01 February 2010

How To Solve a MovieQuiz

Anyone can contribute!

In general solving a MovieQuiz is not just about recognizing screenshots.
Too many newcomers are being scared away because they don't immediately recognize the movie from which the screenshots were taken. That really is a pity since a MovieQuiz is not about recognizing the stills but it's a puzzle, containing several clues. By interpretating and using the clues wisely, anyone should be able to solve most episodes of MovieQuiz.

You can find the clues by examining the set of screenshots carefully; they contain valuable information you need in your quest to solve a quiz: actors, actresses, text, cars, objects, weapons, cities, buildings, dates and so on. Also noticing the used aspect ratio may come in handy sometimes. Most quizzes can be solved by using a very powerful tool at imdb.com: searching for keywords. This - and much more - will all be explained in the manual below.

Because he's famous for his searching skills I've asked Guinness to set-up the first draft of a manual containing tips & tricks in solving a MovieQuiz.
Every quizzer, especially the more experienced sleuths amongst you - is hereby invited to add information to this manual: please send me your tips and tricks or case studies in how a MovieQuiz can be solved; any valuable tip will be added to the manual. All with only one goal in mind: to offer your fellow quizzers a decent set of tools. The better sleuths we attract, the more we all benefit.

At the bottom of the page (way, way down...) a range of valuable links is listed; some of them can be really helpful in finding the solution to a MovieQuiz.

How To Solve a Movie Quiz
by Guinness


This quiz blog is very different from other movie quizzes around the net because, first of all, any of us can upload a set of screenshots to start a new quiz! I would say it is unique just for that!

But more than that, when the guidelines in How to Create a Movie Quiz are being followed, most of the movies could be found using Tools available either at IMDb or at other sites out there in the web!

The Create-a-Quiz page explains how most quizzes should follow a set of rules to make them more or less searchable: about 25% are harder to solve on purpose to create a challenge, about 25% are easy on purpose as well, so anyone can always find the right answer for many of them!

Well, that’s that searchable part we’ll deal with in this manual – and of course any of you who frequent this amazing blog can as well send your tips/tricks/Tools to Vagebond to be added here! It is not a carved in stone Manual, it will be updated anytime any of us send Vagebond something not covered yet! You have a tip? Let us all know it, don’t be selfish! ;)

It must be said Vagebond’s happiness doesn’t come from quizzes nobody can find the answer to, but from quizzes anyone could find the answer to, thanks to the set of pics giving up keywords, situations, locations, and so on. And to have either pics available on the net or something on the trailers that could confirm a guess.

Remember though that Vagebond's quizzes, unlike uploaded ones, are not supposed to follow any rules unless he wants to. Especially the multi-levelled quizzes! Or the commemorative ones, and so on. That’s the blog owner’s right! Even though most of them, especially after the first set of pics, are usually searchable, I must add. So, let’s start it!

Of course, if you’ve watched the movie, and remember its title, you’re done already! Go to IMDb, find it, copy&paste the correct title and URL to the form! Congratulations!

But even if you’ve watched a movie but cannot remember its title, as it often happens to old men like myself, this manual could help you, I really hope it could. And if you’ve never watched one of them, you’ll still be able to find it if you use one - or a mix - of the Tools listed below. I am sure you can because I myself didn’t probably watch half the movies published, shame on me. And most of the top quizzers on the Hall of Fame didn’t as well, I am quite sure, bar a few!

The Main Tools

1. You either recognise or vaguely remember an actor/actress:

When we recognise an actor we are, almost always, done with a quiz. If we recognise two then there’s no way we wouldn’t find the correct answer.

IMDb has Tools, when in a page of an actor, that will always make our challenge easier, especially because each and every quiz has at least 5 screenshots. But that wouldn’t happen very often, I must add. Both our fellow Quiz Master and our peers wouldn’t upload an obvious actor unless it is not that easy to find the correct answer…

But let’s say we do recognise an actor, even when he could be his brother, like in quiz #1044 -- the fact he was introduced to us in the second set of pics is irrelevant for the purpose of this chapter. He is Martin Sheen and Vagebond made it clear it was not his brother Joe Estevez, so we for sure have it done, don’t we? Well, no, we don’t! First of all, there are some 233 movies he’s been on, not to add those he was himself not a character. Of course we always think we are after a Movie, not a TV Movie or Direct to Video Movie, much less a TV Series, so we could shorten this list a lot. And it is a Colour film, all his B&W movies can be discarded as well. We will examine these Tools later though, let’s now focus on actors/actresses.

Beware, sometimes these could be a wrong assumption! But not in this example, it is a Movie. But that wouldn’t be enough, and the number of wrong answers, most submitted after the second set of pics was available, makes it clear recognising an actor could often be enough, but not always at all, to find an answer. And I will add no keyword, the next chapter’s subject, would help us as well with this quiz #1044. The correct answer has just one useless keyword: Independent Film. Yeah, just like other 31565 ones! Some keywords are better than others, and that is the subject of the next chapter, but I assure you all no keyword is as useless as Independent Film. It would compare to Nudity in a porn flick.

So, back to the subject, we know the actor, and we are stuck. Should we try every pic available, every trailer available, to try to solve it? I mean, who would watch some 50 trailers just to grab 25 points? Who would check all available Sheen’s pics on the net to grab just 25 points?

But this is a borderline example, it doesn’t happen that often, just to show even when we recognise an actor we could have a lot of job ahead to really find the correct answer, and that we could waste loads of time following the wrong clues, like keywords, if they are non-existent. These are the main Tools, but be aware they don’t work for every movie in our beloved quiz. No Tool can find what is impossible to find, sometimes it is just either we’ve watched the movie or we didn’t, as simple as that. But all these Tools, together or alone, can shorten the list of possible answers, and that’s, actually, why this Manual is being written.

