Reforms leave aged care short by $750m, report finds

AGED care facilities face a revenue black hole of $750 million in the next 2½ years as a result of federal funding changes, a detailed analysis commissioned by the industry shows.
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In a blow to federal government aged care reforms unveiled in April, the report for a leading industry organisation estimates that 89 per cent of aged care facilities would face ”unrecoverable” losses in revenue under funding changes beginning last month.

There are growing doubts about the financial viability of the reforms, which promised a $3.7 billion revamp but contained only $576 million in new funding over the next five years.

The redirection of funding away from residential care costs and the introduction of the more user-pays Living Longer. Living Better plan enabled the government to announce significant reforms at minimal extra cost.

But Gerard Mansour, the chief executive of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), said that under the new financing plan there would ultimately be a reduction in care funding for each affected resident of $20,000 to $23,000 a year.

”Many nursing homes and in-home care providers are already under financial pressure and LASA has serious concerns that if the way aged care is funded is not addressed, there could be an impact on staffing levels and on the important services which are the very foundation of quality care,” Mr Mansour said.

The average expected loss per aged care facility was more than $125,000 each year, with some facing shortfalls of up to $560,000, concludes the analysis, which was undertaken by the consulting firm the Centre for International Economics.

”As running costs continue to rise, aged care providers – unlike most businesses – cannot increase care fees as they are set by the federal government,” Mr Mansour said. He called for an additional $1.1 billion over the next four years to counter the redirection of care funding.

An earlier analysis by the firm Grant Thornton forecast that the changes would result in an effective cut of about $500 million this financial year, a figure rejected as ”a fiction” by the Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler.

He has said that the government last December increased funding by $2.3 billion to meet cost increases in aged care.

Mr Butler has also announced that growth in payments for nursing home services would be pegged back after what he said had been several years of rises in payments.

The National Aged Care Alliance has called for an independent and comprehensive investigation into the cost of aged care to be established urgently.

Mr Mansour said aged care providers believed the government had to change the way it funded aged care from a system which was artificially constrained by budgetary limitations, to one which matched care funds to people’s needs.

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Chilling crime of a charmer

Generous to a fault … Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie and Jack Black as Bernie in a scene from the Richard Linklater comedy Bernie.”SHACKLED by a heavy burden, filled with guilt and shame!” Jack Black joyfully belts out an old gospel song mid-interview. One of Hollywood’s favourite contemporary comedians, he has spread amiable mayhem across films such as Tropic Thunder, Shallow Hal and Kung Fu Panda.
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Black takes the title role as a flamboyant Texan undertaker in the new dark comedy Bernie, from Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed & Confused, Fast Food Nation). Black and Linklater reunited almost a decade after making School of Rock for the mocku-drama retelling of one seriously peculiar real-life murder case. Crucial to the hilarity is the collection of quirks – based on factual research – that Black brings to his portrayal of killer Bernie Tiede.

”Bernie really did lead his congregation in gospel songs,” Black says. ”Those were real hymns! They have a strange sexual resonance and a grim foreboding. The walls are closing in; Bernie feels he’s about to be found out.”

Bernie’s macabre secret is the corpse of an elderly millionaire, Marjorie Nugent, hidden in his freezer. Marjorie is played by the legendary Shirley MacLaine, a co-star Black was thrilled to work opposite.

”Man, she’s the real deal, and she’s still got it!” he says.

Bernie was adored by the townsfolk of Carthage, Texas. Kind, polite, cheerful and impeccably groomed, he was a friend and confidant to grieving widows and a model funeral director. Bernie’s involvement in the church, his generosity and skill at needlepoint made him a highly sought companion to older women.

Marjorie, on the other hand, was cruel, racist and foul-tempered. The citizens of Carthage were puzzled when Bernie shacked up with an obnoxious woman almost 50 years his senior.

When he was slowly abused into submission, things turned nasty. ”’Why didn’t you just leave?’ I felt like this was the big question the audience would be asking,” says Black, so he travelled to a Texan jail to put his inquiry to the real Bernie Tiede. ”I wanted to get a better idea of who he was and ask him about his relationship with Marjorie,” he says. ”It’s tricky and really weird to ask people super-personal questions … in jail.

”Bernie didn’t have a release valve for his anger and he snapped; a classic case of temporary insanity. He definitely deserved to do time, it was a horrible crime, but he did not get a fair trial.”

The district attorney, Danny ”Buck” Davidson, is played with evil glee by Matthew McConaughey.

”Buck was able to flip the story and get a much more severe sentence,” Black says.

A great deal of the charm of Bernie lies in the style in which Linklater chose to tell the story.

Apart from a small core cast, the bizarre tale is told in interviews – rife with gossip – with the actual townsfolk of Carthage.

