital ever since. But the months leading up to her final cry for help—setting fire to a stranger’s driveway—produced a maelstorm of behavior so self-destructive that we’re still reeling from it. There were the nonsensical Twitter tirades. The alarming Bratz doll makeover. The bong-throwing incident and arrest. Those wigs. With Bynes hospitalized, the storm seems to have settled—a good thing, because soon FEMA was going to have to be called in for clean-up.

Anne Marie Fox

Oprah Moment of the Summer

The Slap Scene in ‘The Butler’
Oprah is always telling us to live our best lives. This summer, she’s been living hers. OWN, the network she started that was once pegged as doomed, blossomed with stronger ratings and buzz. Then Lee Daniels’ The Butler, her first film acting role in a decade and a half, hit theaters. Her promotional tour was glorious, a delightful cocktail of Winfrey-esque self-serious and self-aware lunacy. (Her 30 minutes with Andy Cohen on his batty late-night Bravo show, Watch What Happens Live!, was a particular joy.) But more exciting were the rave reviews she received for her performance, kick-starting talk that she’s the frontrunner to win the Oscar this year. If there’s one scene from the film to thank for that talk, it’s the one in which she slaps her son for disrespecting his father. When Oprah slaps, she slaps. It is so good.

Jeff Kravitz/MTV

Most Shocking Moment

Miley Cyrus at the VMAs
As pop-culture consumers, we are conditioned to expect mayhem and shocking moments from the MTV Video Music Awards. Yet we were a nation clutching its pearls the Monday morning after this year’s show, hissing about the over-the-top and depraved sexual crassness of Miley Cyrus’s performance. The former Disney star twerked with Furries (google both those terms, and brace for an alarming 10 minutes). She put her face in a woman’s buttcrack. She simulated masturbation with a giant foam finger, and rubbed her backside on the crotch of singer Robin Thicke. It’s fitting that fall is now upon us. Maybe the change in temperature will force Miley to put some clothes on.