Anyway, back to that quiz, Vagebond eventually told us those stripes on Sheen’s shoulder means he is a Sergeant, and we were able to infer a movie his character was called “Sarge” was the right choice, as it happens to be slang for Sergeant, it seems, in English. So, in the very unlikely event you know how these corporations use stripes on shoulders, and how they all call some ranks in slang, your chance, even though recognising an actor, would be only based on how much time would you want to spend to win 25 points. But Vagebond was very nice as always, and gave us the one and only possible hint.

Sometimes there are actors we almost recognise because they are doing multiple characters (Peter Sellers as a Queen, anyone?) or in disguise or just too young (or too old) to be recognised. But almost always we feel we know him or her, don’t we?

Back on our subject, what are the most useful available Tools in IMDb when we do recognise an actor?

I would say keywords at first, then Genre if we are able to recognise it. Keywords can be used for any actor, its link is available on the left menu of any actor’s page, and how to use them is somewhat related to the next chapter and will be discussed extensively there. Genre is a matter of feeling sometimes, but a Western is always a Western, for instance. It is a link always available as well.

Another seldom useful Tool IMDb brings us in any Actor’s main page is the credited with, as always on the left menu. If it happens two actors are recognised, then this Tool will usually lead us to the right answer smoothly. It could be useful nonetheless. Well, even the links on the photographs page could be useful, if the actor we are searching for was wearing something we could identify, for instance. But I wouldn’t particularly rely on them unless it is a cult movie or something. Try on Pitt’s page Angelina, for instance, just to have an idea how it works. Yeah, Mr. & Mrs. Smith will be there.

Not too much to add here, but what when we almost recognise an actor but we don’t? Well, I know, weird phrase, but it happens a lot, doesn’t it? Sometimes we almost recognise someone in the shopping mall as well, don’t we? Someone we met in a party? Well, there are loads of actors who always get secondary characters, they are always the Judge in a court, they are always the stoned guy, they are always the drug dealer, and so on. We know we have seen him or her before but we just cannot remember in which movie! Well, if I were uploading a movie I wouldn’t upload a screenshot with Brad Pitt as well, I would try a secondary character, and stuff like that. That guy serving popcorn in the cinema, for instance. A secondary actor/actress, a secondary character actually, but the later sometimes can be, for instance, Stephen King himself, or Alfred Hitchcock!

I would say if we almost recognise we should assume we saw him or her in a movie or even many movies, or a TV Show, and so on. There’s no Tool available to help on that but I would say, after trying for a while to remember who he is or is not, just forget about it and go guessing another quiz. Our brains, the better available Tool still and much better than all the Tools described in this manual, are very weird, and it could very well be next time you are doing something else you’ll just remember where you’ve seen him. It happens a lot. Not only on movie quizzes, I must add, we do it all the time in our real lives, don’t we?

Even though this example is not from our Movie Quiz but from a BB I was used to run a quiz, after a while someone decided to just post something really tough and the quiz went stuck for 3 or 4 days. It was a screenshot with 3 people in a boat, an old man, a young lady, and a boy. Just that. They were all probably Japanese, Asians no doubt. The rules were you get the right answer you post next challenge. So, stuck we were. But I was sure I knew the boy. I had no idea from which movie, of course. The more I focused on trying to remember, the less it helped. So I just forgot about it. The thread would just die unless anyone else, or the last poster, could help. The Last Samurai was on Cable a few days later, and the boy was that little boy, the boy Cruise’s character has killed the father. After that, and such a young boy had just a couple of movies as well, IMDb was enough to find the answer. Oh! What a Lucky Man I was! Just to paraphrase both a movie and a song. The poster then said we were all movie buffs and he would leave. But it was just luck, and yes, luck plays an huge part on finding an answer, sometimes. But I digress, as always…

I know, this was not a great example, but how many times a secondary actor in a movie is as well a secondary actor in some TV series or sitcom? Those actors and actresses we almost recognise are almost recognisable because we’ve seem them on TV or big screen. Let your brain do its job, they’ll eventually arise as “Oh! That’s the professor in that shitty New Old Christine” or “That’s that lady who shagged Charlie in Two and a Half Men” or whatever, as it happened not long ago in a quiz, iirc. Just think about how many times that guy who called you by your first name in the shopping, and told you you went to school together and asked about your mom and sis by their names and you didn’t of course recognise you just do as soon as he leaves! Never happened to you?

Anyway, bar a few really tough quizzes -- probably made on purpose to fool us by our Quiz Master -- recognising an actor means almost always the correct answer is very close. Or won’t ever be without either checking 200 trailers or an extra clue.
Also related to the actors are the characters they interpret, their role on the film. But, even though IMDb uses the final credits to list actors/characters, not always they match with what we can see in a movie. Sometimes in the movie we get the full name of a character, but the credits list just his first or last name. Or, like in the example above, quiz #1044, we can clearly read “O’Leary” in the sergeant’s badge. But that’s not the way it was listed in the movie’s final credits, or IMDb.

It can be helpful, IMDb allows searching for characters, and perhaps some name in a phonebook, some name in a mail, some name in a computer list, could help us finding a movie. Someone is holding a cell phone and it displays the caller’s name whilst ringing, there’s a building and there’s the name of a the physician on a shinny plate, a birthday cake with a name, it goes anywhere, and sometimes it can be useful.
Well, as any Tool described here, it could be useful sometimes, and completely useless most of the time! This is not coming to be a recipe, there’s no recipe actually, just a list of possible available Tools, I am sure most have other Tools not described in this first version of this manual. And I hope you share them with us!

2. Movie Keywords

This is supposed to be the strongest Tool to find a movie with just a few screenshots being available. And it usually is.

