There are arguments both for and against the proprietary vs. nouveau driver, in both directions. My main concern would be if you had manually installed the proprietary one directly using nvidia’s installer instead of via a trusted repository which would keep it in sync with kernel changes etc.
Hmm… so if the screen goes totally blank, and it’s not pingable on the network… what if you tried to edit the grub boot entry for that newest kernel, at the grub menu, removing the “rhgb” and “quiet” options? That might show you the actual booting text of the system, and maybe even show you what it last loads or processes right before it hangs.
To do this, reboot the laptop and highlight the newest kernel entry at the grub boot menu (usually the newest one is the default, anyway), then hit the “e” key. Use the arrow keys to move down to the line that says something along the lines of "GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=“various things in here” . Inside those quotes will be several things; the rhgb and quiet entries likely will be towards the end. Move the cursor to each of these and use the Del key to delete them.
Don’t worry–this is NOT a permanent change, it only takes effect for this one boot, so you’re not in danger of making a mistake which renders it useless. Worst case, if you mistype or delete the wrong thing(s) and it fails to boot – just reboot and try it again.
After you have removed both of those, and made sure you haven’t removed the closing double-quote, simply hit CTRL-X to boot with the modified options.
Since the quiet option hides the text of the system startup and the rhgb option tries to make things further pretty by showing a kind of boot progress bar, each of these are less than helpful when you’re trying to determine what might be wrong…
So if you make those changes correctly then you hopefully will be able to see at least some details of the boot process, and maybe even a hint of where it stops / what makes it hang? If you still end up seeing absolutely nothing but a blank screen, immediately, then I’m not quite sure what to suggest next…
Hope this helps at least a little bit. Glad to hear it’s something which only happens with the very latest kernel update, so it’s not completely unusable!