You could have sent me to "Rachel Getting Married," "Milk," "Synecdoche, New York," or "Let the Right One In," but you chose "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Australia." I'll say a few things comparing the 2 movies, and I'll keep this spoiler free.
1. Both movies have an in-your-face sense of place. "Slumdog Millionaire," showing us India, has us running all over the slums of Bombay and touring the Taj Mahal. I get it. It's India. "Australia" fills the screen with the map of Australia and giant red rocks and expanses of dry wasteland. Yeah, that's Australia.
2. Both movies tell an elaborately plotted story through the eyes of a little boy. In "Slumdog," the boy, Jamal, plunges into a pool of shit to get his story going, and in "Australia," the boy, Nullah, plunges into a water tank to advance the plot. Our hearts are, of course, supposed to mesh with the heart of the central child character. This is a time-worn method of emotional manipulation, but it works pretty well in both movies. Both boys, for all their troubles, are magically lucky.
3. Both movies have lovers who are torn apart and brought together repeatedly, and both have key scenes where there is a lot of violent chaos and the lovers are running around looking for each other as time is about to run out. Both movies have big close-up kisses that seem to be about the cinematic history of big close-up kisses. There's no real fire between the lovers in either movie. They are big, pretty movie-star heads, but I didn't for one second believe I was looking at 2 human beings who were passionately in love with each other.
4. Both movies weave in a very familiar work of American pop culture. The whole story of "Slumdog Millionaire" is framed by a single performance on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." This is the coolest thing about the movie and is extremely well done -- using flashbacks and quiz questions that relate to the past. "Australia" is strewn with references to the movie "The Wizard of Oz" that come and go and don't really pay off very well. Wishing, home... whatever. But it is pretty amusing when Nicole Kidman's character awkwardly and abysmally tries to tell the Oz story and sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the boy and manages to inspire him in spite of her inadequacies.
5. Both movies have bathtubs. I'm slightly obsessed with the prominence of bathtubs in the movies. You'd think the most interesting thing in the world was a woman in a damned bath. "Australia" has the conventional lead actress taking a bath for no good reason. Hmm... 2 characters have to have a conversation. Let's put the woman in the bathtub. Depending on what rating you want, it will either be a bubble bath or it won't. It's embarrassing. "Slumdog Millionaire" has a memorably unusual use of the bathtub, so that was fine.
6. Things "Australia" has more of: cattle, horses, spears, bombs, airplanes, ships, sentimentality, pectoral muscles, drunk guys, fistfights, aborigines, contracts. Things "Slumdog Millionaire" has more of: shit, TV, doing laundry, guns, beggars, torture.
7. "Slumdog Millionaire" was a lot shorter and a lot better. "Australia" was a big epic that was completely old-fashioned except to the extent that there was supposed to be something hip about being intentionally old-fashioned. I'd rather watch "The African Queen" again, and if I need some hipness, let me watch it with hip people and we'll say hip things.