Every quiz, every set of screenshots, gives up some possible keywords, intentionally or not. As long as IMDb is our main place for searching, at least for a while, the way they manage them is the way we have to think as well. As it often happens in the internet, a single site becomes the paradigm and all others go down just because the audience sinks, something like AltaVista and Google.

It should be noticed that IMDb is mostly updated by movie fans, and lately it as well means just blockbusters’ fans, so almost everything there was uploaded by either cinema fans or just teenagers trying to make the movies they like go up. Besides, the Studios themselves have realised IMDb was a good and free of charges way to make PR. So, if we are after a recent movie or after an old one, we should expect the keywords, and the plot descriptions, and everything else, will either abound or be almost non-existent, unless it is a cult movie or a movie real movie lovers spent some time within. The movie’s main data, like the cast, the technical stuff, the release of DVDs and stuff, is uploaded by the owners of the site, usually using the Studio’s data and credits. Almost everything else is uploaded by users. But I again digress…

But keywords are a powerful way, if not the most powerful way, to find a movie, no doubt about that. Of course, some are just useless as already cited above. Independent Film is as useless as saying it is a movie, or something like that. Even some blockbusters were once just independent movies and not mainstream hollywoodian flicks.

So, we probably have good and bad keywords, I would rather call them strong and weak keywords instead. Gun is a weak keyword. Not only because it would lead us to some 4,409 hits, but because there are at least ten times that amount of movies with guns that have not gun as a keyword. I am sure there are more than 4,409 Westerns, and all of them had a gun, probably. On the other hand, Gun Kata is a very strong keyword, leading to just 2 movies, Equilibrium and Ultraviolet, even though I think it should lead to Wanted as well, at least. But it doesn’t, remember users update IMDb. Who would try to find this keyword, though? There are some 500 keywords or phrases containing gun, and all of those are better than just the single keyword gun, that’s what I am trying to say.

There are as well keywords that could be strong if linked to an old film, but either weak or either absent if we’re after a new movie, like computer, for instance. It happens to have a computer, any size; on a sci-fi movie some 30 years ago was somewhat a remarkable thing one would notice. Nowadays, to use it unless it is meaningful to the plot, would be just obvious. Almost every movie has a computer, a mobile phone, and stuff like that, unless it is a movie about the past.

On a side note, talking about users updating IMDb, we have such nice peers amongst our quizzers: some take their time to upload new keywords onto IMDb before they submit their quizzes to Vagebond! Would you ever mind being below such a Gentleman (or Lady) in the Hall of Fame? I wouldn’t, for sure! But, again, I digress…

Back on topic, keywords are the single powerful way to find a movie. Consciously or unconsciously, no matter who uploaded a quiz, they are always there. Anything, and I really mean anything, can be a keyword someone thought was worth to include in IMDb. And remember, teenagers, the current mainstream in IMDb, would be pleased just if they could say to their friends they did add a keyword! I won’t chase and display the quizzes I’ve solved using the most improbable keywords, and I am sure many of you have better examples than I have, so please send 'm in so Vagebond can post them later, after this never ending manual is finally posted!

Lighters, cars, cakes, costumes, animals either mammals or birds or reptiles, trees, mountains, masks, places, watches, balloons, aircrafts, weapons, tools, bikinis, bathtubs, rings, piercings, bikes, rain, sun, desert, ships and space ships, planets, vampires, blood, knifes, razors, pianos, violins, letters, notebooks and netbooks, phones and cell phones, fires, explosions, sites, buildings, references, sun glasses, beaches, lighthouses, candles, iPhones or iPods, spirits, wines, ciggies, cigars, big brands, small brands, books on the shelves, CDs on the players, vinyl, monitors, LCD's, Arab, Japanese, Chinese, Yankee, yank, underwater, underwear, zodiac, alphabet, sex, threesome, foursome, orgy, smoke, fog, Scotland, painting, photograph, movie in movie, film in film, you name them! We all used these and hundreds more keywords to find a movie. I actually had, until yesterday, a few examples already written, but I finally realised they were all meaningless! We all used either a single word or a couple of them to find a movie. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t! And using closed quizzes to explain how to use them is just like reverse engineering, but this manual is supposed to be about forward engineering, so to say, isn’t it?

So, there are two ways to use keywords in IMDb, both available from the main search pull down menu: either we chose Keywords themselves or we chose Advanced Search. This pull down menu allows us to chose many other stuff as well, as Titles, Names (a.k.a. Actors), Plots, and so on. It used to be better and allowed us to search more stuff, but not anymore.

The main difference is: if we chose Keywords we’ll be able to nest one keyword after the other, if we chose Advanced Search we’ll be able to use just a single keyword at a time but check other stuff that could be very helpful finding an answer, as described below in the Secondary Tools. It depends on what clues we get from the set of screenshots we are trying to solve to use one or the other, or even both sometimes.

Let’s forget about the weak keywords, they are usually useless, and focus on something we really think describes one or some of the screenshots properly. In case there are many, the first option is the best. In case there is a strong one, the second option is the best, especially because we could, at once, add other valuable data to our search, data not related to keywords.

As an example, if you have a load of weak keywords, like dog, goat, cow, and stuff, all in a single quiz, use the first option, as was suggested by our Quiz Master after he recently closed quiz #1197. On the other hand, if you have a strong keyword, or even no one, use the Advanced Search, so you can shorten the possible answers using other stuff and not just keywords.

As I’ve already said, I had many examples to use in this chapter, but eventually found all of them useless, and just dumped them all. I would say the Secondary Tools below are much more interesting to be used than the of course very important keywords. You tell me if I am right after you finish reading the whole manual. And I really mean it -- somewhere below I’ll disclose my e-mail address, please feel free to contact me.