”[Linklater] felt that was a compelling part of the story,” Black says. ”That no one in that small town believed that Bernie would be capable of something like that.”

Behind bars for life, Tiede was delighted to be a part of the film.

Black is still incredulous. ”In the prison workshop, Bernie was working on beautiful memorials for people that had recently passed away. I know there’s still a lot of love for Bernie in Carthage. But, seriously, a dead body in your freezer for nine months?!”

Bernie opens on Thursday.

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Safe as houses

Jeremy Renner has joined the Bourne movie franchise. Jeremy Renner in the 2002 telemovie Dahmer.
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JEREMY Renner is still working on a house. It’s what he does. He might be an actor who has had, in a single year, the most high-profile roles of his career, but he’s not going to let go of his business on the side – renovating houses.

Renner, 41, is in what almost seems like blockbuster overload. He’s a member of The Avengers, the Marvel Comics superhero super-franchise that has been one of this year’s biggest hits. He’s a new character in Mission Impossible 4, a film that’s given a boost to what seemed like a tired format. And his new film, The Bourne Legacy, which opens here next week, has the potential to put him in even greater demand.

The Bourne Legacy is the fourth in the Bourne series and marks a passing of the baton. Matt Damon, who starred in the first three, is no longer involved – nor is director Paul Greengrass. Writer Tony Gilroy has taken over as director, and Renner plays a new character, Aaron Cross, a highly trained covert operative with a few extra strings to his bow.

Even so, Renner says he does not intend to let go of the business he and actor Kristoffer Winters started years ago – buying, renovating and reselling houses.

What he likes about it, compared with his other work, is ”it’s tangible, it exists, and it will continue to exist years after I’m gone”.

Yet it is a lot like filmmaking, he says. ”There’s a creative element; there’s a specific order in the way you do things; there are a lot of moving parts; and a thousand new problems are thrown at you every day.” A thousand new problems are, in a way, what The Bourne Legacy is all about.

Its events criss-cross those of the previous film, The Bourne Ultimatum, and some of its characters reappear. We learn of an even more elaborate conspiracy that involves covert organisations and is beginning to unravel. Cross is in extreme danger from attempts to destroy all evidence of the program he was part of. One person who can provide answers, and perhaps help, is medical researcher Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). But she, too, is under threat.

It was important to Renner, he says, that his character, whatever his strengths, had an element of vulnerability. ”I would have run away from the role if he didn’t have it. To me, that’s what makes the character accessible. As an audience member, I don’t want to watch this guy be a Terminator.”

Vulnerability emerges most clearly in his scenes with Weisz, which have a degree of intimacy and lightness that they worked on, he says, ”day by day, discovering something a little bit deeper each time”.

The emotional scenes have to be honest, as do the stunts, he says.

Renner likes to do as many of his own stunts as he can. In The Bourne Legacy, the most challenging, he says, was a scene where he had to run up the side of a house. ”It was one shot. That made it a little trickier because there was no editing fix; it was always just me. It took around 25 takes, so fatigue set in.”

Playing the Scarecrow in a school production of The Wizard of Oz gave Renner the taste for acting and his philosophy about his work remains consistent. He is always seeking complexity. Heroes must have flaws and he needs to find empathy for his darkest characters.

It was his performance as a serial killer in Dahmer, a 2002 telemovie, that brought him to the attention of Kathryn Bigelow, who cast him in The Hurt Locker, her Oscar-winning movie about a bomb disposal squad in Iraq. It brought him into the spotlight and landed him his first Oscar nomination (for best actor).

He’s ”been pretty fortunate” to work with other women directors as well: Niki Caro (North Country), Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown), and Asia Argento (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things).

He is aware that doing a movie such as The Bourne Legacy puts him in the public eye as never before: ”I’m sure there are shifts happening but I’ve been so busy working I’ve hardly had time to take a breath and truly understand anything.”

He thought about the possible impact on his life before he took the role. ”You have to take everything into consideration; it would be irresponsible not to. I talked to family and friends. But I’ve learnt from a lot of great people over the years, from what they do and from their mistakes, and what I do is try to set myself up to fail the least often.”

When he chooses a role, he has a ”certain set of requirements”: ”The character; who I get to learn from, director-wise and actor-wise; the world the movie is set in; the tone; and is this something that I want to be a part of.”

But the most important thing is that ”I don’t want to know the answers. I like to take chances, I like to be surprised every day.”

Right now, Renner says, after the relentless workload of the past few years, what he needs most of all is a nap. He doesn’t have too many immediate plans, apart from the house he is working on. He has a couple of movies awaiting release, including Low Life, written and directed by James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers), which also stars Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix. It’s a story of immigrants arriving in New York in the early 1900s. ”To put it crudely, it’s about a pimp, a prostitute and a magician, but it’s so much more than that.”

