Oscar Predictions: White Noise

Can a satire about the apocalypse premiering on Netflix at year’s end contend for a Best Picture nomination? It happened in 2021 for Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. Will lightning strike again for the streamer with White Noise, Noah Baumbach’s latest which has opened the Venice Film Festival?

Based on a 1985 Don DeLillo novel that many tagged as unfilmable, Adam Driver headlines the filmmaker’s follow-up to 2019’s Marriage Story (which nabbed 6 Academy nods). Costars include Baumbach’s partner in real life Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Andre Benjamin, Sam Nivola, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Don Cheadle. A November 25th limited theatrical rollout is planned prior to the December 30th streaming start.

Early reviews are a bit all over the place. The Tomatoes meter is 78% at the moment. There’s some “ex’s” in the mix like exciting and exhilarating, but also exhausting and exasperating. Some are indicating its ambition is admirable, but it falters in the execution.

Those are some of the same criticisms lobbed at the aforementioned Up, which still managed a slot in the ten BP hopefuls. That could happen with Noise. However, there is a caveat and it’s an important one. Don’t Look Up didn’t go through the film festival circuit and I believe that worked to its advantage. Despite its heavily mixed reaction, it hit Netflix at the end of the year just as awards voters were beginning to consider their ballots. At that time, it was easily the most talked about motion picture in the country. The bulk of Noise‘s chatter is occurring four months earlier.

As for its acting prospects, Driver, Gerwig, and Cheadle are getting solid ink, but I don’t really see them as viable players. If anything, a weak lead actor field (undetermined at the moment) could help Driver. This could land an Adapted Screenplay nod as a reward for it not being the disaster that some feared it might be (this is Baumbach’s first non-original script). Most critics are claiming it’s far from that. And we have a new LCD Soundsystem track titled “New Body Rhumba” that is being praised (we’ll see if Netflix mounts a major Original Song campaign for it). Same goes for Danny Elfman’s score. Tech nods (particularly Production Design) might be doable.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t completely discount that Noise could make just that in awards season though skepticism is warranted. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

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