Making this long chapter short: keywords are the main way to find a movie, usually, but as everything else, they are more related to the way we use them than to which ones are available. Our brain is still the better tool available, and the Secondary Tools below will, and with examples this time, show how and why, I hope.

The Secondary Tools

Our aim as quiz solvers is always to reduce the list of possible answers after we either recognise an actor or find some strong keywords, as described in the chapters above, so we can have the list as short as possible, meaning it would be easier to find the correct answer. Our aim as quiz creators, on the other hand, is the very opposite even though following Vagebond’s rules!

Is dog a keyword good enough to find a movie? Of course not! But a dog in Macao could probably be, or a dog in a situation we could recognise, or a German dog and a green Mustang, and so on. That’s why we must try something else: to shorten the list of candidates to something we are able to really check. No one of us can check a list with some 200-500 possible movies even when we are sure a keyword is really strong. After all we all have jobs, families, and other stuff to do even though we spend a fair amount of time here. The shorter the list is, the less time we’ll expend finding the correct answer, the more time to live our lives.

Imagine you’ve recognised an actor but he is so prolific IMDb lists some 200 movies in his career. Or that you are sure about a couple of good keywords but even combining them gives some 100 possible answers still. And that’s very common, isn’t it?

The following Tools are mostly used to reduce these lists of possible answers, even though sometimes they work as a stand alone Tool as well. They can be used in any order, alone or combined.

3. Movie's possible Location:

First of all, a location can either mean where the plot develops or where the movie was shot. Many movies are shot, for different reasons, far away from the places their action is supposed to be going on. IMDb lists the actual locations it was filmed, and this Tool is only helpful when both meanings of the word are one and the same. You’ll find, for instance, many Iraq war movies shot in deserts way far from Iraq. This Tool would be useless with them. But it becomes a very strong Tool otherwise.

Let’s say there’s a Coke can in one of the shots in the quiz you’re trying to solve. Well, there are Cokes everywhere, so you just don’t pay attention to it. But it could be significant, especially when we use the big version of that image, we realise there’s something like Arabic characters on it, or Korean, or Chinese, or Hebrew, or Cyrillic, and so on, you get the point. And it happens a lot! I mean, not just with Coke cans but as well with license plates, street signs, the cover of a book, street signs, buildings, airports, etc. Check the details in every screenshot and your list can drop significantly, and that could mean the difference between giving up and grabbing 25 points more, for instance.

Let’s take a look at the first image on quiz #1253: it is a California license plate. Okay, we cannot be sure the location is California, but we can be sure it is in USofA, can’t we? Together with other Tools shown below, like genre, for instance, and just one strong keyword, the candidate’s list for it could drop to less than 5 movies! I would say there’s a good chance to put more 25 points in the pocket, isn’t it?

Another one, quiz #1254, and this is almost a spoiler: the first image depicts a street sign from a well known street in a well known city. Believe me, using IMDb Advanced Search, our Main Tool, you are just a keyword away from a set of only 2 possible answers! Yes, just 2 and one of them is the correct answer!

As a matter of fact, and just by accident in a way as long as I am Brazilian, this otherwise many times useless Tool made me win 125 points in a 25 points normal quiz. Take a look at quiz #566. The actors were somewhat not that unknown for me, but I was stuck as everybody else. But when I checked again the last image, and zoomed it, I was sure those were Brazilian street signs laying on the back. It took some time but I’ve found it using either toilet or bare butt as keywords, I don’t remember. And it was worth 100 bonus points! Isn’t this a powerful Tool, at least once in a while?

4. Movie's Technical Specs:

This is a small but sometimes very useful Tool. All movies have some technical specs, be them listed on IMDb or not. Usually they are. Even though many could be listed for recent movies, only two are actually useful for us.

So, you know the actor, but he has more movies than Lindsay Lohan has been sued or prosecuted just in LA. You are almost giving up. But there always are the Technical specifications which could help a little.

At least the first of them, Colour, is always available in IMDb. Usually, for such a prolific actor, half his movies were B&W, for instance. And remember -- no quiz is fake on purpose! Nobody will post colourised screenshots, nobody will PhotoShop a colour movie to B&W. So your list is now smaller, you have better chances to find the right answer.

The second one is the Aspect Ratio. And it is really a useful one. Unfortunately, due to some bad quality DVDs, bootlegs, and screenshots taken from trailers, it can fool us, but as long as this just happens from better to worse, it is still very powerful. If the movie you’re trying to find has its screenshots, when you check the image info in your browser, say 2.35:1, it is 2.35:1! Of course a few 2.35:1 movies could be posted as 1.85:1 or even 1.33:1 if a VHS tape is used, obviously not on purpose. But nobody can fake a 1.85:1 movie to become 2.35:1! That means you can shorten your list of possible candidates to the right answer a lot if you just check the Aspect Ratio.

And it also tells a little about when the movie was done as well. I mean, if you are after a B&W movie, but its Aspect Ratio is not 1.33:1 or 1.37:1 or even 1.66:1 but 2.35:1, it could look old, but it probably is not.

Like our monitors – we all had 4:3 monitors until recently, now most of us have 16:9 monitors – Aspect Ratio in movies also increased (and even decreased after increasing due to some failures like cinemascope, and how huge cinemas used to be and are now on multiplexed places with many small cinemas).

So, these two main Technical Specs could be very useful, especially when used together with other Tools. It is up to you to dig them when you think they could be used.

5. Movie's Possible Genre:

There’s not so much to be said here, even though some genres, as IMDb defines them, could be easy to pick and become helpful. Animations are Animations, simple as that, even though they could of course be as well anything else. The genre is not, usually, a single one. A Western can be a drama as well, genres are added up. You can have a Sci-Fi which is a Drama and a Comedy at the same time. Looks weird, but it makes sense, eventually.