It’s a film he is delighted to be in, although the pace of it all was pretty hectic. ”Literally, three days earlier, I was running across rooftops in Manila [for The Bourne Legacy] and then I was in New York, learning magic tricks real quick.”

The Bourne Legacy opens on August 16.

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Golden girls gone wild

On the run … Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis (left) and Brenda Fricker play ageing lovers battling to stay together in the face of ill-health in Cloudburst.Despite being a grandmother herself, the latest film to hit Australian screens from the Oscar-winning actor Olympia Dukakis, is probably not one to watch alongside your own granny.
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In Cloudburst, a 2011 Canadian road movie, she plays a tequila-swigging, cantankerous, lesbian octogenarian with a vocabulary so liberally peppered with profanity it would make a hardened sailor wince.

In one scene her character, Stella, is hitchhiking and bags a ride. In a matter of minutes she’s kicked out of the car when the good Samaritan takes offence at her potty mouth. ”What are you, crazy?” she asks him, when he asks her not to use the C-word. ”C— is for punctuation!”

When looking through the script, were there any lines that she baulked at? ”Not a one,” says the 81-year-old Massachusetts native down the phone from the US. ”Not. A. One.”

Cloudburst is one of 20 films in this year’s Sydney Canadian Film Festival and is a prime example of the originality and derring-do of the films featured.

In it, Stella and her girlfriend of 31 years, Dot (played by fellow Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker), head off on the run from the US to Canada to get married after Dot’s ”c—face” granddaughter gets a court order to get the ailing Dot put into a nursing home.

While the film confronts the themes of an ageing lesbian couple and gay marriage, the overwhelming story is a universal one of love, companionship and the fight to retain them among the challenges of life.

”It’s not a polemic,” Dukakis says. ”It’s about human beings … The political aspect of it doesn’t punch you in the face, but god knows it’s painfully there.”

It’s the third film Dukakis has made with the US-born, Canada-based director, Thom Fitzgerald, and she says she had no reservations about signing up. ”I don’t think of it as Canadian or American; I just think it’s a damn good film, you know, about something that really matters – people’s efforts to carve out a life for themselves and hold on to the things they feel are important, like love and independence and justice.”

While she hopes it will get a wider distribution beyond the international festival circuit – where it’s been showered with awards – she admits it is a head-scratcher for film marketers. She has been buoyed, however, by a review in the industry bible, Variety, which says it has ”considerable crossover appeal”.

The director of Possible Worlds: Sydney Canadian Film Festival, Mathieu Ravier, says the beauty of the event is that it can bring the magic of the nation’s vibrant and prolific film industry to a wider audience. While there are more mainstream features on the program – such as the ice-hockey comedy Goon, featuring American Pie’s Seann William Scott, and Starbuck, which is being remade in the US with Vince Vaughn as the lead – overall it’s a surprising mix of world-class cinema.

”It’s a discovery festival,” Ravier says. ”It’s a chance to discover a national cinema that we know very little about and yet produces an incredibly diverse and interesting body of film.

”It’s refreshingly different from most of what we see on our screens. It’s just as entertaining as American cinema, but usually a lot less formulaic. There are a lot more personal stories, which are less driven by the marketplace and more driven by the need to tell certain stories that reflect a certain cultural identity.”

Another film on the program is so unfocused on commercial success, it’s not actually intended for viewing beyond the festival circuit and not for sale to distributors. I Am a Good Person/I Am a Bad Person is by Ingrid Veninger, who Ravier says is the ”reigning queen” of independent Canadian filmmaking.

Her film, about the challenges filmmakers face in touting their wares, is a raw and bleak portrayal of life on the international film festival circuit, and features captivating performances from Veninger and her real-life daughter, Hallie Switzer, as they grapple with life-changing decisions while overseas.

Veninger says she sees the film, its screening and then subsequent Q&A with the audience – she will be in Sydney for festival, alongside other big names including acclaimed actor and filmmaker Martin Donovan – as all part of the entire ”art proposition”, which counters the 24/7 availability of access to films online nowadays.

”This film, I see almost as a stage piece,” she says from Toronto.

”It’s almost like a very limited performance when it’s at a festival: this is the window of time you get to see it, like a play, and if you miss it, it’s gone. We will only show it in this context, where I can come up before and afterwards and speak about the film and there can be a dialogue with the audience. That’s it.”

POSSIBLE WORLDSThe seventh annual Canadian Film Festival runs August 13-19 at venues including the Dendy Opera Quays and Newtown. Tickets $16. For more details of the full program, see www.possibleworlds南京夜网.au.

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