Take Men in Black (1997) as an example. IMDb says it is Action, Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi all together. And it actually is, isn’t it? But only the Sci-Fi part, on this case, would be helpful.

That’s why this Tool can only be used sometimes, but it could help us shortening our candidate’s list as well, especially when the genre stands out from the screenshots. I would say Horror, War, Sci-Fi, Western, Thriller and/or Crime, and of course Animation, are always useful.

Sometimes Vagebond makes it clear the quiz is about a Documentary, and that’s very helpful as well, because IMDb puts Documentaries as a stand alone genre, it is excluded when we chose movies all together with Television and shorts and Video Games, as explained below in the last paragraph. The Refine by Genre is always available on the right of IMDb screens whenever we chose a keyword. They are also available on the Advanced Search page.

Somewhat related to the Genre, even though it shouldn’t be, there’s the Title Type as IMDb defines another subset of titles whenever we chose a keyword. It is under Refine by Title Type just above Refine by Genre on these pages we reach using keywords.

Of course, as long as we are almost always after a movie, it is a good choice. It will show us just movies! But remember, TV Movies are not Movies, Documentaries are not Movies, and sometimes one of them are posted, even by our Quiz Master, without any warning! That quiz #1008, multi levelled, with Demi Moore, was a TV Movie! But usually we should shorten our list choosing only movies. Without choosing it, the amount of TV movies together with TV Mini-Series, TV sitcoms, TV Shows, Video Games, and Short Movies, would make any keyword just useless.

6. Movie's Possible Decade/Era:

Almost every set of screenshots gives us a hint of either when it was done or what era it depicts, two completely different things. The latter is usually keyword stuff, already discussed above, or even plot stuff, discussed below. The earlier, though, can shorten our candidates’ list, sometimes a lot, and will be discussed here.

Of course, if there’s something like a 1910 car or a pharaoh it doesn’t say neither the movie was done in 1910 nor on ancient times by Egyptians who knew cinema. It would be useless -- but it can usually become a useful keyword as seen above.

On the other hand, if the movie has an Audi R8 it cannot have been made before something like 2006/2007 in Europe, probably later everywhere else. Isn’t that helpful? Suppose you have, thanks to good keywords and perhaps an actor, some 20 movies to check. Now you only have to check those done after 2006/2007, probably 2008, and even better if it is one of those Yankee movies the old (and rich, he has an R8 after all!) guy and father becomes a teenager and goes back to highschool. Well, sometimes it is 13 going 30, sometimes it is the opposite. Always hollywoodian plots never seen before, but I digress.

The best thing about it is it doesn’t depend on IMDb, actually, just on common sense and perhaps sites like Wikipedia to check some info. Is there an iPhone or iPod or Wii on the set of pics? An office without a single computer? LCD monitors? New York skyline with or without the Twin Towers? And so on, everything can be a hint, every detail can shorten our candidate’s list.

The interesting thing about this Tool – like the one above and the one below and a few others -- is it depends just on ourselves, it depends just on how we approach some details more deeply than others. The list of useful details would be so long – and still so incomplete! – it is all about what small detail you can find nobody else thought about. And that’s much more fun than anything else we all always try to do day after day, like finding boring actors and boring keywords, isn’t it?

7. Movie's Possible Plots:

This is something that again doesn’t happen very often, but it sometimes does!

Of course, it is not easy to guess a plot from just some 5 or 10 screenshots, but it happens sometimes. And IMDb allows us to search plots as well! And, many times, words we think should be keywords are as well used on plots, or even only there. Stuff like a piano player with a mask perhaps? And so on.

Sometimes the screenshots actually tell a story! Some uploaders are nicer than others, I’d guess.

I had a couple of examples for this chapter with actual quizzes, but lost them when my PC blew away. If I remember one of them I’ll update this chapter later, I promise. But believe me, it can work.

8. Movie Connections:

This is another strong Tool when it happens to be useful, even though it doesn't happen that often, I must add in advance.

IMDb lists, under 'movie connections' link on its left menu (when you are in a movie page), a lot of stuff!It lists References (any movie this movie references), Referred in (any movies that reference this movie), Features (movies this movie shows, either on TV, or in a cinema, or as clips, computer views, etc.), Featured in (any movies that show clips of this movie in any way). It could include as well posters and photographs, not only clips. As most of the Secondary Tools it could be used as a Main Tool many times, as in the examples below.

Take for instance quiz #429. That was a multi-level quiz with a load of points! The first 3 pics show a B&W (see Technical Specs above) movie on a screen, giving up someone is watching it -- that's not the movie to be guessed. Then a casino pic followed by a suitcase with carved initials (EiiR). These 5 pics odd were enough for 5 people to grab 200 points! Why? How?

First of all, this running movie on a screen (Super8, perhaps?), depicting a Dracula for sure, and someone with a cross, and probably dropping holy water, is not that hard to find, especially if you recognise either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, or use the Tools described above and below. It is actually Dracula (1958). And if you go to its movie connections page it will list under Featured in some movies, but just a few actual movies and not TV Shows or Documentaries or Compilations. Amongst the most possible answers there's the correct answer, Cuba (1979)! Ok, Cuba (1979) doesn't have the keyword Casino or Roulette, but it is a good guess as long as it was the playground for USofA for some time. And googling it would lead to some Casino pics as well. Besides, googling ‘EiiR’ would lead to some very British and linked to royalty pics that could eventually help. It could be a British movie, or at least have someone from the Isles on it. And it has Sean Connery! Google it, watch all trailers and excerpts and clips! It was worth 200 points! Remember all these Tools are supposed to be used together, unless one of them gives the answer, so just play with them!

Let's now try to find the answer for quiz #1245! It's still open so hurry up!It also has pics from different movies! So, this movie connections Tool should work with it.

Everybody knows the actor on pic one, I'd guess, and from what movie that pic came from! Well, if you don't, it is already listed under Wrong Answers (Wrong Answers is always a Tool as well, it will be explained below, it has it's power as well).

And pic #2 is from some B&W movie only the movie historians would recognise in a blink, but it is definitely another movie, and that's just what we need to be sure the answer is neither pic #1 nor pic #2! As a matter of fact, pic #5 is from another movie as well! Hey, at least 3 different movies here, but the answer is yet another movie! That's why this place rocks, isn't it? That's why Vagebond and all uploaders rock! isn't it?

Anyway, if you know who is on pic#1 (he worked with Marlon Brando, that’s another Tool we’ve already talked about), and from what movie this pic is (remember, it is one of the Wrong Answers, it is kind of a cult movie, and that would have been the right answer if the quiz were a single pic quiz but it isn’t!) go to its movie connections and, under Featured in you'll find the only possible answer as long it is the only movie there -- not a TV show, not a Video, etc. Good luck! If you recognise pic #5 instead of pic #1, same reasoning could be done, btw. I haven't tested it but I am sure it will lead to the very same answer! ;)

P.S. There’s a set of keywords which always starts with reference-to- that is somewhat linked to this Tool, even though not related to the examples above. As in reference-to-frank-sinatra for instance, which could be useful now and then. Those references could be any of the movie connections listed above plus something from dialogues or sound tracks and stuff like that. And many times they overlap. They are worth being checked.

9. Wrong Answers:

This may sound odd, but the wrong answers listed by Vagebond just above the right guesses can be - and usually are - very helpful! Why? Because they could have the right actor we didn’t recognise or are struggling to remember the name, some keywords we didn’t think about or we just know in our mother language not in English, even just something as easy as the remake or sequel or prequel of the correct answer, and stuff like that. If one of our peers submitted it, that means there's something there which led him to post it! They are, actually, a powerful Tool, when they are available. They are not available that often, though, I must add.

Let’s take, for instance, quiz #486. When I saw the pics I immediately knew I’ve watched it. Twice, actually! Of course, I didn’t remember its name, and searching IMDb for Korean (I knew it was Korean at least) movies and some keywords didn’t help. Even with the plot clear in my mind I didn’t find it until, amongst the wrong answers, Bakjwi (2009) appeared, and when taking a look at it I’ve realised it was the very same actor, Kang-ho Song! After that, finding Salinui chueok (2003), the correct answer, was a piece of cake!

So, my humble advice is there could be something right in any and every wrong answer, and it takes just a few minutes to check them, their actors, their keywords, and so on... Actually, there is an open quiz falling in this category right now – hurry up!

10. Googling every detail:

This is one of the easiest to use and probably the single most powerful Tool described in this little manual when it works! When it happens it could be used, I must add, and it doesn’t happen a lot, it could lead to the right answer in a matter of seconds! Okay, minutes… No, seconds!

Take, for instance, quiz #1189. Take the fourth screenshot depicting a hand written letter. Vagebond was so nice he even quoted the text below the image so we all could just copy&paste it anywhere. Just Google, for instance “Because I know that's just what you must be: bored, bored, bored!” and you’ll have the correct answer, Rebecca, twice! And one of them would include the prior bit of that letter as well, the “As soon as I get over this nasty old cold” and the “I promise to keep you from being bored here in Monte.”, so any of these bits would have lead to the right answer in a split second!

No IMDb, no keywords, no Technical Specs, no Genre, nothing at all, just a Google Search and congratulations, you’ve just added 25 points to your Hall of Fame, thanks to our nice uploader and to Vagebond quoting the letter!

Okay, that was easy, but almost everything you can read on any screenshot you can as well Google! Sometimes it will work out, sometimes it won’t. There’s a name on a grave? There’s a poster on a wall? That painting looks like Andy Warhol’s? Anything! Just try!

And you can Google now, for instance, something written in the still open quiz #1256 faster than you can think about a keyword to search in IMDb, can’t you? You lucky man, that’s it!

Thanks Vagebond for allowing me to almost spoil a few open quizzes using them as live examples, by the way. I hope the uploaders of them don’t mind! This was only possible because your quizzes follow the rules, my friends, I must add.

Anyway, there are not enough available space in my HD for writing all examples in which Google could be used, either as a single Tool, or as a secondary Tool together with IMDb. Anything -- and I really mean anything! – you can Google could help. I mean, if you think the movie is a cyberpunk, just Google it! It will lead to some cyberpunk sites, a few just dealing with cyberpunk movies. And if a site is specialised, it will be better to search, probably, than IMDb itself. Same for Horror movies, and so on.

And it could work using Google Images as well. If we Google ‘yeti’ in there, one of the pics could be very telling for one of the quizzes, for instance. Even ‘vampire’ could work sometimes, and so on. But it is not Google that will eventually find a movie we are after – it is how we use it, otherwise we’ll always have some thousands if not millions of useless links!

Besides, Google is not just a good Tool for finding the movies themselves, but to find sites – specialised sites – which are great source for some movie’s specialities, like watches on movies, dogs on movies, weapons on movies, and so on. Vagebond has posted a list with some of them at the bottom of this page, and there’s always more to be found.

I won’t make a chapter just for using Wikipedia – and it definitely is another powerful Tool -- because I think it would just be like a copycat of this one. The problem with wikipedia is the search engine, but this could be more or less overlapped exactly by Google, in a sense.

11. A random example

Quiz #1100 is a fine example of how these Tools described above work together, without any help from knowing an actor or even using a keyword, allowing us to add 25 points more to the Hall of Fame. I am sure many of the correct guesses came from people who have never watched it. And the fact is only the very first pic would be enough! Of course, for making sure it was the right movie all other pics where very useful as well. It depicts two very intriguing and modern buildings, one of them with Grand Lisboa written at the top.

Googling “Grand Lisboa” using Google Images will give us many pics of the same building. We are on the right way, and now we know it is a casino in Macau! But even though the Location of a movie could be helpful as described above, could we perhaps grab some more information? Yes we can! We change our Google Image page to Web on the top left of it, and one of the first links points to an article in Wikipedia about the “Grand Lisboa”. And there we learn it was opened on February 11, 2007! Well, that should suffice, quiz #1100 was published in last November, so we have just some four years span to now go to IMDb and try to find it.

In IMDb, using the Advanced Search, we check the usual boxes we are sure, like feature film, released, colour, year descending because we know we are after a recent movie, the usual. And in Location we type Macau – it is funny IMDb uses Macao instead of Macau in its Countries’ List, but Macau for Location, both spellings are correct it seems, in English. That leads us to 66 possible answers, but only 12 being released from 2007 onwards, and some are clearly discarded, it doesn’t look like we are after a comedy for instance, the Genre appears to be more Action-packed, including one movie being released on 2011 which could be discarded as well. There’s the Aspect Ratio to use as well, if necessary, but it won’t. There’s French as a Language as well, as shown in the screenshot of the newspaper, but it won’t be necessary as well. And so on.

The answer, Fuk sau (2009), is just the 6th on the list, but could be the first to check because of the DVD cover IMDb always shows on the Advanced Search when it is available. We have a rainy pic at the quiz page, and the cover is rainy as well. Its page on IMDb has photographs and trailers, and it is now easy to be confirmed as the right answer.

Of course not every movie can be found using these Tools described above, or as easily as this example implies, but many can - depending on how we approach them from the start!

The Confirmation

The last step after we’ve got a reasonable number of movies is to check them or even are pretty sure we’ve found the answer is to confirm it, usually using the net unless you have the DVD handy. Remember wrong answers can help your peers, and you cannot send more than an answer a day! Of course, for the usual quiz a wrong answer doesn’t hurt your points, but on a multi-level quiz it could mean you’ll be taking less points on next day just because you didn’t check a couple of possible answers!

12. Image and video sources

IMDb, Google, and YouTube (and many other video sites) are the main Tools to confirm your guess is correct before you submit it. Of course there are others, most can be found with Google anyway. IMDb has, on the very top of many movies, links to both Photos and Videos. Well, it has for most blockbusters, most recently released movies. If the movie we are after fits this category, or is a cult movie, it would probably be enough to confirm your guess.

Next step, if they are not available or didn’t help (and they usually don’t, but they are improving), is to check, on the left menu below External links if there are links to either photographs or video clips. The first leads to some sites with some screenshots of the movie, many times you’ll find one or both Vagebond’s blogs listed there! The later -- even when dimmed sometimes -- to some sites with trailers and clips. Usually they would be enough to confirm or discard a movie. Over the time we learn that some sites are better than others both for screenshots and clips. And some are just baits for something else, but that’s the internet. Remember IMDb allows anyone to update most of its links and keywords and stuff. And don’t give a second look at any of them.

If no one is available, or if they were not enough to make a clear call, next step is Googling. Using Google Images, of course, so you can visually compare the results with the screenshots. Just copy&paste IMDb’s title to Google, including the year. And remember it doesn’t mean we’ll find exactly the same screenshot! As long as all movies on this quiz don’t use studio screenshots but those the uploaders have chosen, we are supposed to be able to infer if it is the right or the wrong one. Sometimes a tie, a suit, a dress, the ambient, a car, a tree, a dog, anything would be enough. Sometimes just the same shot someone else thought can be interesting as well.

But when in doubt, just click on the same Google Images page, on the top left, videos. It will lead to the available videos to the title being searched. Of course videos take more time to be checked than images, but they are, usually, definitive.

Usually YouTube and the likes will have some trailers, some clips, or even the whole movie available (some legally, some illegally). Depending on the time you have, it will of course lead to either being sure that’s the correct answer or discarding it.

Now I’ll be of course stretching the purpose of this manual, but if the quiz is worth it, like many multi levelled are, just go rent or download the movie! Yeah, I am kidding … or ain’t I?

Well, what more can be said? Good luck checking the correctness of your guess, but if you can’t, just post it! It won’t hurt, and Vagebond will never disclose the wrong answer’s nickname so there’s no reason to be shy, and there’s always the lucky part as in any other game! And always remember, if there’s a multi-staged quiz open with 100 or 200 points at stake, it deserves much more digging than the usual 25 points quiz you could solve next week. Depending on how much time you have to spend daily, always direct it to the quizzes more rewarding. Or to those going to be closed earlier.

Other types of quizzes

13. Poster quizzes:

These were some of the most fun quizzes to solve. A set of Posters (or DVD covers) edited to hide the title to be guessed and, using the first letter of each one’s title, find out the actual answer. Unfortunately, after that TinEye image Tool became available, they will never be done again, because almost all posters and DVD covers are already crawled by TinEye. It is barely possible, using some just released movies, to build a new one though. But that would probably be unfair to those who live in countries other than USofA, as long there is always a delay for releasing movies world-wide.

In the unlikely event this happens, the main sources for posters are IMP Awards and MoviePosterDB. The latter has a search feature, even though most posters are not linked to any keywords but now and then the right answer could show up. For DVD Covers the main place to confirm a guess would be CDCovers. I don’t know any specific Tool for searching either posters or covers though.

14. Music quizzes:

Well, this kind of quiz has been done just once, and using a ladder pointing system as a birthday gift to my fellow peers. If it is done again, probably with just one tune I’d guess, either myself or someone else with better musical knowledge and skills will come here to update this chapter. At least TinEye cannot be used to solve it -- but at the same time it doesn’t abide properly to the rules of a visual quiz and should be submitted to Vagebond to get a go, as I understand from the rules.

15. Miscellaneous quizzes:

All other types of quizzes, like those in the format ttABCDEFG or those with actors eventually fall on the mainstream, be them easy or hard to solve. Most of them are a one off, I think.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

16. What Is And What Should Never Be

No one of us would ever consider using IMDb, or Google, or YouTube, or any other of the sites which deal with movies, or blogs, as cheating. We just think about them as Tools that help us finding answers. If we are in a pub quiz, our only Tool is our memory. If we are with friends talking movies in the restaurant, our only Tool is our memory again. Of course most of us watched Quiz Show (1994) – well, even Turturro’s character was not allowed to check his notes but only his memory...

Fact is, just a couple of years ago, many quizzes – not only movie quizzes I must add – would have a caveat like “please don’t use searching engines like AltaVista!”. We all would say that remark was naïve, and if there’s a Tool, it will be used, sooner or later, by everyone. I say that because a new Tool, a real image searcher not one based on keywords like Google Image but based instead on the picture’s format itself, has been brought to us recently. Of course, whilst just a few knew about it and most didn’t, we could say it was somewhat unfair, and I thank Vagebond for posting it in the blog's chat so now everybody knows about it.

But I would like to say as well I don’t think it is either cheating or unethical at all, especially now that we all know about it. It just happens most of us, me included, didn’t know about it before we were informed. Well, we also, I mean those who have been using the net for a long time, were introduced to Google while using AltaVista, and IMDb, at a different pace, at a different time. And that happened with any internet Tool we could be using now.

Of course, the advent of TinEye means the uploaders should be more careful before sending in their quizzes, checking their images on the aforementioned crawler. It also means some very popular quizzes, like those with posters, are probably dead. But even if the challenge sounds huge I am sure Vagebond, together with all uploaders, will keep this place the way it has always been – a place where movie knowledge added to some searching skills will always defeat those damn robots!

I must as well add that since Vagebond made public TinEye exists, and with all movies from 1200 to the last still open by the time I write this, I’ve found just 4 movies I didn’t found using just the Tools listed above, and for me it is really a pleasure to search them the old way! But I emphasise I think using it is neither cheating nor unethical even though I really like to find the answers by myself – it is just a new available Tool, and sooner or later we’ll have Tools searching for tunes as well, and CSI-like face recognition available for free on the net, and video recognition, and even stuff we didn’t think about!

Either we are happy because we’ve found some movies using our brains, our skills, and why not all Tools described above which implies we tried our best to solve a quiz, or we let TinEye find it for us. The earlier gives us some bragging time, the later nothing imho, but that’s the future, I am sure. Internet never walks backwards, so TinEye is here to stay.

On the other hand, it reminds me, but I could be mistaken and I apologise if I am, a very known saying: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

17. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Someone already said knowledge is power. Even though I hope I’ve brought some nice Tools to be used whilst searching for an answer to a quiz, I also know they could – and will! – be used by some uploaders to make quizzes even harder! It has already happened a couple of times when Vagebond disclosed a site or something alike, and it will happen now. But it could, and I am sure will, be used by some uploaders to make their quizzes more searchable! So, the average difficulty will remain more or less unchanged, on the long run.

Of course, there are uploaders who like to make sure there are enough keywords, or tips, on their quizzes. There are as well uploaders who like to make their quizzes as hard as possible. And most will sometimes just take one way or another, to mix their quizzes from easy to hard ones. Exactly what is expected. Those Tools above are useful for both! Some would call it reverse engineering!

So, don’t worry sharing your Tools or reasoning over these pages Vagebond made open for us to contribute. I am sure if we all share, we all will have more fun!

This is the End

17. It is Wonderful To Be Here It Is Certainly a Thrill

I really hope this manual could be useful to all those peers I’ve became used to meet every day in the last years, the same I would like to meet everyday in the next many years as well!

But I would be even more happy if it could help all newbies and some usual guessers who think the top guys on the Hall of Fame have watched all movies they correctly guess to understand that no! we didn’t! We just dig the answers as everybody else! Top 10 or bottom 10!

I am not sure if I was the right choice to write it – I think there are some who would have done a better job, and of course would have done it much faster than I did – but I can only thank Vagebond for his confidence I would eventually have it done! For the good or the bad, you decide, my fellow quizzers!

And yes, if you find any errors above, please let me know. I thank in advance for that! You can use this e-mail ‘mpanzani @ ajato.com.br’ ( there is a space on each side of the at sign on purpose to avoid SPAM, just remove them ) and I’ll try to fix them swiftly.

But if you have tips to add, more hints to share, please please please do! But send 'm to our Quiz Master instead so he can update this page with them. This is supposed to become a live page, with more articles being published, and more tips being shared amongst us.

Finally, thanks Vagebond! Your blog just rocks! Well, both your blogs rock! They changed our lives a little bit, and that was a really good bit, what else could be said? The Vatican beatifies people for less than that! We are no facebook, far from that, but I am sure many of us feel like this is a community, and many of us feel most here are friends we’ll never meet -- but still like very much! And it was you, Vagebond, who made it possible. It is an honour to be able to call you a friend, Vagebond! A real friend, not a virtual one, I must add.

Yours truly,

Márcio Panzani a.k.a. guinness

mpanzani @ ajato.com.br

Detailed Case Studies (examples) in solving:

Some valuable links to solve a MovieQuiz:

(your additions are most welcome!)